Everyone knows that a baby changes everything. Even the husbands who’ve never changed a diaper in their life or the new mom with no babysitting background understand that actually bringing a new little bundle of joy into the world is going to require serious adaptation.
Once the pregnancy test pops up with a plus sign, couples are blindsided with the reality that their world will never be the same again. As the months go by and the belly grows, couples are bombarded with decisions they’ve never faced before, such as: Which carseat will you buy? Will you breastfeed or bottlefeed? Are you going back to work? Have you chosen a Pediatrician? and the list goes on.
No doubt about it, you change more than diapers when you bring a baby home. Maybe greatest of all is the change inside yourself. No longer are you just “husband and wife” but your identity as a couple has completely shifted to include another individual, promoting you to “mom and dad” forever. Adjusting to the transition from couple to family comes with many emotions, not all of which are accurately depicted in those dreamy Pampers commercials.
Babies come with loads of joy; but they also come with stress and challenges that can take a toll on even the strongest relationships. As couples are confronted with new decisions, demands, and difficulties, it’s only natural to have conflict surface within the relationship. Trying to navigate this uncharted territory on very little sleep can often lead to misunderstandings and frustrations during a time that was expected to be wholly enjoyed and celebrated.
Amidst the chaos of this tender season, a little teamwork can go a long way. It’s important to maintain your “husband and wife” identity throughout the transition into parenthood, helping both of you connect on the new changes affecting your adjustment.
Here are a few easy reminders that can help make the transition less stressful:
1. You’re on the same team.
When you’re on the same team, you don’t need to keep score. Maybe mom stayed up half the night with the baby. Maybe dad changed the last dirty diaper. Maybe your day really was harder than your spouse’s. But, if you start keeping track, then the seesaw of frustration will never stop. Instead, try to look at new challenges from the same side. Substitute a “me vs. you” mindset with an “us vs. the issue” attitude. If you both share the view of doing what’s best for the good of your family, you can trust each other to make decisions and take actions with consideration and love.
2. You both need a cheerleader.
Encourage one another. Parenthood is hard work and comes with a lot of insecurities. You’re both experiencing all new emotions and doubts that can stir up various anxieties hiding just under the surface of survival. When it’s 3am and you’re both blurry-eyed and full of worry, a smile or hug can give you the extra pep you need to keep you both going. Look for new favorite things about your spouse that they’re experiencing in this new role, and tell each other how amazing it is to share this together. A simple You’re so great to change her diaper so fast! or Thanks for making coffee this morning, we definitely needed it after last night! can bring sincere encouragement. Tiny compliments to your spouse about who they are as a new parent are huge reminders that this is a sacred and temporary season. Don’t let it slip by without fully appreciating your spouse amidst the change.
3. You’re undefeated.
Everybody wins, always. Many times couples try to compromise amidst conflict only to both be left empty handed and disappointed. Compromise in parenting usually feels like nobody wins. Instead, share your genuine concerns and feelings about parenting issues with your spouse in effort to gain understanding rather than persuading them towards what you think is best. Taking time out for dates (Netflix and ordering pizza counts!) or moments of quiet after the baby is in bed can reignite your desire to connect as well. Find humor wherever you can, and laugh often at the rookie-parent moments you will both experience! Soon you will see that sharing in the ups and downs of these changes feels like a win for both of you.
Change is inevitable. How you allow the joys and challenges of entering parenthood affect your marriage makes all the difference in whether it bonds you closer or creates greater conflict in your relationship. As couples shift and grow into families, so do the individuals within them. Taking on new roles as parents can certainly feel like a roller coaster; but the ups and downs that terrify you are the same things that make the experience so thrilling and worthwhile. Preparing your relationship now can bring greater joy to this precious life phase that deserves to be celebrated.
About the author:
Emily Pardy is a counselor and founder of Ready Nest Counseling in Nashville, TN. Ready Nest Counseling helps couples prepare for parenthood by caring for their relational wellness as they transition through conception, pregnancy, post-partum, and infertility. Emily has written for multiple parenting publications including Thriving Family magazine and ParentLife magazine. She has her Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy from Lipscomb University and is the author of For All Maternity, a humorous memoir of her own journey into motherhood. Emily resides in Nashville, TN with her husband and three rambunctious daughters.