You’re adjusting to life with a baby.
You know your parenting skills will be put to the test. But you may not realize that those skills will be needed, not only to care for your baby but also to care for yourself and your partner.
In fact, your success as a parent depends on learning to balance all your family’s needs.
Our basic needs are not negotiable.
Beyond the core needs to sustain life, each of us has relationship needs—needs for communication, compromise, and trust. If these needs are not met, our relationships will lack meaning and will probably not last.
Whose Needs Come First?
Baby’s needs are immediate and pressing. Meeting them means you’re exhausted, sleep-deprived, physically and emotionally drained. It’s hard to look beyond the moment.
But family needs require that both parents focus on themselves and each other as well as on their child. Parenting skills include executive, time-management, and negotiation skills.
Love is abundant. But loving your new baby does not mean loving your partner less. Still, when it comes to allocating time and energy, you may be tempted to skimp on your commitments to each other and to self-care.
In the long run, kids are happier when their parents put their marriage first. Thus, sacrificing your fulfillment or your relationship with your partner will not help your baby.
Meeting the Parenting Skills Challenge
I’ve got news for you. You’re up against some challenges. From who you are to who does what, your life will never be the same again.
Playing New Roles
The traditional roles of Mom-the-Nurturer and Dad-the-Provider are shifting. But allocating the responsibility of caring for baby, yourselves, and each other is a challenge. Good parenting skills include finding the appropriate balance for your unique situation.
You may need to change your mindset. Mom needs to be comfortable with letting dad make his own decisions about childcare. Dad needs to be ready to pitch in, even when he hasn’t been asked to perform a task. Each must learn to tolerate differences in parenting style and to negotiate roles and approaches.
Be prepared for endless back-and-forth over parenting responsibilities. Everything from whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper to who does the next load of laundry to who got to go for a run yesterday will be up for discussion, if not argument.
The best way to ensure a good division of labor when it comes to housekeeping and parenting chores is to write down everything that must be done and then make a plan. Work out who does what so that neither of you feels you’re carrying more weight than the other.
Be sure to schedule time together and time for yourselves. Include romantic “date” times but also quiet share-the-news times. Trust me, you’ll need both. And all of us need alone time now and then. Schedule that, too.
Dealing with Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep is probably the biggest adjustment you’ll have to make with a baby in the house. You’ll suffer. At least, a tendency to crankiness. At worst, memory impairment.
Hence, to avoid becoming zombies, sleep in shifts and alternate the 2:00 a.m. duty.
Adjusting to Changes in Your Sex Life
News flash. Your sex life is going to change. Bear in mind that women are hardwired to make sure that baby survives—and that probably means not getting pregnant again right away. Though, mom’s lack of sex drive doesn’t mean she’s rejecting her partner.
Some mothers may be overwhelmed. The pain associated with childbirth, personal feelings about sex, how much sleep she’s getting, and round-the-clock feeding can lead to major disconnection. Other women may seek release and connection in sex with their partner so that they feel they’re still an adult.
And it’s not just Mom who may be too tired for sex. Dads who share childcare duties get exhausted, too.
However the situation is for you, talk about it. Open dialogue about your sex life is always good, but it’s even more necessary when the only time for romance and sex is time snatched from parenting responsibilities. And even if you don’t have sex as often as before, you can still nurture and maintain your loving relationship.
Managing the In-Laws
A challenge you may not have anticipated after you had your baby is how to deal with the grandparents. Grandmas and Grandpas on both sides of the family will want to be connected to their new grandchild. There may even be turf wars—who gets to see the baby first or who gets to be called “Nana.”
Generational differences in parenting styles and parenting skills may also cause trouble.
Having a plan helps. It’s up to each of you to deal, kindly and constructively, with your parents and to set the necessary boundaries.
Balance Is Best
What comes first? Of course, baby needs to be cared for to survive. But your needs, your partner’s needs, and your relationship also must be attended to.
Someday, baby will grow up and leave the nest. It’s up to you to ensure, not only that your baby survives and thrives in the meantime, but that you and your partner keep yourselves and your relationship healthy.
Whatever your problems—how to divide the parenting chores, different parenting skills, when to have sex, how to set boundaries with family—talk them over beforehand. Having a plan will help you fulfill your responsibility to your baby and yourselves and keep you all healthy and happy.
If you would like to read about my services, click here: Parenting Counseling.