Once again, I’m sitting here all reflective over our first year as parents. I’ve been thinking a lot about how becoming new parents took us from the single roles as a husband or a wife, to the dual role of being a spouse and a parent. For most couples, it can be a big adjustment. Responsibilities change. Priorities change. The dynamics of your teamwork changes. The harmonious sync you were once in is suddenly disrupted (in a good way) by this beautiful creature you created together. Looking back at our first year as parents, I feel full of joy, accomplishment, and a deeper love than I could have possibly imagined. And no, it wasn’t always easy getting there. 🙂
While I think there are many keys to making this transition work, I wanted to figure out what I thought was the single most important. The one thing that if asked, I would give as advice to new or soon-to-be parents.
My first thought was communication. Seems like a no-brainer. Without a doubt becoming parents requires you to be vocal, honest, and open about what your new needs are and how they can be met. This is uncharted territory, and the changes it brings will demand those lines of communication be open. Things you were once a master at, you may need help with now. Roles that you might have been comfortable with could easily be turned upside down. The more I thought about it though, I kind of felt like this one should (hopefully!) already be established. You’ve gone through turbulent times of change already. You’ve had your share of arguments. While none of them have ever revolved around children, if you’ve got a solid foundation of communication, my hope is you’ll be able to continue that on in your new life as a family.
My next thought was honesty. This one only hung around for a second. I personally tie this one in closely with open communication above. Parenthood changes you, and being honest about those changes and new needs are vital. Not only being honest with your spouse, but being honest with yourself as well. When you’ve always “had it all together”, sometimes unraveling a little bit with your new demands can be tough. Be honest about it.
Next up: being on the same page about your parenting style. How do you want to raise your children? What values, principles, and structure do you feel is important in raising your children? These decisions can be as big as bringing up children with or without religion to as small as what you want to feed them for dinner. What past experiences have shaped your parenting style? Are you on the same page or can you at least find a middle ground you’ll both be happy with? Super important, right? Definitely a top contender. Once again, however, I’m hoping (fingers crossed) this has been talked about in depth before children are even in the picture.
My winner: agreeing to work hard every single day for the betterment of your new family, and not comparing “who works harder”. Now before I dive in to my reasoning and explanation, I feel the need to preface this with the fact that I am a stay at home mom, and my experiences are deeply rooted within this dynamic of a husband that works outside the home for his family and a wife that stays home to raise their children and maintain the home. I can’t speak from experience about the dynamics of two working parents, but after talking with my Momtourage, it became clear that this is a common theme no matter the situation. Every parenting team has its own unique challenges to face.
My husband and I have been together since I was 16 years old. For our entire relationship, our “jobs” have been on an even keel. Our jobs evolved from high school students, to working college students, to starting careers in the workforce. We both had places to be all day, things to do, and paychecks to bring home. After our days at work, we would come home and each pick up our share of (what now seems so small) the housework. We were a team, working in harmony.
Then came beautiful little Tayler. We were fortunate enough to have the option of me staying home to raise her, and it was a decision we both wanted for the future of our family. For us, it made sense. For the first time, our “jobs” were very, very different. He was working an incredibly demanding job that I couldn’t understand, and I was working an incredibly demanding job that he couldn’t understand.
The essence of my “don’t compare who works harder” advice is rooted in that last statement. As much as you think you might, you can’t possibly understand the demands, stresses, benefits, emotion, and small nuances of each others’ jobs. So before you even start in your new roles, make a very clear and verbal agreement that you will always assume to be true for each other. Make a promise that you will both work your hardest, every single day, for the betterment of your family and marriage. And mean it.
He gets weekends off, my job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
She doesn’t even have to get dressed in the morning, and some days they cuddle on the couch watching a movie together!
He gets to eat his lunch in peace. Most days I’m scarfing down food with a whining child pulling on my leg!
She doesn’t have a boss to answer to, or the pressure of being the sole provider of our family!
He doesn’t know what its like to hope every decision you make during the day is the right one for our child!
She gets nap time to do whatever she wants. A few hours of break during the day must be nice as I work my butt off!
He doesn’t see how much I haul ass during naps! My days are on repeat of laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and picking up!
She gets to spend quality time all day with our child during the week. I only get a few hours!
He sleeps peacefully through the night. You have no idea how exhausting it is to get up every 2-3 hours! And he says HE is tired?!
Does she not know I just got home and just need a few minutes to wind down?
Does he not see me cleaning right now while he continues to sit comfortably on the couch?
Does she not know how hard it is to deal with difficult personalities all day?
Does he not know how lonely it can be to have very limited adult interaction every day?
This list could go on and on, I’m sure. And I would bet you can relate to several of those. But stop. Stop now. Its a incredibly easy trap to fall into, and one that only breeds feelings of resentment, misunderstanding, and guaranteed rocky times ahead. It’s not a game with a winner. You don’t get a gold star. Even if it was a game, is it really one you would want to be playing?
I think Matt and I are at our best when we recognize that we both work extremely hard, in very different ways. I know he is doing his absolute best to provide for our family. He knows I am doing my best to raise our daughter and keep our home running smoothly. Instead of comparing, try and make it a habit to fill those moments with praise (even if at times it takes everything inside you!). It is nothing short of amazing what a little recognition and gratitude for your efforts can do in your marriage. Think about what kind of work environment you work better in. Is in one that recognizes and acknowledges your efforts? Or one that continually tells you all that you’re doing wrong? It could be in the form of a note left on the bathroom mirror that says, “Your work ethic amazes me – I appreciate your long hours at work for us”. To a simple statement of, “I don’t know how you do what you do – thank you for getting up with our daughter all night. I’ll try and give you a break this weekend!”. Go out of your way to acknowledge those big and small things each other do. Not only does that habit make one another feel appreciated, but it gets you in the habit of continually recognizing those little ways your spouse contributes.
I would be lying if I said finding that new balance is easy. And I’d really be lying if I said it happens overnight. It will take time, and there will be some trial and error of what works for you both. It is a continual, never-ending work in progress.
But as you work through these new dual roles you’ve both taken on…
Be a team.
Believe the best in each other.
Remember you’re both working hard.
Give frequent praise and recognition.
Look for the little things you both do.
Put each other first.
Help when you can without being asked.
Ask for help when you need it.
And enjoy watching your partner blossom into a parent.