Baby-Proofing Your Relationship: The Other Postpartum Plan
They say everything changes after you have a baby. There are lots of horror stories out there, interspersed with proclamations of, “We’re closer than ever!” These two realities definitely exist, with a lot in between them. Most of us seem to hope for an experience closer to the latter, one of renewed appreciation, closeness and knowing. Have you had a chance to think about your relationship postpartum amidst the changes of pregnancy and your birth preparation?
You won’t know until you are there, but the reality of day to day life really does shift after an addition to the family. It most likely will come with challenges. What can you do to prepare? By this I mean, what can you do for one another right now to provide yourselves with the tools and information to support one another in vulnerable moments and go through your big transition with grace? Compassionate listening and deliberate actions are what will build upon the love you have already created and sustained together.
Communication and consideration of possible conflict is key. Can you think of anything that could be a sore spot for you and your partner after the baby is here? Are there unresolved issues at this moment that could potentially be further inflated once you add the responsibility and time commitment of a child into the mix? Although these may be hard to think about, it is better to have an idea of how you will proceed before they manifest and you are in the thick of adjustment. Seriously contemplate these questions, preferably separately to ensure you both can be completely honest. Then approach one another with your findings, doing your best to listen quietly without interruption, and giving yourself the time to respond rather than react.
A lot of conflict between parents can stem from disagreement over domestic work. It is unlikely that it will be completely 50/50 all the time in any given area, however this is an important subject to consider. How do each of you see household chores being done between the two of you? Be honest in your desires, and be willing to listen to one another without becoming defensive. These tasks have a tendency to be viewed as unimportant or even lowly, often making it a challenge for a partner who is responsible for most. Domestic work is not lowly occupation. If your partner is the one who will be mostly touting these responsibilities, make sure they know you appreciate it and value how much they do these necessary tasks for your family. If you find that between the two of you it may be a struggle at times to complete these tasks, there are a couple things you can do: lessen your standards for tidiness in the home, hire a cleaning service, or a combination of both.
Here are other important topics that should be considered and discussed in regard to each of your expectations: budgets, the possibility of both or one of you working, arrangements for time for just the two of you, and time with friends. All of these pertain to the health of your individual identities, and the new “us” you will create, compromise for, and grow from.
Another important issue is that of the in-laws. What will be the boundaries you expect from those relationships? If there is conflict from one side, will the partner from that family of origin confront it? How will you support one another in this situation? It’s important that you each can trust the other to have your back, even when it comes to extended family.
And lastly, there’s the topic of your parenting together. How much time will each of you spend caring for this child? What are your expectations of one another? Do you foresee one of you being the nurturing figure, and the other disciplinarian, or do you want to share these roles? Consider what you have seen from your family of origin and from others that were around you when you grew up. What would you like to adopt and what would you like to discard? Discovering your answer to this question can be especially powerful, liberating, and deliberate.
When you approach these questions together, absolutely make sure you give yourselves separate space and time to consider them, and meet with your answers and a willingness to explore your options. Determine the ways you can solve conflict in a way that boosts the health of your relationship. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this!