How Your Relationships Might Change
Your relationships with your friends, family and partner are likely to change when you become a parent, as suddenly your world revolves around the new person you and your partner have created. Having a baby can put strain on certain relationships, Now your priority, and that which takes up 99% of your time, is looking after your baby. In the days of early parenthood, there is little time or energy for anything other than caring for your tiny and very needy little baby. As well as getting to know your baby, you'll be recovering from childbirth and most probably feeling extremely sleep deprived.
Gone are the days of impromptu girls' nights out and trips where you shopped 'til you dropped. Relationships with friends are often the first to suffer when you have a baby, as friends without children can feel that you don't have time for them anymore. Your mind will be preoccupied with all things baby for the first few weeks and even months, and you might feel that you and your friends don't have much in common anymore. You will also make new 'mummy' friends, which can leave old friends feeling sidelined.
While new parents have their hands full, rest assured that it won't always be like this. In a couple of months your baby will be much easier to look after, and won't be quite so dependent on you. You'll also feel more confident in your parenting abilities, and less exhausted as your baby starts sleeping better at night, and so you'll feel more up to socialising again. When you feel ready to enjoy the outside world again, you'll be glad of the opportunity to talk about things other than babies, nappies and teething and rekindle any friendships that have taken a back seat since your baby arrived. Your true friends will still be there when you feel ready to socialise again and will welcome you back into the fold with open arms!
Many parents find that their relationships with their parents, especially their mother, are enhanced when they have a baby. New parents realise how challenging parenting is, and have greater respect for their parents when they realise what they did for them. Many new parents also rely on their own parents as a source of useful baby information, from how to bathe a baby to how to soothe a baby to sleep! It can work the other way however, where parents and in-laws get too involved and couples feel that they are interfering. If this happens, it's important to talk to them about how you feel. Explain to them that while you appreciate their interest in your child, you will raise your baby your way and they have to accept that.
Before your baby arrived, it was just the two of you. Now there are three of you, and that's bound to change your relationship. You won't have as much time for each other when you have a baby to look after. Add exhaustion and the emotional stress of looking after a newborn into the mix and this can put a strain on your relationship. It's also quite common for fathers to feel left out if they don't get to spend as much time with the baby as their partner, or feel redundant if their partner does the majority of the baby care. Tiredness and recovering from childbirth can affect libido, which can also cause tension in relationships (see our Article A Sex Life After a Baby?).
How Important is Communication?
To ease your relationship through this transition smoothly, it's important to talk to each other about how each of you is feeling. If you're getting snappy with each other, sit down and work out the reasons why. Do your best to be understanding and supportive of each other, which may be hard to do if you're feeling stressed and tired, but remember that this is new to both of you. Neither of you are mind readers so don't expect your partner to know what's wrong without telling him, and encourage him to be honest about his feelings too. It may be that one of you feels they need more help, or maybe your partner feels sidelined. Sometimes couples can have different approaches to childrearing, which can cause tension (see our article on How to Share Responsibilities). Communication is key to a happy relationship so don't bottle things up.
Trying To Make Time For Each Other
New parents can get so occupied looking after their new baby they forget to actually spend any quality time together. Although you'll have your hands full as new parents, you need to make time for each other. You're not just mummy and daddy, you're also partners to each other, so spend some time reconnecting as a couple. Time spent together, without your baby, will enhance your bond and give you space just to enjoy each other's company.
Use the time when your baby has gone to bed relaxing together. Although you'll inevitably have things you need to do while your baby is sleeping, spend some of this time having quality time with your partner, even if it's 15 minutes to chat about your day or snuggling up together. Talk about things other than your baby. Schedule a regular date night in the diary. It can be once a week or once a month. You don't need to go out if you can't get a babysitter, just snuggling up on the sofa watching a DVD together will help you both relax and enjoy each other's company. When you feel ready to leave your baby for a couple of hours with a trusted babysitter, go out with your partner for the evening. You probably won't have much spare time, but a kiss and a cuddle go a long way, so give your partner lots of affection to show how much you care.
Your relationship may take a backseat for the first few months or so, but as you both get used to your new baby and get more sleep, you'll start to have more time for each other and your relationship will adjust to the changes being a parent makes to relationships. Having a baby together can bring couples closer together, as you have a shared love for your baby, and you see your partner in their role as parent to your child. Be understanding and supportive of each other, and if you're going through a rough patch, remind yourself that it can take a while to get used to your new roles, and spend time together to rediscover your bond.