The age-old adage “having a baby changes everything” is completely true. Once your baby is born, and you and your partner are new parents, your world truly changes. Even though you will hear this from everyone in your life and every book about parenting and postpartum life, nothing prepares you for how drastic of a change it truly is.
Many studies on marital happiness in new parents say that couples tend to be less happy after becoming parents. It is not uncommon for parents to think unpleasant thoughts about their spouse at some point in the baby’s first year, though a lot of this can be attributed to the exhaustion babies create.
Often, new parents will let their marriages take a back seat to the baby. This is something that can have serious consequences for your marriage, and if you are not careful, your postpartum marriage issues will become permanent. In this article, we will look at some of the most common issues that occur in a marriage after having a baby.
Household Chores Double
Before you had a baby, you had dishes, laundry, and other household cleaning tasks, but you could mostly procrastinate chores if needed. However, once you have a baby, you cannot procrastinate these things. Laundry needs to be washed quickly, or it will stink, especially if you are using cloth diapers; dishes need to be done, or you will run out of bottles. Many new parents feel like their spouse is not pulling their weight, and resentment can build. If you have to ask your spouse to do something multiple times, resentment can build.
Some couples overcome this by keeping score, “I did this, so you do that.” That can also cause some issues if nagging occurs because the person whose turn it is decided to procrastinate. One way to get around this is to create a list of every household chore and assign each other to them, keeping things even. You can trade who does what every day or week. This makes it so that everyone knows what they need to do, so less nagging is needed. When one of you does the dishes, thank them when they are done. Thanking each other helps you each feel appreciated, which is important to help you avoid resentment building.
Not Being a Team
You are a team, and you are in this together. Decisions about the baby need to be discussed and agreed upon. Everyone has advice for you when you have a baby, whether you want it or not. If you are told by one person to introduce solid food at six months, but someone else tells you that you need to start at four months, you cannot choose who to listen to on your own. Sit down with your partner and discuss why you think that one person’s advice is better than the others. Do not make a decision until you have discussed it together. If you disagree, try to negotiate and compromise. Remember that this is your baby, so you can choose to ignore someone’s advice, even if they are your mother/sister/best friend, because it is not their baby.
Your Sex Life Suffers
Doctors usually recommend that you wait until you are six weeks postpartum before you have sex again. However, your body might be healed enough for it, but that does not mean that you are ready for it. Your body is different than it was before you got pregnant, so it can take time to get used to it before resuming your sex life. Many mothers will not resume sex until they are at least six months postpartum, and some will wait even a year before they begin having sex again.
Connecting physically with your partner is important and a good way to help you keep resentment and negative feelings at bay. If you are not ready for that yet, try to have a date night once in a while to spend time as a couple without the baby. This can still increase your emotional intimacy without sex. Remain honest with each other about your sex life. Tell your spouse that you are not physically ready to get back to it; you are still healing and are not comfortable with that right now. You may not feel like your postpartum body is yours, and it can take time to become comfortable in your own skin again. Honesty is one of the most crucial parts of a marriage, and you need to stay honest, especially after having a baby.
Couple Time is Family Time
It can be hard to find time together as a couple after the baby comes, especially if you are not yet comfortable having someone babysit for a few hours. Before the baby, you could go out to dinner, but now your romantic date nights include the baby. Your marriage is still important, and it cannot be an afterthought. You cannot let the baby completely dominate your lives; otherwise, when your child moves out, you may find that your child was the entire marriage, and without your kid home, the relationship breaks apart.
Make time for your relationship. You do need date nights without the baby, but to help ensure the baby stays out of the date night conversation, have coffee together the morning of your date and discuss any important household and childcare issues that are currently in mind, like upcoming appointments or needing a new stroller. Then you will have most of it out and discussed before date night, so you can share other things like you used to.
Not Having Alone Time
Before you had a baby, you two would do some things separately, like hang out with friends and go to the gym. Now the baby is glued to one of you, so even if you go out with your friends, the baby is your plus one. Couples and parents still need alone time. Wanting to spend an evening away from your baby and your spouse does not make you a bad parent. Make sure this is shared evenly, though, and one of you is not taking the lion’s share of the alone time. Having a little room to breathe is healthy, and you will get along better after going on a run by yourself or going to book club without the baby than if you try to take the baby with you on every outing.