Have The Talks. Have Them Often.

  1. Pregnant
  2. Maternity Leave Set
  3. Baby Showers
  4. Classes
  5. Nursery Done
  6. Chose a Name
  7. Bag Packed
  8. Car Seat Safely in Place
  9. Mentally Prepared for Childbirth

You’ve checked them all, and you’re done preparing – baby just needs to get here! You and your partner are overwhelmed with anticipation as you patiently (or impatiently) wait to meet this incredible human you made together. You’ve spent all this time and care preparing the baby’s new environment and arrival, but often times what is perhaps the most important preparation gets overlooked – the relationship between you and your partner.  Embarking on the parenthood journey together will without a doubt give you a deeper love for your partner, and it is nothing short of remarkable to watch your partner transform into a mother or father.  But no matter how long you’ve been together or just how rock solid your relationship is before baby, parenthood changes so many dynamics between you that it becomes vital to be on the same page. The first days, weeks, and months of parenthood are a jam-packed roller-coaster ride of emotions, firsts, and adjustments.  The last thing you want is you and your partner having different ideas and expectations of what it all should look like.

So have the talks.  Have them early.  Have them over and over again.  Re-evaluate and have them one more time. And when you think its too late to have them, the time has passed and you’re already set in your ways – do yourself a favor and have them anyway.  

My husband and I have been married for two and a half years and have been together for twelve.  And eight months ago we were blessed with a beautiful daughter.  I am not a marriage counselor, I haven’t read any books on marriage and parenting, and I will never claim to be an expert on the topic.  How could I be? I’ve only got two years under my belt! I have, however, lived through the transition of “us two” becoming “us three” and through those experiences have some things you should consider talking about when making that transition yourself.

  • Money and Budget. If you don’t already have a budget for your home, now is the time. Get your finances in order and begin to anticipate what your new budget might look like.  Look into how much your average can of formula costs, and how long it typically lasts. If you plan to nurse, good news – its free!  How much does a normal box of diapers cost and how many boxes a month do you think you’ll need? How much do you think you’ll aim to spend each month on clothes and gear for baby? Are you going to start a college fund? How much do you think you’ll start out contributing each month? You obviously won’t be able to come up with an exact number, and even if you did, it will most definitely change several times.  But its good to be familiar with how much things cost so if you need to compensate the cost from somewhere else in your budget you can plan accordingly and not be upset with one another’s spending habits down the road.
  • Recovery and First Visitors.  Your beautiful baby is finally here and like you were, there are many friends and family that will be eager to meet your new bundle as well.  Talk about who you think will be wanting to visit, and when you’ll want them to come.  The mistake I made was not setting any boundaries and trying to accommodate every one else but myself.  For the first four months of my daughter’s life we had visitors every. single. weekend.  How incredibly blessed are we to have so many people want to meet her and be with us, but at the same time, you’re learning how to be new parents, you’re learning how to still make sure food gets made and minor cleaning happens, and your baby is only that little once.  You need time to be a family and learn how to do it all without always having to worry about accommodating others.  To avoid hurt feelings and awkward conversations after the fact, come up with a tentative visitor plan beforehand so everyone is on the same page.  In that tentative plan, make sure there is plenty of time for just you and your new little family.
  • Help at Home? If you plan to have help come stay with you for the first few days or weeks, maybe your mom, your partner’s mom, a friend, your grandma, or a sibling – whoever it is, talk about what you want their help to look like. Be specific.  The last thing you want is to be learning what your baby needs and have someone else keep unintentionally intruding on that time.  Those first days and weeks set the foundation for the relationship between you and your child, so make it sure it goes just how you want.  Do you want them to strictly help with cooking and cleaning? Do you want them to take a night feeding (sorry, nursing moms – not an option for you)? Do you only want their help only when you ask? Or do you want them to jump in wherever they see appropriate? Do you want their advice all the time? Or do you want freedom to learn on your own? Imagine what you’ll want from your help (after thanking your lucky stars you have someone willing to help), and talk to them beforehand about how you’d like it go.
  • Parenting Style.  Maybe you only have some vague ideas.  Maybe you only know what you don’t want to do.  Maybe you’re passionate about very specific attitudes and values of parenting.  Wherever you and your partner are at – talk about it openly and honestly.  Are you going to co-sleep? Are you going to allow some crying it out, or none at all? Do you feel passionately about breast-feeding or formula? Picture those types of decisions you’ll need to be making, and where you two can meet in the middle on them.  Your marriage will thank you for it.
  • For My Moms Planning to Breastfeed.  If you’re a mom that plans to at least try breast feeding, make sure your partner knows the reasons you want to do it and the benefits it provides for your baby.  Some dads feel “left-out” at first as the mother gets all the feeding bonding time, and what were once his favorite items to grab now belong temporarily to the baby.  For breast feeding to be successful and enjoyable you need to be supported, and making sure your partner knows the benefits will help your partner get through the adjustment and give you that support you need.
  • Future Work Plans.  What do you think it will look like once baby arrives? A year after baby? Five years after baby? Maybe you dream of being able to be a stay at home mom.  Maybe you want to work but your partner wants you to stay home.  Maybe financially someone will need to pick up the slack somewhere.  What is the ideal situation for both of you, and how can you both work to get there?
  • Sex.  Yes, sex.  Be on the same page.  How long after baby will it need to wait? How will you two deal if your hormones or recovery make you less than interested for a period of time? When are some times you can make time for each other in that way? Don’t let a new baby eliminate the intimacy between you and your partner.  Sex wasn’t always about pro-creating before baby, and it shouldn’t be after.  If all else fails, put it on the calendar.  You might scoff right now and think, “we will NEVER be that couple that has to put it on the calendar!”.  Ok.  🙂 Work schedules, sleep schedules, baby-free times, and times when you’re both out of a zombie-like state long enough to feel frisky are hard to line up perfectly.  Be aware when those times arise, and don’t think you’re ever too good to put it on the calendar.  However it may be – make it happen!
  • Division of Labor.  Ugh.  This one is tough.  And if you don’t talk about anything else, for the sake of your mental and emotional health, this might be the one to hit on.  You need to be very clear about how you two are going to split the workload of your home in a way that makes you both feel like you’re both carrying your weight. Right after baby its really easy to feel discontented or overwhelmed with your partner’s share of the workload. Its hard.  Both of your roles have changed overnight and what was once equilibrium for you is no more.  Who will do most of the cooking? Cleaning? Laundry? Bills? Who will be in charge of all the night wake-ups? Diaper changes? 5 a.m. wake up calls? The lines of communication have to stay open or misunderstandings and hurt feelings can arise quickly and easily.  If you’re a stay at home mom, these talks are especially important because your “work” often goes unmeasured.  If you have to have a c-section the division of labor will temporarily be weighted heavily on your partner during your recovery, so make sure they’re aware of this beforehand to ensure a smooth transition.

These next three are more like “Rules for Success” – the things that will keep your relationship afloat and happy when your partner seems to have forgotten those division of labor talks you just had. 🙂

  1. DON’T KEEP SCORE. It is not your job nor is it your partner’s job to keep score of who does more once baby arrives. There will be times you’re convinced that your 11:00 p.m., 2:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m., and 5:00 a.m. wake-ups all definitely outweigh whatever your partner did that day.  (I mean you even cleaned the kitchen and got a good dinner in the crockpot when you got up after that night you just had!).  And there will be days where your partner works insanely long hours in a job that is less than fulfilling just to help make ends meet.  And they will surely feel like that outweighs whatever you had to do that day at home with the baby.  Stop.  Stop now.  Both of you.  Its a dangerous and unnecessary game that has no place within your marriage and parenting endeavors.  You will never know who wins – you’re comparing apples to oranges.  Nor should you ever want to know who wins.  If you’re both doing your best and you’re both doing what needs to be done (within reason of your division of labor you agreed to, of course), then that’s all that matters.  It’s not a game with a winner, its a “let’s both work hard to give our family the best home and future we can possibly give it”.
  2. A LITTLE APPRECIATION GOES A HELL OF A LONG WAY.  A note, a text message, an extra long hug with a heartfelt “thank you”, a note on the bathroom mirror written in lipstick, a “you wouldn’t believe how much she did last night!” in front of friends, an unexpected card on the kitchen table, or maybe just a smile and nod that says, “what would we do without you?”.  It doesn’t matter how big or small the gesture, the point is you make the gesture of appreciation and you do it often.  Adjusting to being a parent, a spouse, an employee, and maintaining all of your other pre-baby roles is challenging.  No two ways about it.  And when your partner shows they not only recognize but genuinely appreciate all that you do goes a hell of a long way.  Vocalize it and show it.  Often.  Sometimes that’s all your partner needs to re-fuel their tank when they’re running too close to empty.
  3. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WAS PRIORITY ONE BEFORE BABY, AND IT SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE AFTER.  Once your kids leave the nest and start lives of their own it is your partner who stays with you.  Yes it seems like forever down the road, and yes it seems like your new bundle is the only relationship that matters at the moment, but your partner and marriage need you too.  Don’t let their entire childhood go by before you realize you forgot about your marriage along the way.  Take the time for each other.  Focused, quality time on each other to talk about the things and do the things you used to do before baby.  It might be a 10 minute cup of coffee at the kitchen table while baby naps, but seize those moments when you can and make them count.  Today when my daughter was down for her morning nap I really should’ve been slapping on a little makeup and taming my hair so when she got up we could go run our errands.  Instead, I spent the whole nap snuggling with my husband. Simple lounging and laughing together. It was wonderful. Those moments are hard to find, and my hair and makeup could wait.  We are a priority, and we are committed to keeping it that way.

Be kind.  Be respectful.  Be honest.  Be open.  Be patient. Be a friend. Show appreciation and gratitude.  Be a great parent, but never forget to be a great partner.  

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