When I first started working at OnePlusOne and researching the so-called ‘transition to parenthood’ and the effect that having a baby has on your relationship, I laughed that it was the ‘best contraception ever’ – well obviously not that good! 6 months ago we began our own journey into parenthood with the arrival of our baby boy. We were in a good position – our relationship was pretty stable, we were married and the pregnancy was planned; all good things for surviving the first couple of years as parents, so I felt quietly confident that we would be ok. However, it has still been quite a journey. These are a few of my observations as a researcher and as a first-time parent:
- Arguments are inevitable: As new parents, you will be tired, frazzled and completely clueless as to what you are doing half of the time. Arguments are bound to happen. We try not to take each other’s words too seriously when they are said in the heat of the moment and instead try and set time aside when we are both in a good mood to sort out real problems, rather than problems we think are problems because of the above reasons.
- Take all the help you can get: People love babies! When you get visitors they will want to help. My default is normally to say ‘no, we’re fine’. Don’t do that! Let people help. ‘Yes, please come over but can you do the hovering/ look after the baby while I have a shower/ bring lunch’. You will feel like you get a break and others will feel like they are actually doing something useful. My mother-in-law comes up once a week and I don’t remember the last time I did my own hoovering! Same rules apply for your partner – let them help.
- Just because you do things differently doesn’t mean your partner does it wrong: One of the things that can be really hard as a new parent is letting things go. I am usually fairly laid back but have become border-line neurotic when it comes to a small boy’s routine and the way that I settle him to sleep, etc. My husband is a little more relaxed. He leaves the door open when he is putting the boy to bed because he thinks ‘he likes the light’, and he doesn’t feel quite the same sense of urgency to do things exactly on schedule as I do. There will be times when it is important for you, as parents, to be on the same page. However, these are not those times. I find it easier if I just leave completely when Phil is putting the small boy to bed. He gets the same results and it is much happier for everyone if I am downstairs having a cup of tea rather than hovering around, upsetting everyone.
- The transition is longer than you think: The one thing that no one can prepare you for when you have a baby is how crazily quickly the time goes – every week something new happens and your life changes again. There is also a constant change in your relationship. For me, the hardest part wasn’t the first six weeks when we were in a new baby bubble and no one was expecting me to cook and clean and function as a proper human. Instead, the hardest part has been the last couple of months when life has gone back to normal, yet I am still here with a tiny human to look after. I have found it useful to keep telling Phil how I am feeling and to find new ways to make time for our relationship, both with and without the boy.
- Talk to your friends but do so carefully: The girls I met at NCT have become some of my closest friends. We are constantly on WhatsApp airing our worries and sharing in each other’s joys. It is great to have them to talk to about difficulties in our relationship but I am very careful if I sense that it is moving into moaning. Keep your discussions productive and bounce ideas off each other for dealing with problems rather than allowing yourself to dwell on them.
- The evidence is pretty accurate: As a researcher, I was pretty clued up as to the challenges we would face in our relationship as new parents. That knowledge has been very useful at times when it has been tough. Having a resource like ‘PlusBaby’ and equipping yourself with the tools to negotiate challenges you might face is a really great asset. Go back to this advice at times when you feel like you have forgotten it all and lost all sense of reason!
This article was written by Hannah Green, the Research and Information Officer at OnePlusOne.
PlusBaby is OnePlusOne’s new service for new parents. For tips on a whole range of parenting issues, visit PlusBaby today.