How relationships might change
Having a baby can be a real emotional roller-coaster.
At the start, it’s common to feel excited/terrified and maybe even a new level of closeness between you and your partner as you begin this big new adventure together.
But as the weeks go on, you’ll likely be having less: sleep, sex, couple time, and time to yourself– which can leave both of you feeling tired, stressed, overwhelmed and cranky.
You might also be dealing with other added pressures, like:
- less money
- your wider whānau being more involved (this can be helpful – and not so helpful)
- mental health concerns (baby blues, postnatal depression or anxiety) which can affect both mums and dads
- adjusting to your new roles and figuring out who does what
- trying to quit smoking or drugs to provide a better environment for baby (if this is you – go, you good thing!)
- differences in parenting styles
- medical complications/recovery for your partner or baby post-birth – and more.
Plus, the very normal journey of working out how to look after a newborn – and how to be a family of three (or four, or five …).
If you’re finding the first few months of parenthood challenging, it’s because they are!
But there is one small thing you can do that will make a massive difference: talking.
Talking: The secret sauce
If we could sum up our best advice for how to thrive in (and not just survive) the newborn stage and beyond, it would be this: talk with your partner.
It sounds simple, but it’s the secret sauce for how to look after your relationship in what can be a stressful time for couples.
Here are a couple tips that you might find useful:
- Talk about the big stuff
- Having children can bring up issues from your own childhood. Deal with these feelings and memories by talking to your partner or a trusted whānau member about them, or maybe even a professional. Don’t ignore those feelings or memories – it’s not good for your mental health, and it can negatively impact how you parent.
- It’s ok to disagree – but as parents, it’s important you’re on the same page. Talking through differences in opinion can help you understand each other’s perspective.
- when you’re talking, remember that ‘you’ statements can sound like criticisms – try using ‘I’ statements such as, “I really appreciate it when you fold the washing” rather than, “you never fold the washing”.
- Talk about the medium stuff
- And talk about the little stuff
- Ask your partner about their day, tell them about a social media post that made you laugh or a cute moment you had with baby. These simple, small things can work wonders at keeping you and your partner feeling connected.
And remember to listen: when there are so many demands on you, it’s hard to stop what you’re doing and focus on what your partner is saying, but it’s important to take the time.
Couple time is important
Your relationship with your child is extremely important, but so is your relationship with your partner – so make sure you prioritise ‘couple time’.
What’s couple time?
Couple time is when you take time out together to connect as a couple.
It could involve:
- catching up over coffee (at a café or at home)
- going out on a date (to a concert, movie, dinner)
- being intimate (sex, massage, cuddling), or
- doing an activity together (working out, playing a boardgame, going for a walk).
The aim is to make you feel closer to your partner.
How to do couple time with a baby
When you’re ready, you could:
- arrange a babysitter or trusted whānau member or friend to look after your little one while you go out for a coffee, walk, meal or movie date
- maximise nap-time and do something special at home – maybe cook your partner their favourite meal, or just spend some time cuddled up on the couch together
- reconnect by doing something you both enjoyed before you had children – even if you need to modify it a little bit. For example:
- for sports fans: go and watch your favourite team play, or do a workout together while your baby naps
- for movie buffs: maybe go through the Marvel back-catalogue, or this year’s Oscar Best Picture nominations in the evenings once baby’s in bed
- for foodies: get creative and try cooking a new recipe each week. You could even set yourself a “what can I make from the things in my fridge” challenge to make budget-friendly and waste-free cooking more fun
- for outdoorsy couples: try out your local buggy or front-pack friendly tracks and trails. Your local Council website should have some good suggestions for where to go.
Why couple time is important
Healthy, happy relationships need to be invested in – and that means:
- spending time together
- showing you care
- respecting each other, and
- making the other person feel appreciated.
Not only does this make life much more enjoyable for you and your partner – but it also means:
- you’re creating a loving, safe environment for your tamariki to grow up in, and
- role-modelling what a healthy relationship looks like.
Both of which have amazing long-term benefits for your kids.
The who family benefits when parents are happy in their relationship.