Before our first son arrived I would say my hubby and I had a rock-solid relationship. Marriage isn’t work, I used to think. It’s easy if you really love each other. Oh, wasn’t I naive?!
Then we became besotted, but also sleep-deprived new parents – and I finally understood that yes, sometimes it is, and no, our relationship wasn’t bullet-proof. While things did get a little shaky between us in that first year, I actually think it’s OK. It’s understandable. Nothing can prepare new parents for the onslaught of sleeplessness, emotional stress and the complete life upheaval that comes with having a baby.
Looking back, I can see that we needed to do some relationship baby-proofing during that first year. While we were great at covering up those electrical sockets and affixing safety gates, we weren’t so good at tending to us as a couple.
If you have found yourself wondering what the heck happened to you two now that you are three, then you might want to try and safeguard your relationship from these things:
1. Fend off sleep resentment
There were times when I wanted to punch my snoring husband in the face when he lay next to me asleep while I was up breastfeeding our baby (again). Then I hated him even more when he’d fall asleep on the couch on the weekend because he’d had a broken night sleep the previous night. Yes, our baby woke me too, but I always get less sleep, I’d scream to myself.
Baby-proofing sleep tip:
Sleep resentment is a very real problem among new parents. You are both tired and yes, one may have had more sleep than the other, but try not to hate them for it. It’s much more helpful to develop some coping strategies – tag teaming catch-up naps, or delegating an expressed feed to your partner so you can have a longer stretch of sleep can really help.
2. Divide and conquer the housework
One thing that started to get us down was the added housework. Not only were we overwhelmed with taking care of a new human, but the build up of washing and dirty dishes was closing in on us. But rather than talk about it, I would explode in a tantrum at my partner when the mess really got to me.
Baby-proofing housework tip:
Most men don’t take subtle hints, so talk about the housework with him and be very clear about what he can do to help. For example, could he empty the dishwasher each morning before work so it can be stacked during the day?
3. Revisit your BC relationship
Before children, our life was like one long date (not that we knew it!) – a Friday night movie would be followed by a snuggly Saturday morning sleep-in and then a lazy breakfast at a cafe. We’d usually end up ordering a second coffee because we had nowhere better to be. Those were the days!
Baby-proofing life tip:
While you will probably always miss your pre-baby carefree life, do take grandparents and friends up on their offer to babysit so you can at least visit it from time to time. Date night might be out of the question with bub’s sleep (and who has the energy anyway?!) but a simple walk around the neighbourhood sans-baby or a quick coffee date might be all that you need to stop and reconnect.
4. Let each other learn and make mistakes
My husband was way more of a softie than me when it came to our baby’s sleep. While I wasn’t into the cry-it-out method, I also didn’t jump at my baby’s every whimper, just in case he was transitioning between sleep cycles. Whenever I would wake to find my husband doing laps around our bedroom with our baby – because he’d woken him up to help him transition – gah, I wanted to cry. All my good work was being undone, I thought.
Baby-proofing parenting tip:
You are both going to do things differently and there is no right or wrong way. Let your partner learn by his mistakes and vice versa. You are both rookies but you’ll find your groove.
5. Remember how you used to talk to each other
My husband and I got into the bad habit of snapping at each other whenever we weren’t happy about something, rather than just “talking nicely” (as I tell my now four-year-old). I guess, little or no sleep will do that, but it was counter-productive. We’d end up fighting about how we were relating to each other rather than discussing the problem.
Baby-proofing communication tip:
You are sleep-deprived, irrational and emotional. Remember this and rather than lose it at your partner in the moment, save up issues you need to talk about for a time when you are feeling less fragile.
6. Don’t ignore the sex elephant in the room
Sex wasn’t on the menu for us for quite some time after our son was born. I didn’t feel sexy, in fact I felt the opposite (why are maternity bras so fugly?). That, along with the fact that my body felt like it belonged to a little someone meant I had no interest in it. Plus, we both also felt too tired for any bedroom action. But what started off as a dry spell became a full-blown drought and before we knew it, sex had become a relationship issue for us.
Baby-proofing intimacy tip:
It’s normal to want only sleep in the bedroom when you’re running on empty. But talk about the lack of sex in your relationship and what might be causing it. This is a different kind of intimacy. On the flipside, if you’re both up for it, just do it. Don’t worry about your unshaven legs, especially if it’s been a while. You can break the drought.