Keep Your Marriage Alive While Caring for a Newborn
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2005 9 Sep
The first six weeks after a baby is born can be one of the most stressful times a married couple experiences. If you have a newborn or expect one to arrive soon, your son or daughter’s constant demands can drive a wedge between you and your spouse. But it doesn’t have to work out that way. When you stay focused on your marriage’s needs during this challenging time, it can also be an exciting time that results in a stronger relationship between you.
Here’s how you can keep your marriage alive while caring for a newborn:
Don’t compare yourself to other parents. Realize that every newborn – and every marriage – is unique. Don’t feel bad if strategies that work for other parents don’t work for you. Seek solutions for your individual family.
See this as a valuable time of learning. Understand that the changes you’ll have to make with a newborn can help you and your spouse both develop stronger relationship skills. Make it your goal to emerge from this time with a more mature marriage. Assure your spouse that you still care for him or her, even when you may be too busy to show it in the same ways you previously did. View this time as an adventurous journey you’re taking together.
Remind yourself that the world doesn’t revolve around your baby. Realize that, as important as your newborn is, you shouldn’t let baby care completely consume your life. Let family and friends know specific ways they can help (such as be preparing meals that can be frozen for when you need them), and accept that help to keep your life in balance.
Confront unrealistic expectations. Talk about you and your spouse’s expectations for parenthood together. Discuss whether or not you think they’re realistic. Get advice from family or friends who have older kids. Then agree on a list of tasks that you both consider important, and a separate list of tasks that aren’t as important and can be dropped as necessary.
Break down large tasks into small projects. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by a seemingly endless stream of responsibilities. Instead, plan to complete small projects (such as bathing your newborn) as you can, and congratulate each other on your achievements as you go. Remember that all care you give your child is significant in God’s eyes.
Manage your money well. Work out a budget before your child is born to take your lifestyle changes into account. Pray about it and think about it. Ask other couples how they prepared themselves financially to have children, and use some of their ideas that fit well for your own family. Realize that not everything for the baby has to be new. While it’s a good idea to purchase a new car seat and crib for safety reasons, you can find many great deals on other baby supplies at consignment sales or through hand-me-downs from family and friends. Talk to grandparents and others who plan to buy gifts for your baby about what you need.
Recognize the power of words. Don’t allow your stress to cause you to speak negative words to your spouse. Realize that negative words will hurt your spouse and your marriage, while positive words will strengthen your bond as they bring hope, encouragement, refreshment, and healing. Affirm and encourage your spouse verbally as often as you can. Ask yourself how you can alleviate your spouse’s anxieties and bless him or her with your words. Then do so!
Help each other get the sleep and space you each need. Work out a fair schedule that allows you to swap baby care responsibilities with your spouse to give each other the breaks you both need for sleep and time out of the house. Take into account which times of the day and night you each function best, and try switching roles on the weekends. Make sure that you do everything practically to relieve each other in a genuine partnership, so the responsibilities don’t fall too hard on just one of you. Work to reach compromises so that no situation ever becomes desperate for either one of you.
Recharge your spouse’s batteries. Plan practical ways that you can refresh your spouse, such as by cooking a meal or letting him or her go out for an evening. Remember that when your spouse is refreshed, he or she will be in a much better position to refresh you. Share with each other what you need to be energized. Commit to do at least one of those things for your spouse in the next day or so.
Evaluate advice wisely. Even when you disagree with your spouse about how to parent your newborn, be sure to listen to your spouse and respect his or her views. Try to proactively discuss issues you feel strongly about before you need to make a decision about them. Listen respectfully to advice from well-meaning family and friends, but don’t feel pressured to accept it if you and your spouse don’t agree. Let family and friends who want to help you know in advance what types of support you would appreciate the most.
Be honest. Don’t waste time or energy trying to keep up appearances around family and friends to try to have them think all is well when it isn’t. If you’re struggling, go to your spouse first, admit it, and ask for help. Discuss ahead of time what you’re willing to share about your relationship and your struggles in front of your family and friends. When you need help, reach out for it in ways that don’t embarrass your spouse. And remember not to compare your unique situation to someone else’s.
Don’t stop having fun! Plan and look forward to at least one thing you enjoy doing that isn’t related to your baby, such as maintaining a hobby you pursued before your newborn arrived. Keep in contact with friends. Arrange babysitting so you and your spouse can still go out on dates. Exercise as much as you’re able to elevate your mood and enjoy some recreation.
Let go of the past and embrace the future. Rather than grieving for the lifestyle you once had, embrace the changes that have come into your life and celebrate the new ways they can help you grow, individually and as a couple. Discuss what you’re each looking forward to in the future. Make plans together.
Keep the spark of romance lit. Identify and deal with whatever issues are hampering your ability to enjoy intimacy with your spouse. Remember that intimacy is about more than just sex – it’s about the connection between the two of you. Make it a priority to continue to interact romantically, both at home and on dates. Don’t be shy about arranging babysitting for whenever you need it.
Don’t forget to just enjoy your baby together. Take time regularly to just watch and play with your newborn, marveling at this wonderful gift God has created for your family. At the end of each day, don’t just talk about your caregiving responsibilities. Also discuss what you each have enjoyed about interacting with your baby.
Adapted from Your Marriage Can Survive a Newborn by Glenn and Natalie Williams, copyright 2005 by Glenn Allan Williams. Published by Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.broadmanholman.com.
Glenn Williams is vice president of International and Cultural Ministry for Focus on the Family. As a licensed psychologist in Australia, he has addressed audiences worldwide on the topics of marriage and family. Natalie Williams is an occupational therapist and holds a bachelor of applied science and graduate degree in neuroscience. Glenn and Natalie have three children.