Having a baby changes everything. By the time your little one arrives, you’ll have heard plenty of advice and anecdotes about babies ruining lives and marriages. Let’s face it, we’re a less family centric culture than we were in the 1950’s. Raising kids competes with the time you spend at work and with your partner.
So, here’s the bad news: choosing to have a baby can destroy an already unstable relationship. The good news is: it doesn’t have to.
Here are the five golden rules for preserving your relationship after having a baby:
1. Ignore the competition.
Having a baby opens up a whole new world of judgment and competition. Relatives, friends, and the general public will critique and criticize every decision you make when raising your little one. Your mother-in-law will insist that only public school really prepares your child for the real world and your mother will swear that sending your child anywhere but a top dollar private school will be a surefire way to turn them into a criminal by the age of 12.
Not only can you never completely make everyone happy, it places a great deal of stress on your relationship with your partner. If you take sides and argue in private about every detail of raising your child, communication will soon be replaced by animosity. Treat raising your child the same way you’d treat any other project. Discuss your options and agree on a path that works for you. Listen to objections, but don’t let them run your life.
2. Don’t be a perfectionist.
Today’s parents are pressured to be perfect. Many parents treat their children’s schedules like a general treats a battle plan. Sports, social events, studying, and other activities have to be carefully executed. Meals must be 100% organic and homemade. Mom and dad must never lose their cool. Dad must make a minimum of 60K/year and mom should always be thin, beautiful, and perfectly put together. All of those expectations create a recipe for a nightmare.
The pressure to be a perfect parent can quickly alienate your partner. You’ll spend so much time keeping up with the latest expectations that you won’t have time to simply enjoy alone time or time as a family. Here’s the simple truth: planning ahead is a useful skill, obsessing on perfection isn’t. Don’t be afraid to stay home for an evening. Go for that 60K/year job because you want to, not because you feel pressed to buy the latest clothes and gaming systems.
3. Learn to delegate.
Many first-time parents have trouble accepting help from friends, family, and even each other. One new mother I spoke to told me that she worried so much that her husband wouldn’t sterilize the bottles properly that she wouldn’t let him feed their son. Fathers often feel cut out of the loop when it comes to taking care of the baby. This lack of trust can potentially hurt your relationship.
Accepting offers of help from family, including free childcare while you go out on a date, can help you acclimate to your new role as parents.
4. Make your relationship with your partner your first priority.
Studies show that children are happiest when they’re raised in a stable family environment. Letting your children become the center of your relationship can cause more problems than it solves. You had a relationship with your partner before having a child. Keeping parts of your relationship separate from your children guards against growing apart. Relationships require time and maintenance. Schedule a date night a few times a month so that you have time to regroup and connect as a couple. If you can’t afford a baby sitter, watch a movie together, play video games, or do some other fun activity after the kids are in bed.
5. Watch for signs of trouble.
If you start to sense a distance forming between yourself and your partner, work to fix it before it becomes irreparable. There will always be a reason to avoid discussing your problems. While it may be tempting to lose yourself in your kids and job, your relationship won’t maintain itself.
Having children doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship if you work to make your relationship with your partner a priority.
Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and degree programs. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.