How to stay a couple in the first year of parenthood
Having a new baby is all consuming, here’s how to protect your relationship in that all important first year
Whether your baby’s arrival was planned, unplanned but welcomed, or a bit of a shock, nothing would have prepared you for the new hubbub in your life and your relationship. So how do you and your partner ensure your relationship stays as strong as it should in the first year with a little one in your lives?
Recognise the importance of keeping the foundation of your relationship strong
However happy you may be at the new arrival, studies suggest satisfaction with your own relationship dips when children arrive. And if you allow distance between you to grow and cracks to begin to show, it’s that much harder to put it right later on.
Don’t put it off
We sometimes ‘park’ dissatisfaction or annoyance, meaning to deal with it later when we have the time and energy to work on it. This can be ok if you leave it for a very short period and address the issues as soon as possible. More often, since the sky does not fall you leave it and leave it – and wake up ten years down the line, with entrenched bitterness and resentment. If you’re unhappy about the situation, call it out quickly. It takes less effort to deal with it now than sit simmering, and then blow with fury!
Recognise the importance to your baby of a good foundation
Children really need you to be loving and happy with each other – it’s the foundation of their world. So if you’re tempted to put your own contentment on the back burner remind yourself that your child will thank you more for remedying what’s wrong sooner rather than later. Apply the same rules to your child and your partner – plenty of eye contact, lots of hugs and loads of talk. Both will benefit!
There are things you can set aside. So, what if there’s balls of fluff and dust under the bed if baby and partner feel your love. Set your tone for the rest of your shared life together – recognise what really matters, prioritise it and leave the rest.
Share the load
It might seem like a luxury but the longer both of you have together in parental leave, the more you’ll both benefit. You’ll both see how important but also how life enhancing it is to spend time with and bond with your baby. But you’ll also both see and support each other through the hard work of looking after a baby. Baby care is a 24 hour job – paid employment is only 8 hours. So whoever is going outside the home to earn a crust still needs to recognise that it helps if they can still do their bit at home too – they’ll be repaid by having a bond with their child that some people who leave it all to the other parent might never feel.
Most of all, parents need to give themselves permission, and make arrangements, to have a break. Use willing grandparents to allow you to have date nights and maybe even weekends away, when you agree that baby talk is off limits! Set up agreements with other parents to swap baby-sitting nights. And make time and agree in advance times when you give each other a break to do your own thing while the other is in charge. You need it, deserve it, so do it.
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