Does Life End After Baby?
“Your life is over after having a baby.”
“Say goodbye to your free time!”
“If you think your wife nags now, just wait till the baby comes....”
Whoa! That sounds awful.
And yet, I hear statements like these from new and expecting parents all the time: These are the things they’re hearing from others. They tell me all about their fears that their lives--their relationships, their true selves--are effectively over after the baby arrives, and they feel their fears are validated by the horror stories told by their closest friends. Not sure I’d want to have a baby if that was the kind of thing I was hearing. Would you?
And I would be lying if I said that doesn't happen, but I know it does. I’ve heard it from people I know, from clients, from eavesdropping at the park. (I know, I can’t help myself sometimes!)
The truth is, it’s actually quite easy for your life to become something that is only lived for the kids.
There’s so much to get done: diapers, feedings, burping, naptime, bathtime, tummy time, doctor visits. And are you reading to your baby everyday? Are you giving them enough skin-to-skin contact and cuddles? Are you spending all of your brain space worrying about vitamins and brain development and car safety and baby-proofing the house?
Then, they grow up a bit and suddenly there’s school, and homework, and extracurriculars... And are they growing out of those jeans already? Did they remember to brush their teeth this morning? Was today our day to bring the nut-free, sugar-free snacks for the entire classroom already? Didn’t we just do that last month? And have you talked to them yet about saying no to drugs or what to do if they get lost or how to say goodbye to a dying pet or how babies are made?
The next thing you know, you’re arguing with your partner about who left the car keys where or why they can’t just intuit that you need a break. And maybe this is the only conversation you and your partner have on this particular day.
Are you exhausted yet?
It’s no wonder that some parents feel like they’ve lost themselves or that the spark in their relationship has fizzled out.
We long for the days when we could meet up for happy hour with our girlfriends at the last minute or those lazy Sunday mornings with our partners back when we were just dating. We wish our partners understood how overwhelming our roles are as mothers or that they’d just get over it that we’re too tired for sex right now. We wish they knew how much it hurts when they tell us we aren’t as light and fun as we used to be before we became parents. And could they just for once surprise us by washing the dishes without our asking?
But what I really want you to know is that it so doesn’t have to be this way.
I have been teaching my “Mine, Yours, Ours: Relationship Survival Guide for Baby’s 1st Year” workshop with my husband for 6 years now. My whole concept for the class came from very similar struggles and challenges that we ourselves experienced when we became new parents. I remember just feeling like I wish I would have known that the plans for after the baby are far more important than the plans for giving birth. Why did no one tell me?
Think about it: If you have ever gotten a new dog or have ever taken in a sick or dying parent, then you know that this is a significant change that turns your lifestyle on its head. Suddenly you have new responsibilities that you didn’t have before. There is suddenly another person (hey, pets are people too!) in your house that needs your attention. Maybe the burden isn’t evenly divvied out between you and your partner. Maybe there are pieces that go along with this new addition that you didn’t expect, like the new puppy likes to run off when you take him outside or your elderly parent is suddenly refusing to eat. There are parts you just can’t plan for.
And yet, when we are getting ready for a new baby, how much thought do we give to how we’ll handle all the changes coming our way with our partners?
Part of the problem, of course, is that we often don’t know what we don’t know--especially if it is our first baby. It’s pretty difficult to prepare for something if we don’t know it’s part of the deal. And even if we are over-prepared, we’re still going to have those days where we’re just exhausted and at our wit’s end no matter how helpful our partners are.
Will you get frustrated and angry with your partner? Will you find yourself keeping score about who’s doing what and how much they’re doing? Will the things you used to take for granted seem like such an out-of-reach luxury?
Yes to all those things.
BUT (and yes it’s a big BUT), there are ways that you can make sure that your life with your partner does not end after baby comes home.
And, fair warning: You’ll have to work at it.
Does it take more effort to spend that time with your partner? Will you have to make a conscious effort to connect with each other, possibly even scheduling a time on the calendar? Will there be times that you’d rather be sleeping than having “a date”?
Yes to all of these!
The fact is it is so important to make sure that you get that time together. When we are committed to checking in with each other, it helps us in many ways that aren’t immediately apparent. It helps us stay connected to each other. It helps us to listen to our partner. It helps us to explain what we feel in a level-headed way. It helps us to re-prioritize when things aren’t working. It helps us recharge our emotional batteries. And it helps us to be better parents because we feel heard, understood, and supported.
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