How to Help Your Relationship Thrive After Having Kids
Becoming a parent is a life-altering decision. Couples go from being lovers and partners to parents, responsible for an entirely new human. It is said that babies can be like bombs, setting off even stable loving relationships. It is prevalent for the bonds between new parents to deteriorate after the birth of a child.
Here are some of the challenges in maintaining a relationship after kids — and some tips to help you deal with them.
The First Six Months
The first six months to a year after a baby is born can be a fog of sleepless nights, emotions running high, late night feedings, out-of-control hormones, and everyone adjusting to the new state of the world. Try to stay positive, and communicate with your partner about what you need. Know that although everyone is in an exhausted fog, this is a phase that in time will pass.
More Domestic Chores
With a new baby, there are always a million things to be done. So if it feels like you are doing half a million, that’s probably about right. Laundry, cleaning, dishes, domestic chores all multiply after having kids.
While it is crucial to help keep the family running smoothly, try to relax expectations for having a perfect house. Make sure that the brunt of the chores are not all falling on one partner. This can lead to feelings of resentment, frustration, and guilt.
Some Strategies for Handling the Chores:
Divide and conquer - Make lists so that it is clear to everyone what needs to be done.
Call the cleaner - Sometimes it can help to bring in some outside help such as a weekly or monthly cleaning service to survive those tough days.
Online grocery shopping - Many stores will pack up your order, and all you need to do it pick it up. You could place the order while baby is napping, and your partner could pick it up on their way home from work.
Make Your Relationship A Priority
Before children, you could plan a date on a whim or stay out late for drinks with your lover or with friends. Many new parents feel that after kids their lives are strictly scheduled, full of responsibility, and that there’s no room for spontaneity anymore.
Communicate with your partner about how you are feeling and any expectations you have. If one partner works outside the home, it is easy for the partner caring for the baby at home to feel isolated and resentful.
Perhaps you could “tag off,” and the partner who works outside the home could take care of baby while the stay-at-home parent has some alone time to recharge. Schedule a meet-up with a friend, or even just a solo walk around the block. A few minutes alone can do wonders for an exhausted mind.
Set a date for quality time - Make time every week to connect. If you are too exhausted for a weekly date night, try getting together for lunch. The important thing is the quality time spent together, not the time of day it happens.
Have a couch date - Sometimes, getting out of the house isn’t an option. When this happens, have a date on the couch. Make some popcorn, play a board game, or snuggle under a blanket for a movie on TV.
Children need a lot of love and attention, but by making your children the most important thing in your life, you are neglecting yourself and your partner.
Make Intimacy a Priority
When you are exhausted and have spent the day being pawed at by little hands, sometimes the last thing you want is to get intimate with your partner. Though baby’s need for attention and affection can leave you feeling emotionally depleted and physically drained, it is essential to make intimacy a priority. It is good for you and your partner and good for the kids.
Having a healthy and intimate relationship with your partner can help you feel nurtured and secure. When you feel taken care of, you can better take care of your kids.
Take advantage of nap time - Try a romantic walk together while your baby sleeps in the stroller. You have time to talk, get some exercise, and reconnect — and baby gets a nice nap in the fresh air.
Schedule sex, if you have to - When the baby goes down for an afternoon nap, and you and your partner are at home, take advantage of the break for mid-day sex.
Kids are expensive, and if your financial plan involves one partner staying at home to care for the kids, it can mean a significantly reduced income for your household. Financial stress is a major cause of conflict with couples. Again, communication is the key:
Know where you are - Make sure everyone is on the same page about where you are financially. You have more expenses with kids, and less income coming in, so make sure your spending makes sense with your plan. Make a budget and stick to it.
Agree on a timeline - Be clear about your expectations about when you or partner will return to work. One partner may assume the other will return to work right away, while the other partner may want to stay at home for an extended time.
Explore your daycare options - If you are expecting to return to work, what are your options for childcare, and how will you cover these additional expenses? Some parents find that with the cost of childcare, it makes more sense for a partner to stay home to care for the children.
When baby arrives, it can be wonderful to have help from extended family; however, sometimes this can shift into visits and grandparents that feel like they are taking over your house. Here are some tips for dealing with the new grandparents:
Set boundaries - You have a right to say no, gently and kindly. Be thankful for the gifts and the offers of help, but be clear about when that help would be most welcome.
Establish a timetable - Set up a regular time for family visits that works for you. They will feel like you are making time for them, and everyone will be able to look forward to the next scheduled visit.
Talk with your own parents - Some grandparents can feel threatened by in-laws. Having each partner deal with their parents can be a less stressful and more effective way to communicate your new situation.
Set A Bedtime Routine — And Stick To It
Setting a routine is good for your relationship and your kids. Your kids get to know what to expect, what is expected of them, and they get the sleep they need. You have fewer fights with your partner because you both have agreed on what the routine is, and you get some quality time to connect with your partner at the end of the day, even if you both just fall asleep on the couch.
Get Outside Help
We live in a highly individualized society that can be isolating for parents and make them feel like they are failures if they can’t go it all alone. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child.
If you have friends or family that have offered help — take it!
Trade childcare with other parents. If you can watch their kids one day and they can watch your kids another day, you both can get time off to get those other chores done — or to just enjoy some quiet “me” time.
Consider Couples Counselling. Many therapists offer pre-baby and couples counselling to help you make a plan and deal with the challenges of being parents.
At Living Well by Design, we provide counselling to help couples manage the relationship challenges that come with parenting. Wendy Hart is dedicated to assisting clients in creating and maintaining rewarding relationships. Give her a call at (780) 246-8100 to book your appointment.
Having children can bring a great deal of joy, happiness, as well as stress, to a relationship. Learn some of the challenges that come with having kids, and tips to help your relationship thrive.