Marriage Advice for New Parents
By Kimberly Mccreight
My husband and I approached becoming parents like it was a NASA launch. We used schematics to triangulate research on baby items. We pre-washed all fabrics with hypoallergenic detergent and agreed that we were morally opposed to pacifiers. But six months later — after a harrowing labour, bouts of jaundice and mastitis, bottle refusal and no sleep — I knew only this: I hated my husband, and everything was his fault. As it turned out, our preparations had left out one really important thing: us. Here are 7 things I recommend in order to baby-proof your marriage before baby arrives.
1. Sweat the small stuff
Sit down with your partner and divide up household chores. Leave out baby duties for now, but include everything else — from cooking and cleaning to paying the bills and walking the dog (yeah, he’ll still be there). Pre-baby you might be willing to cook an extra meal as long as he folds laundry, but once you’re living under a newborn’s totalitarian regime, you’ll be feeling a lot less generous. Think your relationship is immune from nitpicking? Trust me, once you have a baby, nothing is more romantic than efficient and effective.
2. Get down to baby brass tacks
Divide baby duties using the same principal as the chores: Get a pencil and have at it. For newborns, the biggies are feedings, diapers and sleep (sorry, not yours). Then there’s stuff like arranging child-care and doctor appointments. Just be as realistic as possible and don’t overpromise in an effort to be agreeable. Saying you’ll take night time duty on the theory that you’ll nap during the day — except you can’t nap — is going to make living with you as pleasant as bunking with a rabid raccoon. My guess is your partner would probably opt for some sleepless nights.
3. Work out work
Fantasizing about chucking your 9-to-5 for freelance once baby arrives? Is your partner assuming that one of you is going to make a career out of staying home? Work decisions hit your collective pocketbook as well as your respective identities but talking about them won’t get any easier during nighttime feedings. Somebody is going to have to take care of the baby during business hours, and the sooner you decide who it will be, the happier everybody is going to be. Just be sure to leave room for a change of heart about work once the baby arrives too, because that baby will have some major pull.
4. Get ready to agree to disagree
Have you and your partner always been naturally simpatico? Well, there’s nothing like the panoply of parenting decisions to reveal the teeny, tiny fissures in the most perfect union. This is true even when you share the same general parenting philosophy. Because “firm but fair” can mean sharing a family bed (but only until age two), or it can mean crying-it-out at month four. Of course you’re not going to hammer out every area of potential parental discord, but try to cover a few of the headliners — breastfeeding, co-sleeping, sleep training, grandparents — and you’ll be well on your way to "happily ever after."
5. Dig those old peas out from under your mattress
If you’re like most couples, you and your partner probably have the same three fights over and over, just dressed up differently. Unless you and your beloved don’t fight at all, in which case, you have a bigger problem — you’re both aliens. For the rest of you, take time now to permanently turn off a couple of those relationship hot buttons. That way you’ll have plenty of room for the brand new ones parenting will inevitably switch on.
6. Ask and you shall receive
Remember back when you wanted your partner to just know what you wanted — for your birthday, after a fight, when your boss made you cry? It probably didn’t work then, and mind-reading gets especially difficult when one is severely sleep-deprived. So make an educated guess about the emotional support you’ll need after the baby arrives and then ask for it, outright. Thinking you can’t possibly know what you’ll need? If what makes you feel loved now is for your partner to listen to the minutiae of your day, you’ll probably still need that after the baby arrives. Your minutiae will just involve a lot more talk about poop.
7. Spend time together before you two become three
Taking up a new baby-friendly hobby together (think learning to play cribbage, not stalking polar bears in Antarctica) can help keep you connected when exhaustion will be driving you both to unplug. A babymoon’s not a bad idea either. The afterglow from a fabulous trip can help you overlook small missteps. (And in the months — okay, years — to come, overlooking will be helpful.) Those great memories will also give you something to look back on until you can start building new ones.
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