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by Cynthia Lawrence

After 16 years together, (six of those married), I would say that my husband and I have been through every challenge imaginable, and have come out the other end stronger than ever.  But nothing (I repeat NOTHING!) prepared us for how having our baby would change our relationship.

With our equilibrium shaken by a newborn, raging hormones, sleep deprivation and increased tension, we were on the brink of a meltdown.  But like most new parents, we were able to weather the first year storm by sticking to these make-or-break rules!

Here are some vital things I learned when two became three…

Don’t expect to get the motherhood-thing ‘right’ overnight – For nine months, you have been planning birth plans, preparing the nursery and reading all the parenting books/blogs out there! It’s only natural for a first-time mama to feel anxious about getting it right!  So don’t be too hard on yourself when your idyllic parenting plans don’t run to your desired schedule! More often, it’s just about adapting to your baby’s needs and vice versa! This added pressure of taking on every role at once, can lead to increased tension with your partner who is adjusting just as much as you. Give yourself a break and go with the flow! Forget the housework, cooking, and making sure guests are well fed when they visit. What is more important is that you rest and eat well!

Create a tag-team – You feel overwhelmed by the new addition in your life, but good teamwork with your partner is vital. Develop your own routine/structure with one another or whatever works for your lifestyles. While I’d be up during the night nursing, hubby would take over in the mornings with a bottle. Or hubby would be responsible for bath and bedtimes when he came home from work. It’s only fair to share the workload to ease the strain, and this will create less resentment.

Stay connected – While you’re busy bonding with your new baby, it can be easy to neglect the person who contributed to their very existence! I remember my husband feeling a little neglected at times as my mind was on baby auto-pilot all the time. It’s important to make time for intimacy and connect with your partner. Sex may not be the first thing on your mind, but you can share intimacy in your own sensual ways.  It’s also a good time to communicate any anxieties or thoughts about parenthood while relaxed. So snuggle up to your man, and give him some much -deserved TLC!

Parenting styles may clash, but it’s ok – We all aim for the idyllic, ‘Cosby Show’ family values, but sometimes our partners may not always see eye -to -eye. Your view may be more of a sensitive approach, while Daddy is more firm and ‘tough-love’. There’s nothing wrong with different approaches to raising your child as long as both share the same principles, it’s fine to strike a balance. The main thing is to hear each other out before passing judgment, as this will add fuel to the fire. It’s ok to question or even challenge, but more importantly, respect each other’s viewpoints. What I’ve learned about parenting, is there is no right or wrong way!

Time for yourself – As much as you feel inseparable from your new baby, it’s important that you get some time to yourself. ‘What’s that?’ you may wonder, but the world is not going to stop if you take a time out. Arrange for a sitter if your hubby is at work, just to have a few hours alone. Go for a walk, shopping or even sit in a nice place and have lunch (uninterrupted by a crying baby!)  and just find time to enjoy you again. A refreshed state of mind makes all the difference to well-being!

Don’t play the blame game  – Stop finding faults to pick and argue about! Keeping tabs on how many times your partner has fed or changed the baby, or being overly critical about their parental contributions can often turn into resentment. It’s so easy to do when you’re irritable faced with sleep deprivation, but this is not a contest to win the best parent of the year award! You’re both new to this thing called parenthood, and babies certainly don’t come with a manual! So rather than working against each other, be more supportive of each other!

Our parents/in-laws are not always right! – Your parents are giving one piece of advice, his parents are giving conflicting tips, you don’t quite know who to listen to, which is causing some contention at home! After all, they are the experts on raising children, right? Wrong! While you can listen to advice from family (some may be useful) only you and your partner know your child’s routines. Every child is different, so don’t worry about what family may think, only you and your partner knows best!

Find humor – Parenthood may be challenging at times but is a wonderful and beautiful experience.  Don’t sweat the small stuff!  Cherish those precious moments when you can, as they don’t stay cute and little forever!

Last but not least, have faith that you’re not alone!

Conflicts do happen, but don’t fear of impending divorce or rushing off to couples counseling! For the most part, it’s a ‘teething’ phase that will pass and it’s normal for new parents to go through the same… and survive it!

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