So your baby has been home for a while and the two of you have ‘sort of’ developed a routine to cope and manage the new dynamic, but you still feel as if you're ‘off track’. You may be experiencing one or more of the following:
You may never have felt as if you really ‘bonded’ with your baby at birth. You’ve been struggling with that and managed to get the child safely into becoming a toddler, yet still the experience of being a parent isn’t working for you and you feel guilty, sad and confused. Similarly, you may have a child who is sick, challenged with a disability or exhibits wild behaviour and acts like Dennis The Menace. Maybe your parenting skills worked for a newborn but now you find yourself in foreign – and hostile – territory with your toddler/young child, and suddenly you don’t feel that you are a good parent at all. Perhaps your partner parents your toddler differently from the way you do and that is causing friction between you. Whatever the case, you need strategies that help the two of you find agreement as to how you will parent together to survive this stage and allow your relationship to thrive. Let’s talk before it breaks.
Looking after your baby is a 24/7 job and there have been many days where you never left the house, had a shower or managed to get out of your pyjamas. You’ve become a feeding, changing, washing, soothing machine and it feels as if you have no life. Of course, there are many wonderful moments of parenting, and you’re not having to deal with ‘job/work/business’-related issues, but it frustrates you no end that your partner comes home from work and implies that you have been doing ‘nothing’ all day. It’s easy for an employed partner to compare their own day with their perception of yours and resent it, dismiss it or criticise it. This isn’t good for you, your confidence or the relationship. Let’s talk before it breaks.
Both parents have a job to do – care for the baby and/or go to work to provide for the family. Some couples balance this so they do an equal share of both. Whatever your solution, it is common for both new parents to put their heads down, do their respective jobs and focus on their roles to the detriment of the relationship. It feels as if the job or the baby takes priority in terms of your time, focus and attention and, as a result, the relationship comes last. What’s more, each of you can start to believe you are the one doing all the work – and feelings of resentment can start to brew. If this goes on for three, six, nine or twelve months, it could continue for years and then ... there may be very little relationship left. Let’s talk before it breaks.
Congratulations, you survived the first year or two of getting no sleep and all the focus being on the baby. You are ready for your lives to smooth out a bit now and for your child to come into sync with the adult world ... but your child doesn’t conform to that expectation. Sleep patterns are still out of whack. Your child is still demanding every second of attention and you’re tired of it. You’re still giving nonstop to everyone else and receiving little in return. Feelings of anger, resentment and guilt are simmering under the surface and you’re not dealing with them. Communication between you and your partner is worsening and the relationship is sailing into troubled waters. This needs to be dealt with fast. Let’s talk before it breaks.
Most couples require at least one partner to work in order to keep the family financially stable. Often, both need to keep working to achieve this. Having a baby costs money and means that finances need to be diverted from a couple’s usual expenses towards their newest little addition. New families face many financial challenges, such as a drop in income and an increase in household demands, and accepting these changes to your lifestyle can be the biggest challenge of all. It’s natural to still yearn to do and buy the sort of things you could before you had the baby. Because you can no longer afford it, the conflicting pressure of desires vs. demands can damage your confidence, self-image and relationship. Let’s talk before it breaks.
In the beginning, you felt okay that your body was out of whack, you’d put on weight and your hair was falling out due to breastfeeding. It would all go back to normal soon enough, right? However, those after-birth body changes haven’t disappeared as you’d hoped. You still look pregnant and now it feels as if your body is determined to stay this way forever. Both your self-confidence and self-esteem have dropped and, as a result, your self-care has slipped to the point where it doesn’t bother you if you’re wearing trackies and ugg boots to do the shopping! This is not how you used to dress and present yourself, this is not how you used to feel about yourself – and this could affect your relationship. Let’s talk before it breaks.