The anxieties of early parenthood

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The anxieties of early parenthood

Taking the leap from coupledom to baby-makes-three is exciting, exhilarating, and wonderful. Simultaneously, it’s exhausting, exasperating, and worrisome -- an emotional rollercoaster ride for a couple.

The transition completely changes the lives of the two people involved. Sustaining the marriage post the arrival of the baby demands a lot of patience and effort from both parties, which unfortunates runs short in this challenging period.

The most common cause of problems and resentment in relationships after childbirth is fatigue and lack of sleep that immensely affects day-to-day life. New parents are often short of time as well. The leisure time previously spent socialising, relaxing or pursuing hobbies becomes practically non-existent, and this can change the very dynamics of a relationship. Dates, candlelit dinners, parties, long drives and movies become a distant dream. Every minute of the every day is spent taking care of the baby, feeding and bathing him or her, changing diapers, doing laundry, preparing meals, washing dishes and so on. The exhaustion alters the hormonal chemistry of the new parenthood, making partners moody and irritated.

Priorities shift

The arrival of the first baby also means that two people who once held central roles in each other’s lives now have a third (sometimes also fourth) very important person to focus on. Most first-time-fathers struggle with the fact they are no longer at the forefront of their partner’s mind. They often feel sidelined as the mother concentrates all her attention on the child. Similarly, some women may feel ignored as all family members and relatives obsess over the newborn.

Everyone inquires about the baby’s health and whereabouts, forgetting the fact that the mother herself has gone through an enormous change both physically and psychologically and is in dire need of rest and nutrition to recuperate. All of a sudden, she stops being a person in her own right and becomes a caretaker. Friends and family members offer advice and opinions, often unsolicited, undermining her own parenting ideas.

Sex takes a backseat

A crying baby decreases the mother’s libido, as she is genetically programmed to take care of the baby first. Sex is no longer on the top of the list.

Thanks to the exhaustion, the physical and emotional impact of the child birth, and the demands of life with a newborn, the bedroom Olympics take a backseat. Some women also deal with postnatal depression; it may take them several months to be in mood for sex again. A constructive approach to getting through this period is to endure, be understanding and find other ways of expressing physical affection until both partners feel ready to have sex again.

Financial freak-out

Money can also be a cause of stress for couples. For neophyte parents, adjusting to life on a condensed income or one salary can be particularly taxing.

Often, there are emotional issues underpinning money rows, such as the loss of financial independence or feeling the pressure of having to provide solely for the family.

Angelina, a mother of two, says, “New parents, who may be new homeowners or contemplating buying a house, are often overwhelmed by finances. People believe they don’t have adequate money to raise a family, and they just freak out. You’re certainly not going to take out your anxiety on your baby, so you lash out at your spouse.” She advises couples to take a step back and talk frankly about what they really desire for the family or for themselves.

One partner may also be adjusting to life at home with an infant rather than being at work. Giving up a job to raise a baby and breastfeed is a choice that most mothers have to make. Taking a break from career can’t be so easy especially when living expenses are dually shared.

The good part

On the other hand, raising an infant also teaches a couple to genuinely care, share responsibilities, manage crises and discover platonic ways of expressing love.

Parenting encourages partners to discuss each other’s views on various topics and develop a joint approach. Accepting that each parent has different ways of looking after the baby is also imperative. Just because you do things a certain way, it doesn’t mean that is the only way.

 It is important to keep communication open and candid, especially in the case of first-time parents. If there is emotions are running high, take a break and talk about it when you’re both feeling relaxed.

Make time for yourselves

Listen carefully to understand your partner’s perspective and avoid criticism or blame. Looking after yourself as a couple and as individuals is evenly significant. Make time for yourselves as a duo — try to fit or adapt some of the things you used to enjoy together into your new life, such as watching a movie or enjoying a takeout dinner.

While there are countless challenges in raising a baby, some couples grow stronger by sharing parenting roles and creating experiences that bind them together. The end goal is to facilitate each other in strengthening the bond of the family. A couple that parents together, stays together.

Watching your kids grow up is the glue that will hold your marriage together thorough the years. Being a family will inevitably involve struggles, but when you look back, it’s all worth the experience. A quote I read somewhere seems apt: ‘A baby makes love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, clothes shabbier and the home happier.’

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