Young Couple with Baby Scan

Parenthood : transition from ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ to ‘mum and dad’

Birth is a momentous occasion. It’s an exciting event for couples who get married. But most of them don’t dwell on the consequences. For those who have children, the joy and happiness they feel over the birth of their first child are obvious and contagious. The parents are filled with the pride of parenthood. Their love and affection towards each other grow. They get ready to welcome their new family member.

Couples hear stories from others about how hard parenting and life is, and whilst these comments are taken that on board, couples also harbour a secret belief that we will probably do it better!

New parents, including new couples, face a number of challenges and threats. These challenges and threats happen in a messy package, and don’t always happen in neat sequential order.

A ‘Bundle of Joy’ or a ‘Bundle of Stress and Strain”

After the birth of a baby, the joy of parenthood can quickly settle down into a child-centred life. Life is centred around the child, not the relationship. When you wake up, when you eat, when you rest, and even when you go to the bathroom, it’s about the baby. Your husband is ignored and may even find himself the target of unkind remarks. It’s not surprising that after a while, this can lead to increased stress and unhappiness in the relationship, along with expressions of unhappiness.

Typically, couples are unsure as to how to express their feelings on these matters, and when they do venture into such conversations, anger and frustration can quickly erupt. Unresolved conflict may in time lead to couples eventually deciding to separate.

The most common issues include post natal depression, lack of sexual intimacy and affection, sleep deprivation, loss of energy and motivation, increased irritability and arguing, difficulty negotiating roles and responsibilities, loss of career and contact with work colleagues, an increased sense incompetence, as well as isolation and loneliness.

Any of these issues can be experienced by both men and women alike and may occur simultaneously. Many previously contented couples find themselves at the brink of despair.The good news is, not all relationships fall apart after the birth of a child, many couples manage the changes and challenges with less difficulty.

These couples eventually refocus on the relationship and make a habit of it as their child grows and demands in life change over the years.

Couples Refocus….

Most importantly… make your relationship a priority – all too often couples place their child at the centre of their lives and neglect the relationship. The following are a few helpful strategies to ensure a better relationship together:

  • Communicate: talk with each other about what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing; and give the other a heart-felt listening experience. Read between and beneath the lines of what is being said. Look for discontent and attend to it. You both need to feel good about your shared lives;

  • Encourage and support each other – let your partner know that they matter to you

  • Have fun – new parents easily forget to take time out for themselves and simply enjoy other activities;

  • Learning to manage time effectively – coming to terms with what can be accomplished and organised is vital to reducing stress in the family. Your child will cope with a little integration into your activities too. Achieving and maintaining family harmony is a big issue around these matters;

  • Create support networks – negotiate with extended family and friends to lend a hand with babysitting or simply to talk over concerns with;

  • Ensure that you build in time just for you – it’s easy to either forget your own needs or to place yourself at the bottom of the list.