Life with a newborn is definitely different to life before. So many things have changed, including your relationship with your partner. You’re no longer only a partner or spouse, you’re a parent now as well, and that means that some things change. These tips can help you learn how to adjust to life with a newborn as a couple.
It’s incredibly common for new parents to feel a little unhappy or dissatisfied in their relationships. It’s completely normal, and it doesn’t mean the end of the relationship. Both of you have new roles to adjust to, and a new way of interacting with each other as well. Try to remember that this will pass, and things will become a new normal.
If you have an image in your head of the ideal parent, or the ideal family, forget about it. It’s incredibly unhelpful to build up these sort of ideal expectations, and it can make it more difficult to adjust when life doesn’t measure up. The newborn stage can be quite stressful to begin with, so don’t add to it.
Make a list of what needs to be done on a daily or weekly basis in your house. Make a second list of which of those tasks are priorities. Be realistic, and don’t be too hard on yourself either. Once you have a condensed version of the daily household tasks, sit down together and work out who will do which task. Remember that your newborn may have other ideas, so it will be OK if neither of you get around to loading the washing machine, or if you’re ordering a takeaway instead of cooking.
Sociologists have a term – maternal gatekeeping. It’s when mothers hover over the father, and gatekeep his interactions with the baby. It could be that they ask why he’s done things a certain way or want him to do things in exactly the same way as they do it themselves. Coping with the feelings of being a new mother can be hard to handle, and it can take a while to trust someone else with your child, even their other parent, but this behaviour can become nit-picking and upsetting for your partner. If your baby is in danger, obviously you need to step in. Otherwise, if your partner changes a nappy in a different way to you, it’s fine. Your partner will learn how to interact with your newborn in their own way. If you feel very anxious when someone else is taking care of your little one, then you may need to think about leaving the house completely. Maybe go for a short walk or go for a nap. Open up to your partner, so they understand that it’s not their fault. Your anxiety should ease over time, and if it does not, seek advice from a healthcare professional.
It’s really easy to forget about your own relationship when you’ve got a newborn. It’s important for you and your partner to reconnect with each other as individuals, and not just as parents. Some couples like to make time to watch a movie together when the baby is sleeping. If a movie seems like too much for you, try watching one episode of a series together instead. Small things like cooking and eating together as much as possible can help you feel more connected.
Having sex after giving birth can be a big deal. Your doctor will probably tell you to wait for about six weeks, but you might not feel ready for sex for longer. Don’t put yourself under pressure to have sex. It’s completely normal for some women to wait for six months, eight months or longer. Your body will let you know when you’re ready. However, sex is part of feeling connected to your partner, and it can help bring you closer and reduce negative feelings you may be having. You might want to try giving each other a massage or finding other ways to redefine your sex life. Communicating with each other, and finding what works for you, is key.