Congratulations on your first baby!
Get ready for all the joys of a party of three, but… as you do — keep in mind that most couples spend so much time focusing on baby showers, planning the nursery, Lamaze, and parenting classes, that they usually don’t think about how this bundle of joy is going to impact their marriage.
And you know what? Things will change but with some intentional nurturing, your marriage can grow stronger as you take on this new role of parenting.
So, here are a few thoughts to help prepare your marriage for those long nights, early morning hours, and yes — those unexpected blowouts, so that together you can experience every joy of starting your new family!
1. Seize the moment!
This is an opportunity to grow closer to each other even as you fall in love with a new little person. You can learn to trust and help one another as you explore parenting styles and even laugh at awkward moments.
2. Differences will emerge.
It’s okay. Talk about the kind of parents you want to be. Use this season, the frustrations and the joys, as a way to challenge each other to grow as people.
3. Make sure that you fairly split household and parenting tasks.
Don’t assume who will do what. But, talking about these responsibilities in advance can ensure that each of you is feeling supported by the other when the time comes. Note that fairly does not necessarily mean equally.
4. Take into account each partner’s workload and the amount of time spent with the baby.
Failure to share responsibilities may result in low relationship satisfaction and cause resentment to build up. In fact, you can download and Expectations worksheet HERE to help facilitate this conversation.
5. Recognize the tremendous change you’re going through as first-time parents.
Give yourself and each other some grace as you get to know your new selves. There will be psychological changes that come with the transition into your new roles, as well as social changes with your family, friends, and each other.
6. You won’t feel the same as you did before you had your baby, and that is normal!
You are a parent now. That brings major changes to both of your lifestyles.
7. Try to get a solid support system in place.
Being surrounded by friends and family can reduce stress, and provide essential love and encouragement as you learn how to feed a new baby and deal with interrupted sleep patterns. If they offer to chip in, let them!
Having your loved ones help with babysitting so you can jump in the shower, run a quick errand, work on dinner, help out with household cleaning, and coming over just to hang out is a win for both of you. And when you’re ready, schedule time as a couple and get out of the house. Do something fun with the two of you. Even a walk down your road.
8. Sleep deprivation is a major adjustment that all first-time parents go through.
(Spoiler alert: it is a state that follows you even after your kids are grown adults.) Try making a schedule for who will stay up with the baby each night. It might sound more like sentry duty, but honestly, it’s not beneficial to anyone if both of you are trying to stay up together. That will only make for a parenting duo that feels like walking zombies. Consider splitting the shifts each night.
You could even alternate nights or you could divide each night into shifts such as 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. Flexibility and creativity will keep you connected to each other as you conquer those late nights.
9. It’s no secret to anyone that new parents may experience a major sexual disconnect.
It’s easy for one or both of you to get so wrapped up in taking care of the baby that sex with your partner may just not be on your mind. However, setting aside time for intimacy provides a valuable opportunity to emotionally connect with one another and also reduce stress.
You may feel awkward as you adjust to your postpartum body, Mom, but again, be patient with yourself and each other during this season. Being intimate with your partner can be a means of feeling like an adult rather than always being stuck in the role of a father/mother.
10. Try not to be critical of your partner’s way of being a parent.
Family backgrounds play into this as well. Remember that you’re both trying to figure this out for the first time. While learning and adjusting to your new roles as parents, avoid criticizing when certain things are not done the way that you would do them.
Something that is done differently is not necessarily done wrong. Things will not always be perfect nor will you do things the same way, and that’s okay! Have grace for your partner so that he/she will return the favor when you get the diaper on backward next time. Case in point:
I remember after our second child was born, my husband brought our toddler daughter in to see me. It had been only two days but it seemed like forever. Well, into my hospital room she pranced and Jim was so proud of himself that he had dressed her in this elaborate dress, jumper, and tights – but the smock was on backward! I laughed and commented – probably shouldn’t have. The important thing was that he had corralled a 15-month-old, to see her mom, and they were all in one piece!
11. Don’t forget romance and date nights after the baby is born!
Be creative. Picnic in. This is especially important if one parent is the one who is mostly staying home with the baby. Small gestures really do go a long way.
If you are working and out of the house for most of the day, consider bringing home flowers or chocolates from time to time. Call before leaving work and tell your partner not to worry about dinner – you will cook when you come home, or you’ll bring takeout home with you!
Authored by Carrie Harrison, Messiah University in collaboration with Amy Gilford, MREC. The work was adapted for use.
Hutton, L. (n.d.) 6 Tips to Help Your Marriage Survive a New Baby. Family Education.
Pacey, S. (2004). Couples and the first baby: responding to new parents’ sexual and relationship problems. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 19(3) 223-246.
Perry, C. (2019) How to Prepare Your Relationship for Baby. The Bump.
Turner-Zwinkels, F.M. (2020). (Mis-)Coordinating identities in the transition to parenthood: Investigating the co-development of partners’ parenting, domestic and provider identities before and after the birth of the first child. European Journal of Social Psychology, 50(1) p. 1-17.