As we've mentioned in posts such as No Time For Your Husband After Baby Arrives, new moms often tell the moms-to-be in Boot Camp that your baby’s constant need for attention can emotionally and physically tear your relationship apart, especially if you don’t know what to expect and don't plan accordingly.
The shift in your focus, energy and affection can easily leave your partner feeling lonely and even unloved. So, as you prepare your nursery, remember to also prep your relationship for the changes ahead.
One idea is to set aside an evening to talk about your relationship and issues that new parents say affect your relationship the most. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower put it, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” You can’t predict exactly what will happen with your new family, but you can have an overall strategy for this monumental transition. Here are a few important conversations to have over dinner and candlelight:
Make a List
Write down things you enjoy doing together now (inspired by Boot Camp for New Dads). What connects you? What do you do for fun? What do you do to relax? What restaurants or places do you frequent when you go out, just the two of you? This will be an important list for you to revisit when you forget who you were as a couple. Don’t wait until you’re too tired or overwhelmed to remember the things you enjoy. Put this list together, stick it on the fridge, and when your baby is a few weeks old pick something small to start reconnecting.
Plan your first date night as new parents for a month after the baby is born (i.e. book grandma now to baby-sit). Make “couple time” a priority before you have an infant standing between you and a date. Aside from nights out alone, plan a weekly indoor date after the baby goes to sleep. Dad can bring home take out and you can 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.