How Do Babies Really Affect Relationships?

We all know that babies change your life. But how does the arrival of a little one really affect living together as partners and parents?

When times get tough and it seems all too easy to disencumber the burden on your nearest and dearest… we pose the question, how do babies really affect our relationships and subsequently, what is the key to blissful happiness with baby and your other half.

Times they are a changing….

Baby is coming and thus you must wave goodbye to lazy Sunday mornings and long evenings in the pub.

It is widely known that times of change are stressful times. Just look back at when you’ve moved house, got a new job or even just re-furbished your kitchen. All of these “transition times” bring about extra demands, and these extra demands can make us feel irritable, tearful and down. Having a baby is certainly a time of change, and one that has no obvious end point. Once a parent, always a parent, and being a parent has to compete with being a wife and husband too.

I’m losing control!
Because we are choosing to have babies so much later in life, we’ve had more time to get used to having a career, going on holidays, driving nice cars. We get used to being in control of our lives. Then suddenly there’s this little, warm, demanding being who, rather than us being in control of, controls us! And, unlike with a lot of life’s challenges, reading hundreds of books and attending every class you possibly can is not going to guarantee a predictable and easy time.

This sense of being out of control can be one of the hardest challenges to manage, and one that can cause a lot of conflict within your relationship. Heidi, a successful accountant described how this feeling impacted on her and her relationship, “Peter and I had settled into a nice routine since being together, we know each other well and we felt that we were in control of our lives. When Tanya arrived we were at a loss, we were depending on each other to be in control but neither of us felt we really were. That felt scary, and we ended up getting really mad with one another”

All things to all (wo)men. So how can we be that devoted partner and perfect parent? Quite simply we can’t, and we wouldn’t want to. How boring life would be! Finding out how to be a parent while also being there for our partner is a tough challenge. It takes patience and an inordinate amount of selflessness. And let’s face it – when we feel stressed, the last thing we’re good at is thinking of others.

But, if you find yourself feeling like you’re having to cope alone and feeling distant from you partner a lot of the time, try a few of these strategies:

  1. Make some time every week to have a relationship check. Start your talk together by thinking about the positives, that is, things you think are going really well. Then spend some time thinking about what you would like to be different. End each conversation with action points e.g. ‘Simon to empty the dishwasher every day’, ‘Amanda to ask how work has been as soon as Simon comes in’. Make this a cosy time by talking over a cup of tea or a glass of wine. However hard the chat has been, promise yourselves a hug at the end.
  2. When demands are being flung at you from every angle, we all need time for ourselves. Agree with your partner times when you can do something just for yourself (e.g. watching a football match, going for a manicure), making sure that you feel this is equitable. You will love one another even more for it.
  3. Husbands sometimes feel as if they’re a spare part in the first few weeks. While they may not be able to breastfeed for example, they can wind baby, or maybe they could bathe baby after work. Little things like calling home from work twice a day or texting can help you both feel as if you’re there for one another and involved in this challenge together.
  4. The factors that made you a strong team before having baby will be the ones that get you through this time of change. Talk together about what these factors are- write them down and put them on the fridge to remind you.
  5. Remember, it’s the little things we do for one another that help us to feel we are being supported and loved. At times like this, nothing is too little.

We all know that two heads are better than one. We also all know that communication is the key to effective team work. Apply these principles to being a family. Having a baby can turn your world upside down, but working together and talking to one another can make sure that when your world does turn the right way up again, it’s full of love, understanding and fulfilment.

Struggling to cope as partners bringing up toddlers? Read next issue’s article by Dr Rudkin to find out how you can work together to make the most of this time.