New parenthood. What an amazing time. The hospital actually allowed you to take home this tiny little life, and now you have to take care of it! You used to have time to cater to your partner; now you barely have time to take a shower. The little critter takes up all your spare time and energy, and sometimes it feels like she or he uses up all your love too. Traits that didn’t use to bother you about your spouse—heck, they were even cute!—are now the most irritating things in the world.
A baby is a miracle. A very needy, dependent miracle. Because babies require so much from us, we have less left over to give to our spouse. The bond between primary caretaker (usually mom) and baby may be so intense at first that dad isn’t sure how to fit in. What used to be second nature now requires planning and work; we now have to create time and make it a priority to meet our spouse’s needs. On the plus side, this is fun work if you let it be. The goal is to feed your friendship with your spouse so you can reap all the rewards of marriage: adult companionship and laughter, intellectual stimulation, sex, and relaxation, to name a few.
Where to start? First, take a deep breath. You married this person for a reason. That reason still exists. It’s just getting buried beneath all the feedings, diaper changes, and sleep deprivation. Think about what you want from your spouse. Support, attention, affection, sharing the workload, sympathy… what else? Now, think about how you can ask for those things in a loving, respectful way. Remember to use “I statements” and state a positive need rather than a criticism. For example, instead of saying, “You always jump on me the minute I walk in the door,” try, “I’m tired when I get home from work. I could use ten minutes to change my clothes and decompress.” Or instead of starting out with “You never do the laundry,” try, “I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the laundry. Could you do this load?” Keep your conversations focused on one issue at a time rather than going over every irritating thing your spouse has done in the past month.
Keep the faith! You two have embarked on an incredible journey together. You are partners in helping this little person grow into a big person who will be shaped by your relationship with each other. You can do this!
Picture: By Kim Scarborough from Chicago, IL (Yia Yia and parents: 1920 Uploaded by Fæ) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons