Hap­pily mar­ried, baby and all

When you con­ceive, the tim­ing is some­times off; you’ve just reached your ideal weight or just hit that com­fort­able bal­ance as new­ly­weds. Fas­ten your seat belts as the joy ride be­gins, writes Su­san Sa­muel

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

JUST WHEN YOU think you get each other, and that you’ve reached a com­fort­able bal­ance in your mar­riage – a pos­i­tive preg­nancy test ar­rives and changes ev­ery­thing.

Sud­denly you have to make new rules, start ne­go­ti­a­tions all over again, and find a bal­ance be­tween the needs of the new lit­tle dar­ling and the other, older dar­ling… The birth of a baby sends shock­waves through most mar­riages, but hang in there – if you han­dle it well, the best years of your life to­gether are yet to come!

HERE ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP: EQUALLY DI­VIDE THE CHORES

There are a few things that put a mar­riage to a test; con­stant bick­er­ing about do­mes­tic mat­ters is one of them.

Par­ent­ing is hard work, and there are myr­iad tasks that have to be done ev­ery day above and be­yond the usual do­mes­tic chores. Dis­cuss be­fore­hand how you’ll di­vide things up and if you’ll ac­cept out­side help. Once baby is there, this di­vi­sion has to be re­vised and de­fined on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. You’ll soon re­alise which chores can be clus­tered to­gether, which you en­joy and which are ex­haust­ing.

Re­mem­ber, it’s a de­mand­ing job to be a stay-at-home par­ent. It has no fi­nan­cial re­ward but many prac­ti­cal and emo­tional ben­e­fits for the chil­dren. So keep that in mind when the chores are di­vided up. It’s all good and well if dad also wants to get up at night and take care of some of the feeds, but if he has a de­mand­ing job that gen­er­ates the only house­hold in­come, it may be bet­ter to pri­ori­tise a good night’s rest for him.

He could rather make sure to get home in the early evening in­stead to be there for bath­time. Also re­mem­ber to mix things up on week­ends. Take turns sleep­ing in, wash­ing bot­tles and chang­ing the morn­ing nappy.

MAKE TIME FOR RO­MANCE

It’s amaz­ing how par­ent­hood sud­denly takes up 99% of your mar­riage and el­bows out the rest to a mea­gre 1%. It’s com­pletely un­der­stand­able dur­ing the first cou­ple of weeks when you’re get­ting used to the new nor­mal, but it’s not a state of af­fairs that should per­sist.

Un­for­tu­nately things don’t just re­cover on their own, and it’s im­por­tant that you im­prove on that 1% to a fig­ure with which you’re both okay.

If you make an ef­fort from the be­gin­ning to cre­ate space in which you’re not just par­ents but lovers too, you can avoid many prob­lems later. Iden­tify the things that made you hap­pi­est as a young cou­ple and make space for these in your daily or weekly sched­ule.

A weekly din­ner date, cheap movies on Tues­days, jog­ging or play­ing squash in the morn­ing, work­ing in the gar­den on Satur­day morn­ings, go­ing to church on Sun­day evenings – what­ever makes you hold hands in­stinc­tively and re­minds you of the flame (which just flick­ers faintly on some days).

Use your in­fra­struc­ture – grannies, child min­ders, and neigh­bours – and make time for each other. Even if you’re tired or don’t re­ally feel like it in the be­gin­ning, don’t suc­cumb and can­cel the date. It should en­joy the same at­ten­tion as a dirty nappy.

GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE

Just like you have to en­joy time to­gether, it’s also nec­es­sary to some­times have some time alone.

Give each other the time to de­velop other in­ter­ests. Time to bath alone, read, play golf, write or paint, sew or do some car­pen­try, time to read the pa­per – these are all things that are re­lax­ing and give you strength to be a bet­ter par­ent and a bet­ter part­ner.

Be care­ful that this alone time does not be­come self­ish. If you say you’re tak­ing the af­ter­noon to play golf, don’t re­turn in bad shape late at night. If you want to take a 30-minute bath, don’t end up soak­ing for three hours. Be mind­ful of each other, and make sure it’s not only one part­ner claim­ing her or his alone time.

The con­flict be­tween a dad who works all day and a mom who looks af­ter the kids all day and is tired of them is an age-old one. De­cide how you’re go­ing to han­dle it with­out run­ning down one part­ner’s ex­haus­tion as in­signif­i­cant. And time in front of the tele­vi­sion or in a shop­ping cen­tre should never be viewed as “me” time…

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