You fell in love with the man of your dreams and had a baby. But now sleep deprivation, parenting responsibilities and child-driven lifestyle changes are wreaking havoc on your relationship. Here I give you tips on ways to navigate parenthood, while maintaining a strong, loving partnership with your spouse.
Good communication is an essential element of any healthy relationship, but it becomes especially important when you become parents. Whether you’re a first-time mama or a seasoned mother of 4, being able to voice your thoughts, feelings and emotions (yep, there’s a difference between emotions & feelings), is vital in every season of parenthood. The key? Express yourself with raw honesty, no matter how uncomfortable that may be sometimes. Do you need your hubby to pitch in more? Tell him clearly how he can help lighten your load. Be specific; Men aren’t mind readers. Feeling resentful because his life hasn’t changed that much since the baby arrived? Express it to him and brainstorm ways you can carve out more ‘you-time’ to rebalance things. Whatever the issue, raise it for discussion before you reach boiling point. Arguments are more likely to occur when you let things build up, play the blame game, or pick a fight at the wrong time. 2am isn’t an ideal time to vent your parenting frustrations. So, be mindful of when you bring up concerns.
MAKE TIME FOR ROMANCE
We all know the sex life of a new parents drastically nosedives when bub is breastfeeding round the clock and waking all night long. But that doesn’t mean romance needs to plummet too. Remember romantic intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean sex! There are plenty of ways to cultivate romance with your partner including regular date nights; child-free activities or hobbies together (including sport); celebrating special anniversaries (hello wedding anniversary!) and other special occasions (mother’s/father’s day); or simply making small romantic gestures like popping a love note in your partner’s briefcase for him to find in the office. The goal is to remain connected as husband and wife, not just as mum and dad; which sometimes means prioritizing each other before the children and having conversations that don’t revolve around the kids. After all, one day your children will grow and leave the family nest, and you’ll be left with each other. Oh and reconnecting sexually is always a sure way to rekindle the romantic fire.
LEARN TO COMPROMISE
Everyone on the planet sees the world through different eyes. And no matter how aligned your value systems are, parenthood is sure to highlight some of your differences as a couple. Whether you are deciding whether to co-sleep with bub, feed on demand, sleep train (or not!), or are establishing parental discipline approaches in your home, the chances are, you and your hubby won’t always see eye-to-eye on everything. He may be a free-range dad, while you’re a helicopter mum. Or perhaps you embrace a gentle parenting approach, while he adopts a more traditional authoritarian parenting style. The reality is, parenting is a job that we learn as we go along and we all do it a little differently. And while solidarity is important when it comes to parenting consistency, it’s also ok to hold opposite opinions on certain things – as long as you both learn to compromise and respect each other as partners and parents. Remember, you’re both human and both learning, so…focus on your commonalities rather than your differences, choose your battles, try your best to have each other’s backs, and let go of things that aren’t deal-breakers.
PLAY TAG TEAM
A great way to ensure you both have the chance to ‘fill your cup’ outside of parenting is to tag team. Whether that means your hubby schedules in some regular gym sessions while you book in a weekly creative class with a group of girlfriend’s, give yourselves a break from the kids…and each other. After all, maintaining your autonomy as adults is healthy for your sense of individual identity outside the family unit. And for your sanity! The key is to ensure you both have a fair trade-off by balancing the division of your parenting labour with an equal amount of recreation. If you do a yoga class, make sure he’s given the opportunity to enjoy his own leisure activities for the same amount of time, and vice versa. By sharing the parenting load, and balancing responsibilities with some fun, your partnership has the opportunity to breath and thrive.
SEE A COUNSELLOR
Every marriage goes through its ups and downs. Parenting is the hardest job in the world and it’s easy for your relationship to fall into a rut from time to time. And while most of the time, marital speedbumps can be overcome without intervention, sometimes seeking the support and advice of a professional is necessary. Small humans have the ability to trigger some of our oldest, deepest (sometimes unconscious) emotional wounds, especially when we’re stretched thin and running on empty. Admitting that you’re struggling with an issue or feeling disconnected from your other half is not only healthy, but it’s also a normal part of sharing an intimate life with someone. By voicing your concerns and reaching out for help, you open the door of emotional transparency and give your partnership the chance to grow and strengthen. No relationship is perfect, but by actively working on it, you can help yours flourish and thrive.