Having a child is an important decision in a couple’s life. You worry about financial stability, your age and how long you have been in the relationship. Those concerns are valid and have a great impact on how prepared you feel about having a baby…but how about the changes to your relationship? Becoming a parent is more than bringing the baby home. Most couples will focus on learning how to care for the child needs to support healthy growth. But they can never know how much their relationship will be transformed in the process until the child is already a reality. No matter how much planning (or lack thereof) you do, you can succeed at having a happy and healthy family. However, it takes time and effort to prepare. Here are five tips to prepare for.
Tips to Stay Lovers while Preparing to be Parents
1) Don’t make assumptions: We all have our own ideas of what having a child will look like (and that’s why many of us don’t face the challenge). You based your expectations on how your own childhood looked like, being that a bad or good experience. However, if you don’t ask your partner their expectations you most likely will be making assumptions. The changes that a child brings to a relationship goes beyond sleepless nights. When the “baby talk” starts, take the time to address each other’s expectations for how becoming a family will impact being a couple.
2) Talk about parenting styles: There are four distinct parenting styles to choose from and most people will follow one or another with their personal input to it. Discuss with your partner your core beliefs about raising a child. Identify values you want to pass on and how to deal with conflicts when you two disagree. You won’t be able to cover everything, but will get an idea of where you two stand together or apart. As mentioned in tip #1 don’t make assumptions. An easy-going person can become a strict parent for fear that child will get hurt if too much leniency is given.
3) Expect changes: Reality rarely mirrors our expectation. You made plans to have your child sleeping through the night in his/her crib at 2 months old, then you find yourself co-sleeping at 6 months. Be flexible and kind to yourself and to your partner. Things don’t happen exactly as planned in most cases. Try to be supportive of each other when the plans change and remember you are in this together.
4) Discuss role responsibilities: As a married couple you have a set of rules and expectations of your roles in the relationship. When you are parents those roles change drastically. There will be another human being determining how you spend your attention, time and emotional availability. Even when you know what new roles you two will take, there is a possibility for resentment if you don’t keep an open dialogue for expressing feelings. Again, don’t make assumptions and start the conversation on how and who will take on specific responsibilities. Expect that roles will change as the family evolves and keep the communication flowing in order to adapt.
5) Be partners first: This is a controversial idea from many parents’ perspective. You will regard your child as the most important thing in your life, but don’t forget about your spouse. You have to be a good spouse in order to be a good parent. his is a crucial time to be supportive and understanding of each other. Raising children is hard work and your marriage will be put to the test through it. Don’t undermine each other and try to listen to the other person’s perspective before giving your opinion. Both of you will be the parents and have to be on the same page about fundamental decisions.
6) Babies don’t save marriages: Having a child will actually put a lot of stress in your relationship. The demands of an infant alone is enough to create resentments if you two are struggling to resolve conflicts. Your relationship doesn’t have to be picture perfect to survive parenthood. In the other hand, if your expectation is to create closeness by having a child you will be setting yourself up for failure. Work on your marriage first, learn the tools to resolve conflict, discuss expectations for becoming parents then you will have greater chances of success of having a healthy family.
About the Author
Patricia Cochran is a marriage counselor with The Marriage and Family Clinic. She is passionate about helping couples and families to feel connected again. In her spare time, she is busy with her toddler and enjoying friends and family time