Re­solve con­flicts with your part­ner

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS - says Sarah Ivens

The height­ened emo­tion and lack of sleep of new par­ent­hood leaves many of us on edge and grumpy. In­evitably, we take it out on our part­ners. Be­lieve me, I know. When I wasn’t star­ing lov­ingly at the beau­ti­ful baby we’d created to­gether, I spent my first six months as a new mum glar­ing at my hus­band Rahul, dar­ing him to breathe. I turned into an eye-rolling, sar­cas­m­drip­ping mon­ster. Was it my hor­mones or had Rahul be­come the most ir­ri­tat­ing per­son on the planet? I felt hor­ri­bly mean, but to­tally jus­ti­fied in my con­stant nit-pick­ing. With hind­sight, I can see there were five ar­eas of con­flict that fast be­came the cor­ner­stones of our day-to-day life. If they’re a fa­mil­iar part of your re­la­tion­ship too, here’s how to re­solve them quickly and calmly.

“I want to do it my own way”

THE PROB­LEM You were brought up with one style of par­ent­ing by your par­ents, while your hus­band was raised by your in­laws in a dif­fer­ent way. Breast-fed or bot­tle-raised, strict or laid-back, over-pro­tec­tive or in­de­pen­dent—there’s a clash of cul­tures and you both think you’re the one in the right.

THE SO­LU­TION “Par­ent­ing isn’t about do­ing the right thing for you as adults, it’s about cre­at­ing the best en­vi­ron­ment for your child,” says UK-based psy­chother­a­pist Aaron Bal­ick. “At the be­gin­ning of your re­la­tion­ship, you and your part­ner both had to ac­cept dif­fer­ent styles of re­lat­ing (per­haps one of you is open, the other pri­vate). You now have to learn to un­der­stand and ac­cept op­pos­ing ideas about par­ent­ing too. If there’s a dif­fer­ence in style, dis­cuss it like adults, pri­vately, and agree on a united ap­proach. Put your child at the cen­tre of the par­ent­ing ques­tion at hand. Then think of your­selves as a team com­ing up with the best so­lu­tion for her. This will take you away from a ‘who is right’ ap­proach and of­fer a ‘what is right for your child’ al­ter­na­tive.”

“I’m do­ing most of the work”

THE PROB­LEM You’ve both be­come ac­cus­tomed to play­ing the new-par­ent vic­tim. Who’s the most tired? Who’s changed the most nap­pies? Who most de­serves a night out?

THE SO­LU­TION “One of the best in­gre­di­ents in a re­la­tion­ship is mu­tual recog­ni­tion and grat­i­tude,” says Aaron. “Just try say­ing, ‘You cleaned up the kitchen tonight, thanks.’ Work of all kinds should be val­ued and, if you feel your other half isn’t hold­ing up his side of the bar­gain, re­spect­fully chal­lenge him. And re­mem­ber, a fair divi­sion of labour doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you both do ex­actly the same tasks.”

“It’s my mum’s turn to look af­ter her”

THE PROB­LEM If you are close to your im­me­di­ate fam­ily, but your part­ner is less, so you can be left with very dif­fer­ent no­tions of how much you want grand­par­ents around. Then there’s the whole ‘your mum ver­sus’ ‘his mum’ is­sue. You may feel most com­fort­able leav­ing your baby with your own mother, rather than your mother-in-law. But your part­ner may not think this is fair. THE SO­LU­TION “Try not to act strictly out of obli­ga­tion to your par­ents, as this can breed re­sent­ment,” ad­vises Aaron. “You and your part­ner must both be hon­est with your­selves about your feel­ings, dis­cuss them, and de­cide what you want to do. It’s not un­com­mon for new mums and dads to be jeal­ous of their own par­ents’ or in-laws’ re­la­tion­ships with their chil­dren—many feel their par­ents are nicer to their grand­chil­dren than they were to them! While we are all likely to have is­sues with our own par­ents, it’s im­por­tant to let your child, as much as pos­si­ble, form her own unique re­la­tion­ship with her grand­par­ents. Come to the com­pro­mise that works best for every­one, in­clud­ing your child.”

“Can’t the baby sleep in the nurs­ery?”

THE PROB­LEM In the first few weeks when you’re wak­ing up to feed your baby ev­ery cou­ple of hours, it’s nor­mal to have her crib next to your bed. But it’s also com­mon for your part­ner to think this dis­rupts sleep for all of you. THE SO­LU­TION “Com­bat tired­ness in other ways,” says Aaron. “Eat well, stay hy­drated and grab naps when you can. Be clear about your and the baby’s needs. Don’t ex­pect your part­ner to read your mind. Ex­plain just why it is that you need your baby next to you—prac­ti­cally and emo­tion­ally.”

“But what about me?”

THE PROB­LEM You’ve been so busy feed­ing, chang­ing and get­ting to know your new baby, you’ve for­got­ten about the other pre­cious be­ing in your life— your man. He’s start­ing to whine that you no longer pay him any at­ten­tion and you know deep down he’s right. THE SO­LU­TION “It’s a fact that things won’t be the same once you have a baby,” says Aaron. “But this doesn’t mean mea­sures can’t be taken to stop your baby from dom­i­nat­ing every­one’s lives. Your lit­tle one comes first, but make time to en­gage with each other. Call in the troops from time to time. Con­tinue to book dates and time-outs from par­ent­ing, so you re­mem­ber how you get on as a cou­ple. You would be sur­prised what a din­ner date once or twice a month will do to re­ju­ve­nate your part­ner­ship.”

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