As mentioned in posts like No Time For Your Husband After Baby Arrives, new moms often tell moms-to-be in Boot Camp that having a baby can really challenge your relationship, especially if you don’t know what to expect. The shift in your focus, energy and affection can leave your partner feeling abandoned, so as you ready your nursery, remember to also prep your relationship for some changes ahead.
One idea is to set aside time to talk about your relationship and issues that new parents say affected their relationship the most. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” While you can’t predict exactly how things will unfold with your new family, you can have an overall strategy for this monumental transition.
Here are some important conversations and to-dos:
Make a List
Write down things you both love doing together (inspired by Boot Camp for New Dads). What connects you? What sounds fun? What restaurants or places do you like to visit? This list will be a lifesaver when you’re tired and overwhelmed but want to spend some time together as a couple. So make your list together and when the baby is a few weeks old pick something manageable and start reconnecting.
Put your first date night as new parents on the calendar at about a month after the baby is born (i.e. see if grandma is free to babysit). You’ll want to make “couple time” a priority before you have an infant standing between you and your relationship. Aside from a night out together, plan a weekly date-night-in after the baby goes to sleep. Order in take out and crack open a bottle of wine.
Create a plan for those times you’re feeling overwhelmed. (It will happen.) Agree on a "code word" to let the other person know that they need to step in and take over so you don’t blow up out of frustration. New moms say that just having this proactive conversation makes it that much easier to accept the notion that we all get overwhelmed and it’s OK to ask for help.
How will you handle it if one of you is feeling lonely or abandoned or depressed? All very common during the first few months with a newborn. Will you be able to bring it up over dinner or do you usually hold it in until you blow up? We suggest having a ‘relationship check-in’ every 1st of the month or so. Yes, really. Set an appointment. It will give you a time and place to bring up things that are otherwise uncomfortable or uncommon dinner conversation.
Social/Free Time Expectations
It's important for both of you to make time for yourselves outside of your family to stay sane, but it will have to be reasonable and agreed upon by both of you. For example, golfing for 6 hours on Saturday and Sunday isn’t as doable anymore with a newborn at home. After the baby is born, force one another to take this much needed personal time. (Dad taking the baby back to Boot Camp is a great way to give mom a morning to herself.) New moms say at first it’s really hard to take that time away from the baby, but that it’s totally needed and the chance to recharge makes them better moms.
Support Each Other
Tell each other why you know the other is going to be a great parent. Once baby arrives, remind one another of those reasons as often as possible. It’s a hard road full of challenges, but it's incredible to parent with someone who loves you and knows you better than anyone else in the world.