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
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…