When having a new baby or trying for a baby, we can get really caught up in all the exciting aspects of it – the nursery, the name, the teeny tiny baby clothes – it’s a super exciting time!
But at the same time, it’s also important to look past the excitement and look long and hard at the realities of the situation. Sitting down and having a serious conversation with your partner about the changes that will happen and the expectations you both have is essential for a smooth parenting transition process.
It’s an intense and life-altering experience, so having a set of rules that you can refer back to when the more emotional side of things is happening later on is always a good plan to priorities your relationship and the baby’s welfare.
Here are some topics you should touch on before baby arrives:
What will the workload realistically look like?
Having a baby – and raising a child generally – is hard work. They require so much from their caregivers even after the newborn and early years stages that it’s essential to have a talk about how you will divide duties. If one of you is working and the other decides to be a stay-at home parent, the working parent still needs to have an input into childcare. Or if both of you want to return to work, how will you manage that child workload between you?
What do you each classify as work when it comes to your children? Who does the night feeds and what takes priority – fairness or your partner’s other responsibilities? This may seem like nitty-gritty, unimportant stuff right now, but in the moment when you’re resenting your spouse for not changing nappies or doing night feeds as often as you do, it matters hugely for your relationship. Hammer out the fine details and stick to them, remembering you’re always on the same side.
What kind of access, support and input will your respective parents have?
Parents and parents-in-law can be the stuff of dreams and nightmares when a new baby arrives. They can be a hub of support or they can be an overbearing influence in your lives. It’s important to establish what kind of relationship and boundaries you want to have in place with them when baby arrives. That way, you and your partner have discussed this before it becomes a problem and you’re on the same page about how much access and input the child’s grandparents will have.
What lifestyle changes are you willing to compromise on?
Your lifestyle will inevitably change, but you already know that. But again, it’s the small, simple things that will change that you don’t realise are a problem until they’re staring you in the face. Do you expect your partner to give up their weekly drinks with their friends for the first while and are you willing to give up on your nights away with friends in return? Are they okay with that? What level of social life can you maintain while still supporting one another and prioritising baby’s wellbeing? What time can you set aside for each other to access your own support systems and also spend time with each other?
How will your sex life change?
After having a baby – even before having a baby! – your body will change. For a lot of women, physical intimacy is difficult to start up again for several weeks or even months after having baby. Their bodies need time to recover and their partner has to be aware that it’s not rejection, it’s just healing time. This can be difficult for both parties and with lack of sleep also becoming an issue after baby arrives, it’s important to be sure to set expectations going into this journey.
Discuss the intricacies how you want to raise your kids
Everything from discipline to traditions to education to religion. We all had different upbringings, so what we might accept as standard parenting is not necessarily our partners experience. You may want your child to go to a single-gendered school because you had a great experience in one but your partner may want bolster your child’s social skills in a mixed school. Maybe your family did big Christmas celebrations and had everyone over, whereas your spouse may like a quieter more intimate family Christmas – it’s all about compromising and working on your vision of your family together. What’s really essential in all these discussions is to remember you’re on the same team.