Hopefully, you already read the post When Partners Become Parents, Part One. In that post, I share with you 6 realities that all parents should embrace about having children. Often setting realistic expectations together, in the beginning, helps prevent disappointment and disillusionment. This, in turn, makes the work and commitment of caring for your children and your partner easier. In this post, we are going to look at tips for how to meet the needs of each other while taking care of babies and young children.
Below are 6 specific actions you can take in the midst of parenting that can help sustain your relationship:
- Take turns when you can. One person taking on all of the tasks of caring for a baby or young children is too much. As much as you can show up for each other by sharing in changing, feeding, rocking, bouncing, getting up at night, dropping off or picking up, and the list that goes on and on…be there. Think of this time as your personal episodes of Survivor. The only people you would want on your team are the givers, the helpers, and the doers. Be those people for each other and you will win.
- Do it together. There are sweet moments to be found in the daily tasks if you are willing to make it a family affair. Bath time was a favorite for my husband and I when our kids were little. I have warm memories of the songs we made up, the bubbles and splashing, and snuggles in a warm towel at the end. It can be easy and sometimes necessary to divide and conquer the household duties but don’t forget to also turn mundane moments into long-term memories.
- No pity parties. Complaining doesn’t make anything easier. It is hard to want to help your partner when all they are doing is complaining. Being direct, simple and sincere is a better approach. Try on the statement, “This is hard, so I need (__________) right now”. You fill in the blank: help, a break, to slow down, to order take out, to take a day off, to stay home tonight, for us to talk, to feel sexy or wanted, to be heard. Loss of sleep, not eating well, being stressed and overwhelmed, and having too many demands does not make good parents or partners. So if you find yourself and your relationship in this place, it is time to focus on active solutions, not the lingering problems.
- Ask for help. I think sometimes parents wait too long to ask for help. Whether it is getting a babysitter for a long overdue date or getting professional support for issues like sleeping, eating, or behavior challenges. You are never a failure if you ask for help. Raising a child is one of those learning on the job careers that you only become good at after doing it, so talk to people that have done it already. Build a circle of support with key helpers like a good pediatrician, child educator, other moms and dads in your same boat, family and friends with energy to share, and a solid babysitter on call.
- Think outside the box. I have met many mothers, mostly mothers, (and I was one myself) who just like to do it their way. Their way is easier, it gets stuff done faster and let’s be honest, it’s the “right” way. But when this approach to parenting is pursued while simultaneously complaining or suffering needlessly it doesn’t work. Stretching your comfort zone of preferred to possible is highly suggested. So what if someone else takes over and things aren’t perfect, take longer or are done differently. Believe me, your child will be FINE. And by letting go, taking a break, and depending on some else, you may get some long needed rest and refreshment.
- This too shall pass. Children grow up, guaranteed. I know it can feel like forever some days, but these days will end. Over time children become more and more independent and their needs change from intensive and hands on to supportive and on the sidelines. Keeping the perspective that this season of erratic sleeping, weird eating, or other concerning habits will end is important. Hold on; it’s all gonna be alright!
The years when children are little tend to be quite taxing on couples. When I have worked with couples in this stage I encourage them to focus on the micro moments with each other and make these moments positive. This is my encouragement for you today!
Until we meet again—Love each other well