When I pictured having a baby, I definitely imagined more snuggles and sweet pictures than midnight feedings and poop explosions. My husband and I had agreed that he would be a more hands-on dad than my parents’ generation, where I’m pretty sure my father never even touched a baby wipe, let alone helped potty-train me or my brother.
Of course, I knew becoming a parent was going to have its challenges, but I did not expect it to be so, so hard. When we were weeks into the newborn phase and our son was finally sleeping for more than an hour at a time, I thought the end was in sight. I had no idea the strain on my relationship with my husband would get to the point where I did not even feel like we were married.
Of course, I knew becoming a parent was going to have its challenges, but I did not expect it to be so, so hard.
Sleep deprivation left us both too frustrated and exhausted to do more than the bare minimum… and this led to a lot of resentment. I felt like I did everything for the baby while my husband missed having alone time with his wife. Pretty soon, we were snapping at each other every morning and the first time we got a babysitter for date night, we both fell asleep in the movie theatre.
We knew something had to change. This is why, by the time our next baby was due, we had agreed to create a better game plan post-baby than to simply survive. This required discussing our expectations and needs with one another before we were knee-deep in dirty diapers and covered in baby drool.
So if you are looking to fight less, have more intimacy, and maintain your household a little better postpartum, make sure to discuss these five topics with your partner before you give birth.
1. Discuss the middle of the night baby responsibilities before it’s the middle of the night
Have you discussed who is going to change the diapers and do middle of the night feeding? Many couples I’ve known have had an expectation that their partner will be involved during night feedings. Others agree the person working should get a free pass.
Whatever your family decides, you should have a discussion before the baby arrives so whoever is taking the night shift does not develop resentment for a partner they expected to help but doesn’t. Couples with different expectations should be able to come up with a compromise, or even set up a designated day for Mom or Dad to catch up on rest.
2. Talk about financial expectations, goals, and realities
Will one parent stay at home? If so, for how long? Is the primary caregiver expected to go back to work as soon as possible? Many arguments I’ve heard in mom groups often stem from miscommunication of expectations. This can lead to problems if one spouse feels like they are forced into doing a job or staying home when they do not want to.
You can help prevent future arguments by having financial discussions and career talks before your little one arrives. And even mark bi-annual check-ins or quarterly check-ins in the calendar. Make sure to make these discussions a priority to ensure feelings haven’t changed. It’s possible personal goals, feelings, and expectations from the early parenting days have changed.
3. Schedule time for breaks
Burn-out from parenting is real. When you are changing diapers and breastfeeding (or making bottles) at all hours of the night, you are sometimes left as a husk of the person you used to be. It is essential to make time for the primary caregiver to get a break and for the other parent to bond with the baby.
If you have to assign days or even hire a nanny for a few hours, make sure you schedule that time for each of you to have at least a few hours full of kid-free responsibilities a week.
4. Discuss your sex-pectations
In most healthy and happy relationships, couples are having sex. And for first-time parents, you may laugh and think a six-month (or more) dry spell is not in your future, but low libido for men and women can be common when you are in throes of parenting a small baby. Something about the smell of spit-up, diapers everywhere, and lack of sleep is not conducive to setting up a romantic environment to connect with your spouse.
To combat this, make sure you discuss your partner’s sexual and intimacy needs pre-baby and post-baby. What intimacy looks like now, may need to change during the first few months when mom is healing. Make sure to communicate with your partner as often as possible, to find a rhythm that works for you both. Intimacy post-baby can look a little different, but exploring one another can be exciting in a new way.
5. Discuss the hard stuff
Deciding what should happen to your children if something happens to you or your partner is one of the most difficult, but important discussions you can have. And one that should not be made during a time of stress and grief.
My husband and I realized after I started having serious complications during my second pregnancy that we did not have a will. At the time, our friends and family wouldn’t have known who we would’ve wanted to raise our children if something happened to either of us.
Yes, it’s hard to talk about it, and may even feel like tempting fate, but trust me, it’s better to think through these decisions and have a plan in place, just in case.