The ultimate test on any relationship is having a child. You get lost in the excitement of having a baby that you don’t think about the ripple effect that will ensue when your little bundle of joy comes home. Aaron and I didn’t think to discuss the detailed logistics on how we were going to manage demanding careers and being parents. I think we just figured it would all fall into place since we were so confident, ready and prepared on the surface. We’ve gone through and handled so much over the 12 years we’ve been together that when we made the conscious decision to have a baby, we didn’t expect or foresee how this would impact us.
We’ve always had a clear understanding regarding our careers, finances, and most big decisions up to this point. We have dealt with stressful situations and have always been on the same page (for the most part) and united. We went into this life-altering decision with the same thought that this would be no different. Oh, how we would be in for a rude awakening.
The first few months of no sleep, hormones, stumbling through being new parents, crawling breastfeeding schedules and navigating our new normal hit our relationship like a freight truck. The couple who had been together forever and was known to be pretty level headed was almost unrecognizable.
How did this happen and how could one tiny human cause this much chaos? Honestly, it wasn’t Hayden. She’s a baby. It was the fact that through all of our excitement and anticipation we neglected to discuss what our roles would be when this became “real” and we had our baby in our arms.
Every couple has to learn how to navigate this new normal.
It is easy to feel shameful when you realize that the easy going relationship you once had seems to have shifted dramatically. Most couples paint this image that being new parents is a breeze. They don’t talk about all of the stresses that come with it. Every book and article I read about what to expect did not mention even a blip of how this could affect the couple. We were completely blindsided. I can honestly say that this was just a phase (at least it was for us). You will get through it but it will take some work.
Sometimes you need a fresh perspective.
I got to a point where I was I completely overwhelmed. I tried to open up to Aaron about this but being that most men instantly turn into “fixers,” it was hard for me to truly articulate what I was going through and needed. I decided I wanted to seek help and some perspective. I introduced a therapist into my weekly routine and once I got to a certain point I was able to get Aaron to go with me. This was the BEST thing for our relationship. It has given us the ability to have a neutral party guide us through effective ways to communicate while providing us a judgement free space to speak openly and candidly about our day to day experiences.
Communication is key!
In order to co-parent it’s imperative that you are on the same page. It is impossible to do that unless you are communicating about your feelings, opinions, wants and needs. Effective communication also requires you to be able to listen. If your key focus is on only arguing your position, you have backed yourselves into a corner and won’t be able to get out of it with mutual understanding. You won’t always agree but you should always at least be able to acknowledge and have empathy for the other person’s position. Communication can be hard and most people hate conflict. Many find it easier to avoid whatever the challenge might be. It is important that everyone understands that there are no winners and losers. Hayden (your child) is the winner! We do what’s best for her always and our egos will always have to take a backseat.
Resentment can be real on both sides.
Resentment builds when you are not able to communicate as a couple. It is not a productive emotion. You need to find out what is causing this reaction and how and what needs to be changed to resolve it. We were able to navigate through this by implementing structure to our day to day. There are aspects of each day that Aaron is responsible for and that I am responsible for. By clearly defining responsibility for certain elements of our daily routine, it allowed things to operate more cohesively.
Gender roles rear their ugly head.
When we decided to have Hayden, I expected all of the baby responsibilities to be split 50/50. Unfortunately, this can’t always be the case (especially when your breastfeeding). It was extremely difficult for me to watch my husband get praised for doing a small parenting task when on the flip side I was constantly getting ridiculed by people (not my husband) about working, how I was parenting or that I wasn’t doing enough. The day Aaron admitted that we weren’t operating in a situation that was 50/50 was the most validating day I’ve had since the baby was born. I felt like my hard work and ability to juggle it all was finally seen and recognized. From that day, Aaron has made significant steps to be involved more and lighten the load that’s placed on me. Hayden does go through phases where she wants me more and we have to pivot, but Aaron will help in other ways like cooking dinner or doing chores around the house to help balance things out.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
It was not until my therapist recommended we listen to Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability that I truly understood what this concept meant. On the surface, you think you are being vulnerable with your partner, but truly more often then not, we write our own stories and create our own narratives instead of communicating. If you haven’t watched her Ted Talks, I highly recommend you do. Most people walk away with a new perspective and their eyes open to behaviors that are holding them back. Aaron and I watched them together and discussed our takeaways. It was an extremely enlightening experience because it allowed us to connect on a deeper level and gave us an opportunity to naturally talk about more difficult topics.
Table an issue if it gets too heated.
Nothing ever gets resolved if both of you have your figurative boxing gloves up. When you get to this point, you have to be willing to table the topic and come back to it at another time. This took some practice, but it works for us most of the time because we have the ability to be in a better head space which allows for more rational thought.
Come up with a plan.
Structure is key! Although the chaos will never truly dissipate, transitioning the mayhem to being somewhat organized will help eliminate some stress. Aaron and I have a morning routine. We know who is responsible for drop off (Krystn) and pick up (Aaron) and we have her on a night time schedule as well. Each of us have our role each day. The structure has done wonders for us, our ability to communicate and our relationship overall. It is ever evolving but we at least have a solid foundation.
You both want what’s best for your child.
This is something that both Aaron and I try to never forget. We might disagree on a few parenting topics but it’s because we both want what’s best for Hayden. Conflict and parenting differences are inevitable. There is no way around this. However, by accepting that we are both coming from a great place (wanting what’s best for our daughter), we can be more open and understanding about the other person’s opinion.
You are more than just mom and dad.
You have to remember that your relationship is still important. You have to find time to do things as a couple without the baby. You need to be able to connect, talk and remember what makes you guys you. It’s easy to get lost in the busyness of it all. Once Aaron and I started making our relationship a priority, we started to feel like us again.