On a sunny Friday morning last winter, my best friend and her husband brought home a tiny bundle of joy and soon their social media profiles were flooded with people congratulating them on the blissful beginning of parenthood. As a couple, they have always been really active in the virtual world with frequent check-ins to the hippest restaurants in town, vacations in Dubai and the Maldives, gorgeous display pictures from those locations and romantic updates for each other.
“I’m very happy, but massively stressed. I feel like I haven’t been able to sleep for ages or take a bath in peace, but most of all I think I’m starting to hate Hiten (her husband),” she replied.
It’s only been 5 months as new parents and their availability on social media has dropped considerably.
When I met them a few weeks back, I asked my friend how she is enjoying this new phase of life. “I’m very happy, but massively stressed. I feel like I haven’t been able to sleep for ages or take a bath in peace, but most of all I think I’m starting to hate Hiten (her husband),” she replied.
Even though she sounded pissed with her husband and noticeably strained with the new load of responsibilities, I knew for a fact that what she was experiencing happens to every couple after having a baby.
Baby and the dynamics of husband and wife equation
No matter how head over heels in love a couple is, when a baby comes into the picture, inevitably their relationship goes for a toss. A leap from two to three, going through the magic of creating a life together is exciting and all sorts of wonderful, but it also means the new parent has to go through a relationship breakdown. It’s definitely worrisome, but every couple goes through this, and the reasons are mostly non-exclusive.
- Instead of focusing on romance, couples strive hard to become efficient. This means they focus on being the best provider and nurturer for the child, instead of being partners.
- Maintaining a marriage needs time and energy, exactly the two things every new parent has the most shortage of.
- Sleep deprivation, raging financial pressure, crazy hormones, no quality time together and no time for sex – all lead to the relationship breakdown.
- Post-baby, the change in the dynamic of a couple’s relationship is unavoidable. It’s obvious – so far it’s just been about the two of you, but now you have this cute, tiny, fragile, adorable baby who needs all of your attention. It’s a beautiful experience watching the baby grow, but this also changes the way your partnership worked before.
But you must remember, not every change is a bad thing. All you need is to give it the time to sink in. So instead of thinking of killing each other, you and your spouse need to address the most critical problems couples face in their life after a baby and program yourselves to focus on the solutions.
Related reading: I cheated on my wife just after her delivery but I don’t feel guilty
8 problems couples go through after a baby with solutions
According to the Gottman Relationship Institute in Seattle, about two thirds of couples become dissatisfied with their relationship within three years of becoming parents. No wonder the new challenges pose as a divide between you and your spouse, but there are ways you can most definitely rekindle your relationship despite all the life changes coming your way, with these solutions.
Problem 1: Decreasing spontaneity after a baby
Before the baby arrived, as a couple you used to love hitting the shopping mall during weekends, going for late night drives or having a Sunday brunch. You probably used to get some quality ‘me time’, too, when you and your spouse did your own things that made you happy as individuals. But now that the baby is here, you don’t get any free days. Your freedom becomes scarce. As a result you tend to get involved in frequent fights.
Solution: Speak up when you need a break. Ask your spouse to take care of the baby for an hour or two for you to have some ‘me time’. Ask your parents to babysit to have some ‘we time’ to reengage as a couple. If they are not available, ask your close friends or neighbours to look after the baby once in a while so that you two get some time out.
Problem 2: Responsibility for household chores
With the baby in the picture, the household duties seem to get doubled, and now you have to finish the work even faster. Couples tend to keep score – I did this, so now you do this. It helps no one.
Solution: When you need help, don’t wait for your husband to volunteer. Men tend to respond better to direct requests. Remind yourself that he is not taking a vacation either. He is just as overworked and stressed as you are. When he does share the household chores, don’t forget to say thanks. It will help him act more receptive to future requests.
Problem 3: Fight over money and expenses after a child
Having a baby means one of you has to quit their job, at least for some time, to take care of the little one – which means now only one paycheque is coming to your home with an extra family member. Naturally, the concern over money shoots up and since you can’t lash out at your child, you lash out at your spouse.
Solution: There are two ways to go about it. Try living on one paycheque even when you are bringing home two, for six months or a year. Save the unused salary as an emergency fund. By the time your baby arrives, you will be accustomed to living on a budget.
But if it’s too late to try that out and now the baby has arrived, have a clear discussion with your spouse about the changes you need to make to survive as a family. Prioritise the baby’s needs and your own. You must also realise that even with two incomes, raising a child in this world economy you are not likely to feel financially secure.
Related reading: The art of seduction after a baby
Problem 4: Criticism on parenting style
It’s one thing to talk about child-rearing philosophies with your spouse when you are expecting and feel like you are meant to do it together, it’s another thing to survive the power struggle that take place between you two in life after the baby without thinking of killing each other. It’s often found that couples have frequent fights over how much the baby should sleep and eat and how she should be disciplined. Almost always, one of you takes a stricter approach in raising the child, while the other is more laidback.
Solution: Understand that you both are equally responsible for your child’s upbringing, but snapping at each other on the parenting style creates tension for both your marriage and the baby. If you think your spouse’s approach is not right, let them deal with the consequence of their method. For things like sleep and food, follow a strict guideline given by your paediatrician. For other issues, read and watch about the right parenting style together and discuss what’s best for your child.
Problem 5: Sex after a baby
Sex is now less fun, and more of a hassle. You are tired and sleep deprived even though you love sex. Your husband feels neglected with the lack of physical intimacy, and as a result fights seem to get doubled.
Solution: There are many ways to have sex after a baby. Try scheduling sex. Keep your bedroom baby-free. Ask your friends to babysit when you two go out for a hot date-night. Remember, having less sex doesn’t mean lack of love. You are just going through some major life changes and need to take some proactive actions to rekindle your sex life.
Problem 6: No quality time
Couple time is now family time. Sure you spend more time together now, but no time alone. You also don’t get to go out on girls’ night out or have a beer night with the guys. It’s a challenging time, sure, but there are ways to manage some quality time.
Solution: Besides scheduling sex and date-nights, plan ‘brief meetings’ beforehand where you can discuss baby issues, things that happened at work and catch up on some idle gossip. End the meetings on a good note with ice cream or leftover chocolate. Also, don’t feel guilty about taking some off from family to have your solo outing times back. Ask your spouse to be cooperative in this regard, so that you can come back home reenergised.
Problem 7: Boundaries for in-laws
Grandparents are a big help to take care of the newborn, but they also want a lot of time with the baby. If you care about having your privacy, then giving your in-laws or parents 24-hour access to your home can get on your nerves.
Solution: Setting your boundaries is the solution here. No matter how generous and helpful they have been, you have the right to say no. But instead of hurting their sentiments, ask them to come during weekdays, specifically during the time you need help around the baby and the house.
Problem 8: Post-partum mood disorders
New mothers go through an upheaval of mood swings after delivering the baby as a result of post-partum mood disorders. As a result of the spiking hormones, we tend to react more harshly than usual, get crankier than normal and feel distressed with small changes regarding the baby’s wellbeing. It’s not only a stressful time for you, but takes a toll on your husband as well. As a result, your marriage goes through severe relationship breakdown.
Solution: The only way to get through the post-partum phase is by having your husband’s support. Talk to him about the rush of feelings you are having. Read about the phase together and discuss how you can face the challenge together and what kind of help you would need.
Remember, having a baby together doesn’t just come with a new set of challenges and problems, but it’s also a great way to grow a stronger bond together despite the ups and downs. Watching your partner sing a lullaby to your baby or teaching her how to swim makes you fall in love with them all over again. Take the early days of parenthood as a boot camp; if you survive this, you can survive whatever bumps life may bring in future.