Help me Sara: How to bridge the transition from couple to parents


Our first child was born two months ago and I feel as if my husband and
I have been drifting apart. I thought that having a baby would bring us
closer, but the opposite has happened. Is this normal and what can we
do to feel more connected in the months to come? Help me Sara!

Answer:

What you are sharing is typical of most new
parents’ relationships. So much has changed
over the past couple of months. The months
that you “grew” your baby likely drew you
even closer to one another – attending doctor’s
appointments, hearing your baby’s heartbeat
for the fi rst time, watching your baby move in
utero during ultrasound visits, holding hands
atop your belly as you felt your baby move over
the months leading up to the birth. Then, after
your baby was born, your bubble of basking in
the glow of pregnancy burst. Although you now
hold this miracle of life in your hands, you are
also feeling the exhaustion all new parents feel.

You are living in a world where your baby
knows no difference between day and night.
You likely get no more than four to six hours of
sleep at any time, if you are lucky. Sometimes
you may not shower until someone gives
you some respite so that you can take care
of yourself for 20 minutes. If this intense
and dramatic lifestyle shift wasn’t enough of
a shock, your hormones are chopping and
changing from one day to the next. The last
thing you feel like doing when you fi nally fall
into bed is giving more of yourself to another
human being – physically or emotionally.

So, often dads feel neglected. Their lives often
return to pre-baby – sometimes causing moms
to feel a little resentful – and when they are at
home, they sometimes feel that they are in the
way. Dads see that you are trying to establish a
routine. Not having as much experience with
the baby, they sometimes feel that they are more
hindrance than help. They yearn to be close to
you but are sometimes pushed away because
you’re getting all the physical contact you need
– especially if you’re breastfeeding.

What to do

Talk to each other. If you’re feeling cranky
because you’re overtired, or are resentful that
your husband is socializing with friends after
work, tell him. Ask your husband how he
is feeling, too. Even if you think that he’s an
amazing help when he’s home and that how
you’re feeling is not his fault, it’s normal to
feel somewhat disconnected as you begin to
redefi ne your roles as a family of three.

Don’t treat dad as a babysitter. Although you
may be the primary caregiver, step aside to
allow dad to fi nd his way and gain confi dence.
He may not be as comfortable as you because he
doesn’t have as much opportunity to practise,
but encourage his involvement and make sure
he knows his participation in your child’s life is
as important as yours. Don’t make the mistake
of thinking that you’re the only one who can
look after your child – you’re a team.

Find a babysitter, even for a short outing. Go
out for breakfast or even run some errands
together the way you used to. Even if you can’t
get out, try to schedule some time while your
baby is sleeping to reconnect. Making time for
one another by sharing a bubble bath, giving
each other a foot massage or even watching
a movie at home can help bridge the gap. Be
gentle and patient with one another and in time
you will feel more like you used to.

Sara Dimerman is a Psychologist, author and parenting expert in the Greater Toronto Area. Read more at helpmesara.com.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May/June 2013.

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