Do you feel like you have lost touch with your partner since baby arrived?
Do you find yourself feeling guilty for resenting him? Don’t stress mumma! These feelings pop up when huge events happen in a marriage, at least they did for us.
This is how we tackled communication breakdown.
Alan and I had been married for 1 week shy of 4 years when our son Jaxon was born. At that point we had been together for 8 years. We had lived together, traveled the world together and helped each other through developing our careers. You could say we knew each other pretty well!
It’s important to note that I am not claiming our relationship was watertight to begin with, we are both sickly stubborn people and we still challenge each other daily. But, even the strongest and most stable marriages can be turned on their heads once a baby arrives. Going from two to three overnight and suddenly your spouse drops down from top rank of numero uno.
When we brought Jax home we were both busy with the individual roles of mum and dad; doing this on little sleep tested our relationship.
There were things that we did not know were going to be an issue, like how Alan didn’t have the built-in instinct to wake up at baby’s cry and how this would make me feel really alone in the small hours of the night.
We quickly learned that it was vital to not only nourish our new baby but to take time to nurture the relationship that got us here in the first place. But what does that mean exactly?
Here is how we used communication to make it through.
Setting the Tone Before Baby Is Born
This meant sitting down and laying out the expectations for when baby arrived. How were we going to communicate the birth of baby to our parents? Who would be expected to do night feeds? Nappy changes? Shopping and cooking? When would we resume sex?
The way I made sure we did this was to send Alan articles and blog posts about early parenthood and becoming a dad. I would quiz him about what I had sent to make sure he had read them. I found following through opened up the discussion on how these different concepts would work in our relationship.
If your partner is not much of a reader, this can work with YouTube videos as well. Why not agree to watch one parenting video every week before your usual session of Netflix and chill?
Visualizing what life will be like in the first few weeks with baby can make for a smoother transition and ensure you are on the same page. Opening up the lines of communication, while you have the time will pave the way for a positive and united experience.
Staying Vocal and Keeping Communication Open
We had set up expectations for what we thought it would be like as parents. It soon became obvious that it was vital that we keep this communication going. There is no point laying the ground work and then assuming that hubby will magically learn how to read my mind over night.
I had to remind myself: If you are struggling, tell him. If you are tired? Tell him. If you are beaming with happiness? Tell him! And if you need the rubbish taken out, just ask!!!
Unfortunately, dads do not happen overnight. I had to remind myself constantly that I had 9 months of preparing for this baby, I had planned everything to a T and knew where all the onesies, baby bottles and nappies were stored. Alan didn’t have a growing, kicking belly or bouts of nausea to contend with, getting him ready for parenthood. I had to change your wardrobe, diet and exercise regimen long before the baby arrived so I was a few steps ahead to say the least!
It’s a very different story for your partner, in some senses this is actually an overnight change for them and so its going to take some guidance and direction from yourself for them to start to understand baby’s (and your) cues.
Encouraging Him When He Tried and Letting Him Learn
OK that is NOT how you swaddle a newborn and WHAT has he done with this nappy??? “Chill mamma!” became my new mantra when these moments happened.
Your partner may not pick up certain tasks right away and that’s fine. Try not to scold him when he tries. If he is trying to learn how to look after baby then you need to be patient while he finds his bearings.
Encourage his efforts and give him advice on how to do it better next time – without focusing on the fact that this time he really effed it up. Just ask him that next time he changes a nappy can you watch to make sure he is doing it correctly because you don’t want the baby to get nappy rash or have a poo-explosion and he will welcome your input.
Studies have actually shown that you can put yourself in a good mood from just smiling. And what better sight than seeing your partner interact with your baby?
They will gain positive reinforcement from your facial cues that they are doing a good job which will increase their confidence with baby. This is really important, remember that 9 month head start? Dad probably feels a little left out to start with and any encouragement he can get from you is super helpful. Tell him he is doing a good job, and mean it.
Learning To Let It Go and Be Opening to Learning Too
On the other-hand I figured, if what he is doing is not hurting baby or putting baby in an unsafe situation then maybe just let it go. He just had a different style of parenting than I did. In fact, he managed to even be able to teach me a thing or two, when I just let him.
Who knew that 4 week old Jax would only take a bottle from his dad? I had to sit there and watch because he refused with me and while I wanted to cry that I couldn’t do it, I looked at Alan and smiled that he was able to have such a special bond with our baby.
Believe it or not you are not always going to know what’s best for your child. Your partner has equal contribution and this might become quite helpful later in your child’s life. Your mum instinct might be to go to the school and fight your son’s battles, and dad? He wants to enroll your son in karate to get his confidence up instead – you both have great lessons to offer.
It’s important for your partner to feel like an equal to you in this parenting gig. Let them win a few battles and be open to learning different ways to do things. This will only strengthen the equality factor in your relationship.
Not Taking Each Other for Granted
This is about mutual respect. We started this after a huge argument about 2 years before Jaxon was born. We were both feeling underappreciated in our marriage and it was getting pretty bad. We were taking each other for granted and when that starts to happen in a marriage it can become an uphill battle to keep it alive.
Small things, big things, all things, say thank you! Thanks for working so hard. Thanks for taking out the rubbish. Thanks for sitting with me in the kitchen while I cooked dinner. Thank you for letting me sleep. Thank you for fielding that question about another baby from your dad.
A little goes a long way to showing your partner that what they do does get noticed and it feels nice to be on the receiving end too. When hubby gets home and thanks me for cleaning the house, doing the shopping or looking after Jax all day it makes me proud to have made the effort to do these things that keep our household running and our family going. And I’m more likely to do it again without a hint of complaint!
Humbling Ourselves When it Doesn’t Go To Plan
Apologizing has a cathartic effect on a relationship. Being able to put ego aside and admit when there has been an overreaction is really important.
It’s easy to get stubborn when you accidentally let your tiredness and anxiety get the better of you. Maybe you overreacted about the dishes being done or maybe you picked a fight with your partner because you were anxious about something.
Whatever it may be, figure out what is causing your outbursts and vocalize these to your partner. It will help them see into what you are actually feeling, making it easier for them to support you back.
‘Sorry I over-reacted, I know you are trying really hard.’
‘I may have taken that out on you when what I’m really feeling is …”
This by no means warrants crazy overreactions, but when they do happen and seem to be out of your control (hello hormones), it’s really important that you humble yourself and just apologize and move on.
Remember that there is something way bigger and more important than your ego at stake, your new baby. Your partner cannot read your mind and they may be left feeling really hurt if they were just trying to help and got met with the wrath of a sleep-deprived mamma.
Being a Team
Put yourself back on the same side. This is not a competition of who can swaddle baby better or who can get the most giggles. You are a team and the stronger your bond is, the stronger the bond with your baby will be.
In marriage it is really important to present a united front not only to the outside world but also to your children. Otherwise when they get older, they are going to climb into the holes in your relationship and tear it apart, pitting you against each other.
This not only is important with deciding what school the kids will go to or how you will discipline but also how you display affection and conduct yourselves in your roles as mum and dad. You are the example that they will mirror their own future romantic relationships on. This needs to be at the forefront of your mind when you talk to your partner in front of your children.
Lift your partner up in front of your child so they can see what a supportive, loving relationship looks like. Compliment your spouse on small achievements, thank your partner in front of you child. All of these small acts will contribute to a compassionate and grateful child. The way you talk to and around your children becomes their inner voice.
Through our marriage we have learned that it is not only what we are communicating to each other but how we are doing this. The way I dealt with things were not meeting my expectations was to remember what we had discussed before baby was born.
We quickly learned that things were going to pop up that we had not factored in. In order to tackle them effectively we would have to constantly regroup. We had to set new expectations as we went along. We learned to support and encourage one another and give each other space to learn and thrive in our new roles.
The only expectation that remained constant was to always say thank you, sorry and I love you every day. These phrases work as a catalyst and form the basis of our communication today.
Like any normal, healthy relationship we argue and test each other’s patience but we try to put emphases on admitting fault where it’s due and not taking each other for granted. In doing this we are able to work as a team and become closer in our marriage every day.
I hope that my experience of early motherhood will help others who also find themselves in disconnect with their partners. If you have any other stories on how communication changed with your partner after having children, I would love to hear from you below in the comments.