New parent rows: How to resolve them
Becoming new parents can certainly increase rows so here’s how to resolve them
In the early days of being parents, when one of you goes back to work after parental leave and the other is left literally holding the baby, you may find peace and goodwill is in short supply. The home carer is exhausted and can only think the other is having it easy, going off to work and having fun lunch breaks with adult friends. The outside worker can mistakenly think their partner has it easier, lounging around, fitting in a nap if they get tired and generally having an extended weekend.
Any request, demand or complaint can quickly lead to the generic “Well, you’ve got it easy, you should hear what sort of a day I’ve had…” which gives rise to mutual incomprehension and often anger at one another. How do you resolve such conflict?
Point one is sharing your day together. Make it a rule that when you see each other after the end of the working day you take a deep breath together, and chill. Begin by letting one, then the other, destress from the day with a bath or shower, a change of clothes and/or a few minutes headphones-on listening to your music of choice, or quickly checking for important messages. Have a tea or a drink (but mind those weekly limits you should be keeping to – and if breastfeeding, no more than 1 or 2 units once or twice a week). Relax and reconnect and then each talk over your day.
Here’s one way to share. Give each other 2 minutes each (time it!) to say what sort of a day you’ve had – good and bad. The rule is not to interrupt each other – the listener should only make affirmative sounds to show they’re listening. Or they can offer Reflective Listening. This is when you really show you’re tuning in by every now saying “So I understand you’re saying…” or “Have I got this right…” Don’t argue about the day, don’t try to one-up each other, simply share. Admit to the high points – the darling or funny moments with your child, the pleasure of seeing friends or family, or the successes of work and the enjoyment of a coffee or lunch break with friends and colleagues. And disclose the low points – the crying spell you thought would go on for ever, the obstinate work issue.
Point two is taking on board the other person’s story, and their feelings. The home carer may be able to recall the fact that work wasn’t exactly a bowl of cherries but can be as exhausting and challenging as looking after a baby. The trick however is for the outside worker to be able to walk in their partner’s shoes. If parental leave was short and the reality is that they have never had an extended period on their own with the child, with total responsibility, it might be a good idea to arrange for that. They may need to experience being a full-on, on their own for a day, parent to truly understand it’s not an excuse to loll around watching daytime TV or meeting up with other mummies – getting out of the house for a set time is challenge enough!
Talk about your child, talk about your day. Then agree to have time on your own together – making a meal, watching something you agree you’d like, listening to music you both enjoy. And accept that whatever happens in the hours one of you is outside the home, babies need you 24 hours and you share that together.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers