Transitioning to Parenthood

The transition to parenthood is a process that begins long before the due date. During pregnancy, each partner experiences significant changes to their individual identities, roles, values and goals.  When pregnant, a couple is often very focused on preparing for baby, buying clothes, setting up nursery, and often do not consider how to navigate the transition and the affect this has on their own personal growth once baby is born.

Additionally, becoming a parent often has a strong impact on a couple’s relationship.  One of the most difficult aspects of being a new parent is that much of what happens is unexpected. Learning how to anticipate potentially stressful circumstances can help couples to feel less vulnerable and less likely to blame each other when situations occur. Opening up communication allows the couple to figure out ways to ease distress before it negatively impacts the relationship.

What can you do to prepare your marriage before the arrival of baby:

  • Understand that your lifestyle is going to be greatly altered. Both partners will have less time for one another and for themselves.
  • Talk about relatives coming to visit, including how long they will stay and any anticipated concerns about having other people in your home.
  • Let go of expectations that things “should” be a certain way.
  • Discuss your parenting styles, the similarities and differences and accept the fact that you and your partner most likely will not see eye to eye on every issue. The key to diffuse conflict is to compromise and negotiate and keep your communication open.

Keeping your Relationship Strong after Baby

Despite the excitement of having a baby, the transition to parenthood is accompanied by parents trying to adjust to changes in their identity to who they were before baby, loss of structure and predictability in daily life, and figuring out household roles and responsibilities.  During the first year, many couples experience increased conflict and unhappiness in their relationship. Parents who are happier in their relationship have a more positive attitude in their role as a parent, spend more time bonding to baby, and are more motivated to make positive changes in their lives.

Regardless of how parenthood is viewed and anticipated by the couple, there will be some difficulty or loss encountered when old patterns of life no longer fit and a couple are forced to develop and settle into a new routine.  Many couples think that bringing a baby in their lives will bring them closer together. The change in roles often affects couples feelings about their relationship therefore, it is important for couples to maintain or find ways to enhance the quality of their relationship.  

Ways to help you and your partner adjust to life after baby:

  • Remember to communicate:  parents often get so caught up in caring for baby that they neglect to take time to talk with one another.  Small irritations grow when not given the opportunity to be expressed.
  • Having a baby changes your sex life, as sleep becomes the up most of importance. Babies seem to intuitively know when mom or dad is in the “mood” and moms are wired to take care of baby, a crying baby equals losing the “mood.”   To avoid hurt feelings or resentment, talk about how things have changed, Plan times for intimacy and forget the notion that scheduling intimacy is less satisfying than spontaneous sex.
  • Remember the 3 “A’s” appreciation, affection and admiration. Appreciation is one of the most powerful ways to connect; show your partner affection in very ordinary moments; strengthen your friendship for one another by expressing the fondness and admiration you have for one another.
  • For couples who are able to integrate into an “us” and see themselves as a unit, this helps to overcome struggles with parenting later on down the road. Therefore, nurture your friendship and stay attuned to what is happening in one anothers lives. 

How Clinical Counselling can Help

The best gift you can offer your baby is to model a healthy loving relationship. Investing in your relationship supports the well being of your whole family. Talking to a clinical counsellor can help you to learn skills to develop a deeply satisfying and supportive relationship. The benefits of couples counselling include greater acceptance of your partner, deeper and increased intimacy, as well as increased bonding and attachment in the parent/child relationship.