Of all the comments and advice that would come our way as a married couple when I was pregnant, a popular saying was “enjoy your freedom while you can” followed by a knowing laugh. All they needed was a swivel chair and a cat to stroke, and you’d have your classic villain! Isn’t it funny how now that I am also on the other side questioning what freedom even is – I get it! They say if you don’t laugh you’ll cry… *cackles*
It’s crazy how quickly your reality shifts when you become a new parent. Something in you just clicks into action and before you know it you’re struggling to remember life before baby. Even in the first few months, I would ask Liam if he remembered the days when we would get out of bed when we decided to, when we would leave the house at any moment of our choosing, when a day out didn’t require a moving van of bottles, bibs and baby essentials! We’d laugh that knowing laugh, before resuming our new, constant reality of caring for our needy little human.
As precious as babies are, please don’t underestimate how they will test your relationship like NEVER before. Even those couples who seem to have it together the most can be pushed to breaking point when adjusting to becoming new parents. I know we most definitely were! That tiny bundle of joy has a way of draining you of every ounce of your patience and then some… after all they need you to survive – can you blame them? The problem with this of course is that you also need to offer that same sense of patience and understanding to your spouse.
Too many of us married couples dedicate all of our love, time and attention to our children at the cost of our marriages. Yes baby is crying and you need to tend to their needs, but when was the last time you also checked up on your husband’s/ wife’s needs and asked how you can help?
We need to be careful not to overlook our spouse, as the relationship you have with one another will ultimately form the foundation of your child’s own sense of stability – whether healthy or unstable. Here are some tips on how to remain grounded despite the whirlwind of change that comes with being a new parent:
Remember you are human
I’m speaking to both of you here. As a new mum, your body has just gone through a miraculous process and needs to recover. Your routine is about to turn on it’s head as you now adjust to life with a baby. As much as you may expect yourself to step out as supermum, you won’t just “get it” and there is so much to learn. You now have a responsibility to be patient with your baby, but you must also be patient with yourself. Try your best to be honest about how you feel with your husband.
As a new dad, you’ve watched your partner go through a miraculous process and may have even felt helpless or scared at times. It is daunting to go from caring for your wife, to now your wife and child, but you’ll be fine if you don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have it together all of the time. You won’t just “get it” either, and the process of learning will only add to your confidence. Remember you have feelings and emotions too, so don’t be afraid to share them, especially now when you are both figuring out this new chapter together.
Make time for vulnerability
If you and your spouse are hardly spending any time together other than baby-related duties, then you shouldn’t be surprised when your frustrations start to boil over. Communication is needed now more than ever, and you need to be honest if you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Trust me, you’ll feel much better for saying it out loud and giving your spouse the opportunity to support you better.
Support each other
You’ll quickly find that other people around you will have opinions on the do’s and don’ts of raising children – if not already shared with you during pregnancy! Within your own marriage, you’ll also discover that you and your spouse may not always see eye to eye on how to parent either. One thing that helped me and my husband was that we would always check with each other if we were comfortable with something beforehand, or discuss it after a relevant situation if needed. Examples include who you are comfortable with holding your child and under what circumstances (especially as a newborn). The kind of diet you choose to feed your child, as this starts from as early as when baby is still in the womb. Who you are comfortable leaving your child with if necessary.
Believe me I could go on, but these few examples alone can be hard enough to navigate if you are both strongly opposed. Try your best to work through each experience together and remember that you are on the same side. You won’t always get it right, just as our parents and grandparents made their mistakes. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all parenting manual (as convenient as that would be!) so we have to appreciate that as parents we are always learning.
Loosen up and laugh!
So what if you have a projectile poo stain on your dress just as you were about to head out the door to church and thought you’d squeeze in a nappy change! Yes this actually happened to me (this is my testimony) and Liam has video evidence… and yes I can’t help but laugh every time I watch it back! My adorable, clueless little daughter just looks up with her blank expression while I attempt to finish changing her and clear up the crime scene. To this day, Liam calls it the “poopy dress”. No I won’t tell you which dress in case you see me wearing it…
We have to laugh at ourselves, and thankfully parenting is filled with plenty of hilarious moments. Laughter truly is a medicine, and it gives you the chance to loosen up and keep your mood light despite the stressful periods.
This was a big lesson for me that I will share more on in a future post. As someone who doesn’t like asking for help, becoming a mother amplified this because I put way too much pressure on myself to appear like I always had it together. If other mums could do it, then there was no reason why I couldn’t! In reality though, those same mums could have been in the exact same position as me – mastering the art of appearing like they always had it together.
It’s okay to admit that you’re tired. It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling to produce enough milk to keep breastfeeding. It’s okay to admit that you’re not eating properly while you try to get baby into a routine.
You’re not alone, and there are those who would be willing to do all they can to help make your journey as new parents more manageable. Family can be especially precious in times like these.
Whether you are trying for a baby, currently expecting, or a new parent, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- Am I being kind to myself during this journey? If not, how can I improve this?
- Am I being kind to my spouse during this journey? If not, how can I improve this?
- What is one of the most important qualities that I want to instil in my child? Do my spouse and I share this quality? If not, how can we improve this?