It's no secret that life changes in many amazing and challenging ways when a little baby arrives on the scene. Parents have nine months to stock the nursery, wash the onesies, and read the parenting books before bringing home their bundle of joy. However, not much is said about how Junior's arrival will impact perhaps the most important relationship in the family: the parents' marriage after baby.
Not knowing how your marriage might change in the first year of parenthood can lead to unnecessary stress and angst. Here are Daily Mom's "He Said...She Said..." reflections on some of the biggest shifts that might happen in your marriage once you become parents, along with some tips to help you navigate this important season of life.
Time evaporates. Remember sleeping late? Lazy afternoons watching football on the couch? Leaving the house on a moment's notice without having to notify anyone? These become a thing of the past once your little one arrives. The days seem both long and short, as you wonder just how to keep your baby calm/happy/stimulated/engaged for one more hour and yet wonder, at the end of the day, where all of the time went. It is hard to take time for yourself and to find time for you and your wife. This can be a tough pill to swallow and, although your friends warn you about this at your baby shower, you can't really understand the enormity of the change until it becomes your reality.
What to do about it? Try to give your spouse one solid chunk of time each weekend to do as he or she pleases. It's amazing how much just an hour "off duty" can do for your spirits.
Your baby becomes topic #1 of almost all conversations. You finally get out on a date and...spend the whole time talking about your baby! This is somehow counter-intuitive and yet totally normal and something almost every new parent does. It can be hard to make the most of your time out of the house and some couples (ahem!) resort to making lists of non-baby things to talk about.
What to do about it? We can't stress the importance of date nights enough. Find a friend, family member, or babysitter to watch your little one at least once a month and use the time to experience something together - a movie followed by dessert, a walk around a new area of your city, taking in a new art exhibit, etc. This will help keep your conversation fresh - and about something other than the baby!
You may view your wife as a mother first and your wife second. Parenthood causes a remarkable change in identity and priorities for both parents and it can be difficult to "share" your wife with a baby whose needs are so immediate - and who cries until those needs are met! The hormones, physical stress of caring for a newborn, and lack of sleep can make your wife all but unrecognizable for parts of the first year, leaving some husbands to wonder "where is the woman I married?!"
What to do about it? Be patient. Change is hard, in all aspects of life. Trust us when we tell you things will settle down in due time as you each adjust to your additional roles.
Job security becomes more important, especially if you become the main "provider" in your family. It's one thing to feel responsible to care for your wife - as she can likely take care of herself, if need be - but it's totally different to have a helpless newborn depending on you for survival. The pressure to provide can ratchet up to a whole new level once you become a father; your heart explodes with love for your new baby, and you suddenly feel like you've become a grown-up. You may feel pressure to spend more time at home and at the office and struggle to balance the two.
What to do about it? The responsibility of supporting an additional family member is real, so don't force yourself to ignore it. Now is a great time to map out your longer-term career plans to see how you can work towards your financial goals and to evaluate your goals for your family to ensure you're not sacrificing too much on either front.
You may not feel like yourself for some time. Growing a person - a person! - in your body can do a number on your body and sometimes women assume they'll feel "normal" as soon as they deliver their bundle of joy. However, it can take time for the weight to come off, any pregnancy-related pains to disappear, your hormones to regulate, and so on. This general feeling of not quite fitting into your skin can make you emotional and irritable, two emotions that can really challenge a marriage.
What to do about it? Take a deep breath. Your body will settle down, but it might take some time. One Daily Mom contributor felt like herself after just two months while another didn't feel remotely normal until month ten. Our bodies have been through something extraordinary and they need time to resume their normal rhythms.
You may be more in love with your husband than ever. Many women say they never feel closer to their husbands than they do during labor and in the days immediately following. The bond that is formed by growing - and birthing - a tiny baby is like nothing else and can strengthen your bond with your husband in a profound way.
What to do about it? Savor it! Watching your husband become a father is one of life's greatest joys.
You may want your husband to never leave your side...and to leave you alone! As part of the emotional swirl that exists in the postpartum period, many women vacillate between clinging to their husbands and wanting to kick them out of the house. Rest assured this is a normal part of settling into your new roles as parents, coping with the intensity of your love for your family, and handling the stress that comes from lack of sleep.
What to do about it? In some ways, it's hard to explain the conflicting emotions we feel in the first year. It's best not to try to explain them but simply to offer yourself grace and wait for the dust to settle. Yes, your husband might find it odd that you adore him one minute and can't stand him the next but this, too, shall pass.
Intimacy will be on hold until life settles down. Although the movies joke about couples hopping back into bed after six weeks, don't assume everything will return to "normal" at six weeks, especially if you wife had a challenging delivery. Hormones, breastfeeding, and lack of sleep can do a number on your bedtime "routines" and this can be a major source of frustration (and sadness) in some marriages.
What to do about it? Talk to your mom friends. Talk to your husband. Talk to your doctor. Some amount of discomfort (even pain) during intimacy is normal, but if you feel it's too much pain or has gone on longer than you'd expect, ask around to find out what your other friends experienced or consult your doctor to see if there's any way he/she can help. Most of all, keep communication open with your husband.
Your disagreements may become more intense. Parenting brings with it, a host of decisions to make, from putting baby on a schedule (or not), circumcising (or not), where to spend the holidays, what to do when the baby cries, and so on. Husbands and wives often bring different perspectives to the table based on how they were raised and how they define "normal" and the lack of sleep and general stress of becoming parents can lead to some knock-out fights.
What to do about it? Nothing riles us up like our opinions on parenting! First, take a deep breath and ask if this is really a topic you want to fight for. Chances are the answer will sometimes be "yes" and other time, you'll be able to defer to your spouse's opinion. Remember that what may seem absolutely "right" in your mind may be exactly "wrong" in your husband's mind, simply because of how your family raised you and the traditions they chose to follow. Take this as an opportunity to choose your own "right" - maybe your family did it one way and your husband's another, and the two of you will choose a third path which is best for your family. Above all, try not to lose sight of how much you both want what's best for your family, despite the disagreements.
Photo credit: Jenika Burden Photography