By Maya Hammer
Having a baby is hard on relationships! Even happy and functional relationships become strained after the baby arrives, or after the arrival of a second or third child. There is less time for each of you as individuals and for you as a couple. Your relationship becomes transactional as you negotiate responsibilities with very little sleep. Here are some quick tips for maintaining a healthy relationship:
Communicate Openly: Be honest with your partner/spouse about how you are feeling so that you avoid build up of anger and resentment. Some moms or partners report the need for empathy and emotional support, while others require more practical support such as breaks from the kids and help with laundry, cooking, or cleaning. Be specific about the type of help that you need. Seasoned moms Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill, and Julia Stone shed light on some of the communication challenges new and experienced parents may face in their insightful and humourous book Babyproofing Your Marriage.
Take care of yourselves: Each of you requires time for self-care so that you can be loving, patient, and present when you spend time together. Encourage your partner to engage in fun, healthy, and meaningful activities and ask him or her to support you in your endeavors. Renee Peterson Trudeau’s book The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal suggests ways to reconnect with yourself, create balance, and attain optimal well-being in your new role and identity as a parent. While this book is promoted specifically to mothers, either parent can use this journal-based book to reflect on their experience as a parent.
Divide Labour: Make a list of chores and responsibilities and assign yourselves to those that you enjoy most. Let go of the chores you are not in charge of. Outsource when you can: hire a cleaner, a personal chef, postpartum doula, or child care provider. Prioritize important tasks and leave other items on your To Do list for a later date.
Plan dates: Plan weekly or biweekly dates. Hire a babysitter or ask a friend or family member to babysit so that you can get out of the house. Enjoy home dates too when you leave laundry or dishes for later so you can watch a movie, play scrabble, or enjoy a glass of wine.
Nurture intimacy: Physical intimacy facilitates emotional connection. Plan a date for sex, preferably daytime if possible as you may be less tired. If you are not interested in intercourse, be creative! There are many ways to be intimate. Great Sex for Moms by Valerie Davis Raskin provides sound advice for reclaiming your sex life.
Couples counselling is a safe place to voice concerns, explore issues, mediate discussions, learn effective communication strategies, and deepen your connection to each other.
Maya Hammer, M.A., Counselling Psychology