What do your kids see and feel at home?
Do they see happy parents? Or grumpy parents?
Do they see two people in love or two people at war?
Do they see their parents as two caring and compassionate people who respect each other, help each other, talk to each other, and laugh together often? Or do they feel tension, and hear blaming, nagging, fighting, criticism, and silence?
What did you imagine being a family would be like? Was it a picture of blissful, happy days filled with laughter and joy? Is that the reality? What is the reality?
Almost without exception, couples experience relationship issues when their much anticipated and eagerly awaited first child arrives. With so much focus on the new baby – where and when it will sleep, feeding, clothing, bathing, settling, transporting – couples often get distracted from focusing on each other. And if couples somehow escape the almost universal post-baby issues first time around, they are sure to get hit with the arrival of their second or subsequent children.
The lives of men and women diverge after the birth of a baby and both are left feeling less understood and less appreciated. Women often get resentful about their lack of freedom and are confused that the arrival of their adorable baby has left them feeling more like the nanny, cleaner, and tea lady, than a highly competent, attractive, capable woman who is also a mother.
For men, financial pressure usually increases and most men feel caught between doing what is expected at home, doing what is expected at work, and occasionally doing something recreational. Whatever decision he makes, he is usually letting someone down and usually they let him know about that. Men get blamed for not doing housework, getting home late, or not being proactive with the baby.
Below are FIVE things couples can do to ensure they not only stay together, but that they are a happy post-baby couple.
1. Talk to each other
Firstly, check in with each other regularly. Ask “How was your day?” and listen for the answer. It’s particularly important that women don’t dump on their male partners when they first walk in the door. Secondly, make sure you regularly go out without the children, for a nice meal or whatever and see if you can avoid talking about ‘kids’ or ‘work’. It might be harder than you think!
2. Allow Dads to develop their own different but equally valid ways of doing things around the home
Dad time with kids from the first weeks and months, is essential to both partners fully understanding the implications of parenthood. Michael Grose, a Melbourne-based parenting expert, explains that the involvement of men around the home and with their children is highly dependent upon the attitude of their female partner, but that the opposite is not true, to the same extent.
So, a woman who criticizes how her male partner does things is unlikely to get a helpful partner. However, women who trust their male partners to do whatever is required and let go of needing him to do it her way, are more likely to get a helpful, involved partner. Women who complain that their male partners simply do not understand how draining it can be being at home all day with children need to negotiate for him to do that. It could be a half day each fortnight or for a half day on the the weekend. Men who are involved at home are more able to give their female partners the emotional support and understanding that women need, especially as they navigate a major change in their life direction.
3. Create reciprocal arrangements around time out from work and family
Couples need to ensure that both partners have time out from work and family. This is helped by couples coming to the understanding that, ‘when he goes to work, she goes to work at home with the kids’. Therefore, before and after work and weekend childcare and housework need to be shared. If he wants a few hours on Saturday afternoon to watch the footy, then he might offer to take the kids on Saturday morning to give his female partner a break. Having some time out together is helpful too – so hiring a babysitter could come in handy.
4. Value what each partner does
Acknowledge the contribution both partners are making. Women often suffer both a crisis in self-esteem and domestic claustrophobia with the birth of a baby. Many women choose to go back to work to feel better about themselves and to earn some money. Couples need to agree on where work comes in their list of priorities to ensure it doesn’t become an escape route for either partner when things get tough at home.
5. Empathise with your partners world
Women love it when their male partners offer to do things. Offering, rather than waiting to be asked, makes a huge difference. The latter implies that it is her job unless she negotiates otherwise. However, by offering to help out with cooking or cleaning or kids, he is sending a strong message that he regards that domain as something they share out of work hours. Men love to come home to a happy wife and kids. Most often, men request that women let up on dumping on him or criticizing him when he gets home. If he is not meeting your expectations around the home, then discuss hiring a cleaner once a fortnight, suggest he brings home take-away once a week or create a routine where he cooks once a week.
– written by Alison Osborne
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