Why You Need to Prioritize Your Partner Even After Baby
It’s almost instinctive for parents--mothers especially--to put their children first.
It’s so ingrained in us that it sounds shocking to say that maybe they shouldn’t always be the first priority. Without a solid explanation for what we mean by it, it sounds selfish, and negligent….it sounds like bad parenting.
But when you dig deeper, you begin to see how taking care of yourself first--like I talked about in last week’s post--makes sense. That’s a cause we can rally behind. All moms need to be taken care of because baby needs mom to be OK.
But, now I want to suggest that after taking care of ourselves, baby still doesn’t come next. Not yet. Our relationship should be our next priority.
(I can feel your eyebrows raising as I type this, but don’t react yet.)
Why should our relationship come next?
Because this is your parenting foundation. You two are a team. You need each other. Not only logistically, but also emotionally. It’s in your favor to ensure that your partner feels connected and supported, just like you need to be too.
After all, you two got together for a reason… one can only assume it’s because you enjoy each other. All that happened well before the baby came along. And if you take care of that relationship, it will be there for you long after the kids are grown and out of the house.
All next month, I’ll be focusing on several different ways to keep your relationship rocking all through parenthood--we’ll talk about everything from having the really tough conversations to keeping things interesting in the bedroom.
But for now, I want to focus on the basics.
I’ve got three simple suggestions for you to make sure both your and your partner’s needs are met every day. If you only do these three things while raising little ones at home, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Now, let’s dig in. (Scroll down for the video and transcript.)
WATCH THE VIDEO:
Today I want to talk about why it's important to put your relationship first.
Hi, I'm Catherine O'Brien at Happy With Baby and I know with new parents, new moms, this can be a really unpopular concept. I realize that. But I want you to hear me out first, and then I want you to tell me in the comments below if you agree with me or not.
I know there's many moms out there right now that are probably thinking, "Great. I'm already taking care of baby and feeding and rocking and burping and changing the diapers. And I'm taking care of the house and making sure some kind of dinner gets put on the table. And I'm lucky if I even get to run a comb through my hair and now you want to tell me to take care of my partner too? Aren't they supposed to be a grown-up?"
First off, there is a difference between taking care of your partner and taking care of your relationship. And I'm not asking you to take care of your partner because yes, they are an adult and no, you are not their caretaker.
Taking care of your relationship is very different. Taking care of your relationship is making sure that each person feels heard, understood and supported.
This is something we all need. You're never too grown-up or too independent for it.
It doesn't matter what kind of relationship you're in with your partner. You could even be divorced or separated parents. We all have needs as parents and these needs just might look a little bit different depending on our circumstances.
Here's why this is true: No one can do this parenting thing totally alone.
We all rely on an entire community of helpers. Our families, our friends, our neighbors, our doulas, our teachers, our doctors, our babysitters, our nannies, our daycare, and you can even argue that some of us can't do it without our yoga teachers or our personal trainers or our therapists. Least of all, we can't do it with our partners and co-parents (if you're separated).
You both need each other, but it isn't just about having help it's also about feeling connected. That matters too.
The other thing is that baby actually needs you both to feel like you're all on the same team too. I'll post some links below that share how much of an impact our relationship can have on our children's development and well-being and the implications could be very real. Even small children can pick up on feelings of resentment or disgust between partners. And not only that, it's about observing our communication with each other that they actually learn how to communicate with others as well. And those lessons start from the very beginning.
Something I hear often from new dads is they feel like suddenly it's all about the baby and they feel unimportant and unnoticed. And moms are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed as it is, and so how are we both able to meet in the middle to make sure that everyone's needs are met?
#1. Have weekly check-ins with your partner.
Now this is really just a quick meeting. It could be ten minutes before work over coffee or it could be during the baby's naptime on the weekend.
This is where you're touching base about all the upcoming events. Like maybe you have a massive project at work and that could potentially keep you at the office later than usual and maybe you suspect the baby is teething so you know you're gonna need to prioritize your own naps over doing the dishes or the laundry for the week. Or maybe you need to prep the house because your mother is coming into town for the weekend.
Whatever it is, lay it all out and ask for the help that you need to get through it.
And this might even be help that you need to outsource as well. And I think a key part of this is planning when each of you will need a break. Even if it's just a short one, carve out the space for it and hold that appointment with yourself as a sacred promise. Right? This goes back to the other question of making sure that you're taking care of yourself. We have to help our partners do that, so make sure you're coming through for your partner, so that they can get the break that they need too.
Now every time I hear a couple that tells me they are taking this advice and actually implementing it into their weekly routine, they always come back to me and tell me what a huge difference it's made so just try to experiment with it and see if it works for you.
#2. Another important way to make sure each person's needs are getting met is to honor that each person has their own role in this.
So something I hear from moms that go back to work after maternity leave is that they're still carrying the brunt work of household chores and parenting duties that they had when they weren't working. And oftentimes they've taken on more work because they knew their partner was going back to work sooner, and then they're still doing those things as well as trying to transition back into the workforce after having a baby. But this is definitely a fast track to burnout and resentment and overwhelm.
So I think it's so important to keep in mind that while a parenting relationship is never ever perfectly 50/50, our needs are constantly shifting and changing. And it's important to talk about those changes, especially when you foresee it.
Like if you can see, I know I'm going back to work in X amount of weeks, what are we going to do to shift that and have a plan for that? We have to keep in mind that while a parenting relationship is never ever going to be a 50/50 split, needs are gonna constantly shift and change. We need to keep be ready to shift along with it.
We have to say to our partners, "Hey, this feels like too much," and ask them to step in and help. We have to let them know what we're feeling because they can't read our minds. And like I said in my video last week, we have to let them do those the things their own way too. Because it's so much better to have two parents that are both involved and supported, than one that feels disconnected and one that feels overwhelmed, and both of them resenting each other.
Both of these tips--the check-ins and honoring each other's roles--these boil down to my third and ultimate tip for today:
#3. Ask for what you need.
I'm gonna say it again, ask for what you need.
And sometimes I'll hear from parents that get tired of having to say it. After all, you've been together for this long now. Why can't they just know what I need without me having to say it?
I'll admit, I've definitely felt this way before more than once for certain, but the thing is, that line of thinking just isn't helpful because the reality is they are not you. They don't live inside your head. They're not going to notice everything the way you notice things every time you notice them, and they definitely cannot anticipate every little thing without being told. (Or if they can, you've probably just found the holy grail of relationships!)
So you really have two choices here: You can decide that they should just know and see what goes on for you, or you could just ask.
And maybe you don't get what you want every single time, but I'd put my money on that you're getting what you need much more often.
So give these tips a try. And if you get stuck, it's okay because the tips are simple but implementing them can definitely be challenging. And it's not always pretty and it takes practice like anything new that you're doing, so let me know if you need any help.
It really is worth investing the time and the energy, so doing the work little by little now and consistently throughout the years is gonna be so much better than not doing the work and then trying to save your marriage later when it just might be too late.
And until next time, you guys, take care.
If you're in the Sacramento area and expecting a new baby soon or even if you just had one, we'd love it if you came and joined us for our upcoming workshop, Mine, Yours, Ours: Relationship Survival Guide to Baby's First Year.
In this workshop, we dig deeper into issues like this one, but also so much more, like improving your communication skills with your partner, addressing your fears around parenthood and how it's going to change your life, managing visitors, and also managing household tasks. We even discuss sex and intimacy, and what it's really like after baby.
I co-host this with my husband, so you'll definitely get perspectives from both sides of parenthood, and it's really a lot of fun. If you're not in the Sacramento area and this sounds like something you'd be interested in, please contact us at HappyWithBaby.com.
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