We do so much to prepare for the imminent arrival of a new baby, we think we have everything sussed. But how prepared are we for the huge changes and challenges in our relationship with our partner?
Of course not every family structure involves two parents of caregivers. But for those that do, the immense change in dynamic when a little one comes along is something that is rarely discussed in pregnancy and beyond.
And sleep, or the lack thereof, can play a large factor in this.
I asked a community of parents what their biggest struggles were and also what they found helped.
Disagreements, discord, resentment and jealousy
Emotions are heightened when sleep deprived. Simple suggestions can feel like criticism from your partner.
You may have differing opinions on how you want to approach your little one's sleep. One may want to sleep train and the other have a more responsive approach for example.
You may have disagreements over bed-sharing.
There can be jealousy or resentment over one partner getting more rest than the other.
There can also be jealousy or resentment over one partners life seemingly having had to change and shift less.
Reduction in physical and emotional closeness
You may not be sharing a bed with your partner due to bed-sharing or some other baby related reason. This may cause you to feel disconnected.
You sex life can decrease or momentarily not exist. This could be down to discomfort, tiredness, logistics, time, or not feeling your best self.
You may find you have no time alone with each other.
The can be a lack of adult conversation. It is common for all conversations to revolve around your new baby.
Some partners find themselves actually feeling jealous of the attention all being on baby.
So what can we do to help ourselves, our partner and our relationship?
Communication is key. Talk about how you're feeling and give your partner space to do the same.
Empathise. Understand that is hard for both of you and potentially in different ways.
Whatever is said in the middle of the night doesn't count. Don't hold grudges from half asleep, exhausted bickering.
Truly understand it's not a competition. Whether it be who is doing more or who is sleeping more. Parenting isn't a competitive sport.
Get out for walks together to talk in the fresh air and away from the house.
Prioritise who needs what more in that moment. If someone needs sleep more then orchestrate some rest for them.
Understand if one is an evening owl and one a morning lark and play to those strengths.
If one is solely in charge of night feeds and wakes, the other should take baby for a couple of hours first thing so the other can catch up.
Take turns for a proper lie in on the weekend when possible.
If one is breastfeeding, partner have their own specific roles like burping, nappy changes, baths etc.
Remember it's normal for your sex life to not be the same at first (or for quite a while). Whether it be tiredness, discomfort soon after birth, not feeling as confident in yourself, or feeling logistically you can't work out how or when.
Sex doesn't have to be limited to the bedroom. If you are bed-sharing and are not sure how and where to do it, remember that the floor, sofa, shower, hallway, kitchen counter etc still exist...
Schedule date nights. These don't need to be fancy and they don't even need to be out. But get a takeout, watch a movie, and have a cuddle (of any variety).
Trust in your partner to be able to take over. Sometimes the primary carer can find it hard to let go. You want help but also don't actually want it done by anyone else. I'ts okay if it's slightly different. You both love your little one and it's okay to let go of control sometimes.
And most importantly remember -
Your relationship has changed.
And that's okay.
Striving for your relationship or life to be exactly as it was pre baby will be a battle you won't win.
While there are struggles and challenges you can and should work on for your relationship, it's most helpful to navigate your new dynamic together. Rather than striving for what it was before.
It's exciting, boring at times, exhilarating, exhausting, fulfilling, draining and everything in between.
Empathise with each other.
You are both on the same team.
If you are worried about your little one's sleep and are struggling then hop over to my contact me page and drop me a message and we can discuss working together to make any changes you need. Or have a look at my packages to see what I offer.