Becoming a parent
When a couple become parents their lifestyle is turned upside down. In this article, Paula Hall describes what can be done to ensure the bond isn’t broken by the new arrival
Firstly you have to think about how your life will be affected. It will alter the way you see yourself, how you spend time with your friends and family, your professional life and perhaps most significantly, your relationship with your partner.
Though some men care full-time for their children, mostly it’s the women who take time off. This means they have a more dramatic change of lifestyle and it rarely comes without feelings of self-doubt. She may ask herself: can I be a good enough mother? Will my body ever feel normal again? How do I feel about being dependent on my partner? Can I protect my baby from the dangers of the world? Will I ever have a life of my own again?
Talk anxieties through
If you’re experiencing this kind of insecurity, rest assured that it’s perfectly normal. Talking anxieties through with a friend, another mum, or with a health visitor can help you to realise you’re not alone and everything will be okay.
Men have their anxieties too. Often they wonder: can I be a good enough father? How can I work full-time, help my partner, be with my child and still have time for me? What if I lose my job? My partner is so absorbed with the baby; will we ever be a normal couple again?
Again, these fears are perfectly natural and the more the two of you can discuss them, the easier it will be for you both to feel reassured.
Inevitably, becoming a parent means making sacrifices. One or both of you may be making significant changes to your work pattern. For most couples, a baby is expensive and the need to earn an income can feel more of a necessity than ever before. The extra cost may mean that you have less money to spend on the little luxuries that both of you enjoyed. One of the biggest losses for most new parents is time.
Look after yourself!
As individuals you need to take responsibility for and look after your own needs. That means you need to pay attention to your health by ensuring that you still eat properly and take regular exercise. And you need to look after your emotional needs as well. That will mean different things to different people, but it will almost certainly include making time to relax, even if it’s just half an hour in the bath, visiting friends or simply talking on the telephone. Most couples manage to negotiate at least one evening a fortnight when they can do their own thing. If that’s difficult for you, then you should try to enlist the support of friends or family or a local babysitting circle. For potential babysitting resources, see below.
Making time to be a couple
This can be very difficult and you will need to be more flexible and more creative than ever before. All your time together will really count so it’s important that you grab that time to keep in touch with each other physically and emotionally.
For most new parents, resuming a regular sex life can seem impossible. On top of the lack of time and the general exhaustion that caring for the needs of a newborn 24/7 brings, there are also biological reasons why the sex drive is reduced. For the first few months, a woman’s hormones are pre-programmed for feeding and nurturing not making more babies. In fact, 80% of new mothers report lowered desire in the first months. The most important thing you need to remember during this time is to keep touching and showing physical affection, even if it doesn’t ‘go all the way’ for a while.
It can be difficult to keep the lines of communication open when the baby's crying and you’re both exhausted. But it’s the most important thing you can do is stop any minor issues becoming major problems. If you can, try to find at least one hour a week when you can talk through how things are going.
You can get more tips and advice from the Relate book, Baby Shock – available from your local bookshop and amazon.co.uk. Baby Shock and plenty more free advice is available on the Relate website.
Some Relate Centres run a special work-shop aimed at new parents to help you understand the responsibilities and pressures of becoming parents.
Find out more
Getting to know people who your children get along with and who can babysit in your area takes time. In the meantime, you might want to consider national services which offer evening babysitters with childcare experience and even qualifications.
- Sitters offers registration at no cost until you actually need a babysitter.
- Safehands is a large national network of babysitters which you pay to join, but which has various incentives for members.
- Relate: Relationship advice and courses for new parents.
- Resolving Your Relationship Difficulties: Relationship Counsellor Paul Hall from Relate has these practical tips for moving on from the one thing you and your partner may never agree about.
- The New Born Baby: The love and attention babies receive in their first few months of life plays a vital part in determining how their brains and bodies develop.
- Controlled Crying: As used on Supernanny, this technique helps you tell a cry for attention from a distress cry, and gives you the tools to gradually make your baby less dependent on you at night time...
- Introduction to Post-Natal Energy: Melinda Nicci encourages us to listen to our bodies and set realistic goals for a healthy eating and exercising routine.