When asked for parenting advice, veteran parents often give advice about the best baby products, developing a routine, nursing, and other advice based around the wellness of baby. No one really tells you how this new cute cuddly bundle of joy takes a toll on your relationship with your wife or husband.
When asked for our advice, my wife’s response is always, “sleep when the baby sleeps and don’t rush the healing process.” My response is simple and probably unexpected, but it’s one of the hardest things to do when you combine an attention hogging infant with sleep deprived (sometimes frustrated) parents. It’s the reason why some parents can’t maintain a healthy relationship with each other. My advice is maintain open and clear communication your significant other or the mother/father of your child (however, you may refer to them) throughout this journey.
As new parents, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and consumed with your new responsibility as parents… between the diaper changes, cluster feedings, diaper blow outs, and doctor’s appointments, you can forget about each other and your needs. The added responsibility can potentially have an adverse effect on your relationship with your partner, specifically how you two may communicate. Various reasons can be the blame for the decline in the communication when a new baby is born. Here are a few of those reasons.
- Your main focus is baby and not each other. – With those cute little toes, fingers, and face, it’s very easy to lose yourself in the day to day of taking care of your new addition. You are trying to meet the needs your little one while meeting the expectations placed on you by society and yourself. Therefore, you are more focused on the baby and forget about the needs of your significant other.
- Sleep? What’s sleep? – Some babies sleep all day and are woke all night or even wake for nighttime feedings, which can deprive new parents of a precious necessity – sleep. Exhaustion can cause heighten irritability and unstable moods combined with a fussy baby and daily task and it’s World War III waiting to happen in your household. All it takes is a sock in the middle of the bathroom floor or a dirty cup in the sink to start a heated argument.
- Lack of Spontaneity – “Spontaneous? What is that? ,” you may say. It’s hard to be spontaneous when you are trying to get the baby on a routine. You may think the spontaneous movie dates, nights on the town, or random weekend vacations have come to a halt. You can’t pick up and go any more without having to plan everything from finding a trustworthy babysitter to packing the diaper bag. It is very frustrating and a life adjustment that some aren’t fully ready to adapt to.
- “I don’t have much to say to her/him.” – Allow me to clarify this statement. You talk to each other but mainly about the needs, development, or all things related to baby. You don’t talk to each other about “grown up” stuff such as politics, favorite television shows, a new book, a new business venture, or just about how you both are feeling that particular day.
Communication makes life with a new infant a tad bit easier. Both parents are on the same wave length about some things i.e. caring for the baby, finances, the sharing of responsibilities, and/or not sweeping small issue under the rug to later rear its face as a much bigger problem. (Believe me if you don’t address it as soon as possible, it comes back worse than a huge zit on your nose right before an interview or important meeting.) Having a partner whom you can confide in and who listens, can make the pressures of parenting seem not as bad as they may appear. If you two decide to go your separate ways, communication makes co-parenting easier as well. Clear and open communication can reduce the stress of an already overwhelming situation.
How do my partner and I improve our communication? By developing the skills to become better communicators, you and your partner can improve communication. As with establishing any good habits, it will take time and practice. I am still working to improve my communication skills with my wife. By no means am I an expert in improving communication skills; however, I can tell you what is working for my marriage.
Discuss your expectations, morals, and values as parents prior to the delivery of baby. You would be surprised how many unwedded and married couples do not have this conversation. The arrival of baby may or may not change the dynamic of your relationship, but there will not be any gray areas or unknowns of the role each of you play as parents or how you want to raise the baby.
Have a designated time you talk to each other and stick to the schedule. During scheduled naps or bedtime, fight the sleep/exhaustion monster for a few minutes and spend time talking about the events of the day or anything other than baby. I recommend saving bedtime for important discussions so you two can talk uninterrupted for longer than a few minutes. Or schedule date nights once a week to talk to each other about things happening not concerning the baby.
If it is bothering you and you did not like it, immediately express it to your partner so small problems don’t become big problems later. If you have a problem or concern, discuss it with your significant other immediately and at an appropriate time. By addressing concerns immediately, you avoid any small problems brewing into larger problems because it was swept under the rug and not resolved at the time the issue occurred.
Listen to each other’s concerns without interrupting. Listening without interruption and repeating their concerns back to them, tells your partner you were listening to them. (May take a bit of practice.) Improving this skill can make discussing major issues easier without the constant yelling and one person leaving the conversation feeling like their concerns were not addressed.
Communication is a hard skill on a day to day basis, but improving the communication between parents can remove some of the stress of an already stressful situation. Good habits aren’t developed over night, but the communication can improve with practice, determination, and mindfulness. Keep working on your communication skills until you and your partner can effectively communicate with each other. What are some ways you keep the communication open with your parenting partner or significant other?