Stress less: relationship hacks for new parents
Nothing changes a relationship like a new baby. The strain of having new demands on your time and attention, and the severe lack of sleep can make your relationship feel like a battleground. Just remember that bonds formed in battle are strong, and, while having a baby can indeed change everything, amazing things can happen when you learn how to change together.
Small acts make a big difference
Relationship and parenting expert John Cowan from The Parenting Place suggests couples make an effort to engage in small gestures. “Smile, even if you’re tired. Your body may not be ready for anything too physical yet but you can at least squeeze a hand or give a hug.” Money may be tight but gestures and compliments are free. It takes time to learn how to be mum or dad, so give yourselves time to adjust.
…but don’t sweat the small stuff
Set a precedent even before baby is born, and tell each other you won’t worry about the little things. You may be irritated by the mountain of dishes and the piles of unfolded laundry, the lawn may have turned into a lush field and the baby’s cot may still be flat-packed, but this period is about being the best mum or dad you can be so your baby and your relationship are your top priorities right now. Those jobs will eventually get done, but your baby won’t be a baby forever!
Make life admin easy
There are some basic admin tasks you can do to make life easier for yourselves. Some people tend to set up APs for bills to be paid, sort out a life insurance policy (check out Cigna for a quick quote) and any other formal arrangements your new family will need, organise a budget for your new one-income status, plan to do your grocery shopping online for a few months and, better still, to have it delivered. If you’re able to, stock up your freezer with meals and staples such as bread or frozen vegetables that will help make meal prep easier. Sit down with your partner and make a list of things you can both viably do, and split it as fairly as possible.
Give each other a break
For a new parent, time spent alone with no demands or responsibilities, can really help recharge the batteries. Having to ask for ‘time off’ can make you feel like you’re ‘in debt’ or even like you’re not doing a good job because you have to ask for ‘time off’. Make it easier for your partner by offering to take over for an hour or two, or for a morning or an afternoon, with no expectations or conditions on how they spend their time.
Make time for being alone together
The busyness and change of focus of having a new baby can take its toll on your connection with your partner. If you can’t find a babysitter or would prefer not to go out, schedule a meal or even a cuppa with your partner when baby is asleep. You may want to be asleep yourself, but even a 15-20 minute focused chat will help you reconnect. Make it a time of compliments and positive comments, and if you can manage it, laughter. If all you can manage is watching an episode of a TV series, that’s fine, cuddle or hold hands while you do it. It all helps.
‘Parent’ each other
We often have way more compassion, patience and forgiveness for our children than we do for our partners. When your baby cries for no apparent reason, you may do everything in your power to soothe them, but when our partners snap at us in the mildest way we become indignant. If you can take the compassionate approach you have for your children and offer that to your partner, it will go a long way.