No matter how prepared you think you are before you have a baby, it’s a known fact that things WILL get turned upside down afterwards. And often, we are all faced with similar issues. Savor these points as the dark tides beckoning to the sense of humor, bravado, love, and kindness you’ll have to dig deep and reach out for. Do this for your partner, husband, wife … whomever you’ve entered into this journey with. But mostly, for yourself.
And remember, all these common issues can only be potential deal-breakers in your relationship, if you let them.
The Problem: You have less money and more bills.
Having babies is expensive. Daycare is expensive. Quality food is expensive. Bigger cars to lug everyone around in ain’t cheap. Neither is housing, whether you’re renting or owning. Then there’s camp, extracurriculars, birthdays, and holidays. Before you know it, you don’t know where all your money went.
My Advice: Set a budget.
My husband and I had to make it a point to get real with our budgeting, even seeing a professional at one point to rein things in and get organized. We have systems, and they work. If you don’t take the time to hash out the money talk and responsibilities in a real way, things can get ugly, fast. Be honest, and be practical.
The Problem: You’re never alone together.
Honestly? Sometimes after a long day all you want to do is curl up with Netflix or a good book. Self-care becomes an almost primitive desire that needs to be met before romance can start to trickle in.
My Advice: Make it happen. (Because you really can.)
Hire a babysitter. Make the time. I know people who schedule in sex. Sounds crazy, but it works. It’s not like it’s not enjoyable or anything. Don’t give each other the leftovers from your day, if you can help it!
The Problem: You stop having sex.
There are obvious reasons for this. Many women just DO NOT want to get down for weeks, sometimes months, sometimes a couple of YEARS after having a baby. It completely alters, blesses, screws with, and magnifies how we see ourselves as women, in many ways.
My Advice: Give it time, work on it, and love yourself first.
In the immediate (after birthing), it’s just common sense. Things have to heal. After that, it’s all about science (hormones) and spirit. Sensuality becomes lost in a pool of self-doubt, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and extreme body changes. We’re in survival mode and we have to actively work to bring our sexy back. For my husband and I, it did not come naturally to us. But we worked on it. Also, you have to love yourself first. (Take that however you want to.)
The Problem: Sleep deprivation.
Ah, sleep. Even if you’re the baby whisperer, it’s just never, ever, ever going to be the same. Babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers … they all keep you up at night. Sleep is a basic, mandatory need that we all have and when we’re not getting nearly enough of it, we go into robot mode. Everything seems more annoying and you just don’t have the patience or energy to deal with the hard work that marriage takes.
My Advice: Take turns sleeping in.
My husband and I now have a system (again with the systems!). We take turns on the weekends letting the other one sleep in. We do kind things for each other (like making breakfast in bed) to stoke those luxuriant feelings of rest a little more. You have to dream-team the sleep thing and be really kind and patient with one another when you’re haggard and not your best self.
The Problem: Someone is doing more around the house.
This is a common source of aggravation in relationships, and kids just magnify it. While some may disagree with me, for us the solution could not have been more simple.
My Advice: Divvy it up equally.
No matter who works outside of the home or who makes what … just divvy up the household responsibilities. Many stay-at-home moms (or dads) may not do this but I can only speak for myself. My husband and I both work our butts off to bring money in, regardless of who makes more. If your partner doesn’t know how to get down with their domestic self, then they have to learn. Be a kind teacher. Not a harpy. No one responds well to being harped on. Tag team everything you can, and what you can’t? Just do it without holding resentment. This one was a hard one for me, but in the end I had to ask myself: “Really? Over CHORES?”
The Problem: You have different parenting styles.
It would be so simple if partners in life and parenting all shared the same philosophies. Sadly, this is not a reality and can lead to a lot of chaos and tension within the partnership.
My Advice: Just compromise.
When you can’t come to an agreement one way or another, you must compromise. Hopefully there’s nothing that you don’t disagree with to the point that you think your partner’s way is causing some sort of lasting damage. In fact, that’s the question you should be asking yourself when you can’t come to an agreement. Whether it be over bedtime rituals (sleep-training, co-sleeping, etc.), how you discipline, even how you play with your kids. My husband and I had (still have) differences of opinion when it comes to some of this stuff. In the end, we know we are both coming from a good place and the other way really isn’t the wrong way, or a bad way. It’s just different.
The Problem: You’ve lost your sense of self.
Since I’m not a man myself I’m going to go with my own personal experience as a woman. I know what the studies say and what the “experts” say. (That most women experience this during the early years of parenting.) But I think men do too. There’s often no time and we get stretched far too thin. You carve out time for yourself. You make a point of being focused on yourself just as much as being a parent. So how the heck does one make that happen? See point 8.
The Problem: You’ve become completely child-focused.
It’s true, your child(ren) should be the center of your universe. But what is also true (IMHO), is that your partner and yourself should also be. I’ve all too easily been consumed with nurturing my children in the day to day that all things fade to the background. From the simplest of things like taking a shower and eating properly. Or exercising. Or spending time with my husband. If I’m focusing all of my energy on being a good mother, then I start to fade away and the residual affect is that my mothering suffers for it.
My Advice: Make yourself a priority — and don’t feel guilty about it.
For me, it has a domino effect and knowing this has (finally) empowered me to not feel shame or guilt over admitting that my children aren’t my whole world. I carve out the time no matter what. Even if the house is a mess or there is laundry to be done. Sanity is important.