Bringing a baby into your home for the first time is a daunting experience. Unfortunately little babies don’t come with a ‘how to’ manual so first time parenting is a game of trial and error. Often these beginning stages create stress in the relationship as the couple learns to adjust to the new role of parenting. Here are a few tips that may be useful to new parents in adjusting to their new roles and coping with the stresses that parenting brings.
1. Take care of yourselves:
Having a baby in the house is demanding to say the least and often so much energy is spent on taking care of the new born that the parents forget to take care of themselves. Time seems to run away with you, and with the all the new demands placed on you, you forget to put a decent meal on your plate. Make sure that you are eating properly and drinking enough water. This may seem like an insignificant piece of advice, but the health of your family depends on the health of the parents.
2. Be kind to yourselves:
Relax your standards a bit in the early days. It is not important to have a spotless house and be the super hostess every time someone pops in to visit you and your baby. You have enough to take care of at this stage – relax and let it go. Be gentle with one another too. Adjusting to the new parenting role with all its demands can be overwhelming and tensions may run high. Understand that lack of sleep often results in a lack of humour and new parents often find themselves being short or snapping at each other. Remember you are in this together and you are each other’s best support.
3. Maintain perspective:
Bringing the new born home and navigating your way through feeds, diaper changes, colic, reflux and the host of potential problems that new parents face can be extremely daunting. Maintain perspective and remind yourselves that this too shall pass and very soon things will settle down into a comfortable routine.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. One of the most important things you can do as new parents is to ask your friends and family for help. If someone offers to cook you a meal, accept it. If your mother-in-law offers to watch baby for a bit so that you and your partner can go out for a cup of coffee, accept it. If you need someone to go and collect the laundry, make sure you ask for the help you need.
5. Get some sleep:
Lack of sleep reduces your emotional resources to cope with stress and anxiety. The less sleep you have the less likely you are to take potential problems in your stride. Make sure that you and your partner get some rest even if that means playing tag and taking turns in watching or feeding the baby.
6. Get quality time with your partner
As much as you are parents now, you are also still a couple and it is really important that you find the time to connect with one another on a level other than parenting. Make sure you get some quality time with your partner, even if it is only for an hour after baby has gone to sleep. As tired as you may be at this point, try not to turn the T.V. on and rather have a conversation, eat a meal together or have a glass of wine together. Eventually, when baby is old enough to get a babysitter in, make sure you take some well-deserved time out for a date night.
7. Make time for physical intimacy
Make sure that you and your partner are physically intimate. It is really difficult to re-establish yourselves as a couple without this dimension to your relationship. Yes, it is not easy in the beginning, so make sure that you don’t expect too much and that you are gentle with one another in terms of your expectations here. Ultimately making time for this means that you are on the road to being able to juggle your roles as parents and being a couple.
8. Get some personal time out
Taking on the new demands of parenting is exhausting. Many new parents find it draining having to be emotionally available for one another as well as taking on the role of being a parent. In this sense, it is important that you also get some time out for yourself. Perhaps you can take a half an hour where you can relax in a bath undisturbed, or simply go for a walk. The point is that you need to be alone for a bit where no one needs anything from you and you can just regroup.
9. Get a life
Eventually you are going to have to get back into the social scene. Having a new born is all absorbing and many new parents don’t even think about going out, but it is important that you also have a social life. Being able to socialize with others gives you a much needed distraction from the all-consuming job that is parenting. Socializing with other new parents will make it easier as you all share a common experience.
10. Know when to ask for professional help
If you continue to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and find that being a new parent simply has no joy in it you may need to get professional help. Post Natal Depression is common in new moms and dads and it is important to notice when things are simply too much for you. Individual psychotherapy or couples counseling can be very helpful to help you navigate the new demands and challenges, and to adjust to the new roles as parents.
It’s normal to have difficulties in the transition to a new family. We can help – you can contact our San Francisco couples counselors, or any of our other locations – Palo Alto couples counselors, Berkeley marriage counselors etc.