Marriage is hard. That is a universal truth. Parenting is also hard. Both require time and dedication and constant work to better oneself and the family unit. Adding a new baby to the mix, even if it isn’t your first, changes the game and changes the dynamic between you and your partner. It becomes more of a challenge to spend time together alone. And when you do find time, it is difficult to have enough energy to focus on your partner, or to not want to spend your free time catching up around the house.
When bringing a new baby home, it is important to be conscious of the changes that will occur in your marriage. Understand that the new baby will run the show for a little bit and that is okay! And of course, there are also the challenges of hormone changes, sleep deprivation, and the aches and pains of recovery from childbirth. With all that you have going on, working on your marriage might be low on the priority list. But investing time in your partner should be one of, if not the most, important things. After all, your marriage relationship is the foundation of your household. When your spouse and you are communicating and feeling loved by each other, the rest of your home life is a little easier to manage.
As a new mom, it is easy to feel like the burden of caring for your new child is solely on your shoulders (especially if you are a nursing mama!). It can be overwhelming. Caring for children truly does take a village – you don’t have to do it alone! Sharing the load and partnering with your spouse in parenting early on will save your sanity and benefit everyone in your home.
Take Care of Yourself
If you are on a crashing airplane, the first thing the flight attendants tell you is to put your own oxygen mask on first before attempting to help other passengers. What a good metaphor for parenting! Yes, as a parent, we love our children more than ourselves. These little helpless beings are so dependent upon us for their every need and can be super demanding. When caring for little ones, especially newborns, very often we forget to care for ourselves. Nutrition, exercise, alone time, and sometimes even hygiene, are sacrificed so that we can be everything for our kids. But, you cannot continue to give to your family if you are running on empty. The best thing you can do for your children and spouse is to take care of yourself.
Make sure you are getting adequate nutrition, water, and sleep. This requires a little bit of planning and preparation in the early weeks and months of parenting. Sleep is so vital to so many functions of your body. It is a NEED. Ask for help with the baby so that you can nap. Prep simple meals ahead of time and share the load of feeding the family with your spouse. Nursing mothers, your milk supply can be negatively affected, rather quickly, from low calorie intake and dehydration. Make these things a priority. You will feel better and have more to give to your family without feeling drained.
Plan and Prep
Stay organized and plan ahead. Meal planning and a solid daily routine can help you find a few minutes for yourself in a day. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE! Have meetings with your spouse to go over the happenings of the next week and make sure that you are on the same page. Check in with each other daily to communicate your plans and needs that day with each other. When you have a system in place for time efficiency in your household, you can spend any remaining time at the end of the day relaxing as a couple or caring for yourself, both vital things for a healthy marriage.
Plan date nights. Pump a little extra breast milk, and give yourselves two to three hours together away from home. To make it even easier, plan a date night ahead of time. Plan where you will go and what you will do, and pick out your outfits. Have the date idea on standby for when you are able to get a reliable babysitter. There are lots of ideas for date nights at home, too. My husband and I will watch a television series together on Netflix after the kids are in bed, or make special meals together. It doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be time carved out for just the two of you.
Give yourselves three months to get the groove back in your marriage. I have referred to the first three months of a newborns life as the “fourth trimester.” It really does take that long to get to know your baby and to develop a new routine for your family. During these first weeks and months, show grace and kindness to your spouse in small ways to make up for the lack of time alone together. A note in a purse or briefcase, a treat picked up at the grocery store, a foot rub. Little things keep the spark going in your relationship when you are each seconds away from burnout.
As important as time together is, it is just as important to have time for yourselves as individuals. Give each other alone time and time with friends. Support each other’s needs for developing hobbies, exercise, and maintaining a sense of self. Encourage your partner and remind them to prioritize their physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Don’t take your marriage for granted. A healthy marriage doesn’t just happen – you and your partner have to choose to put each other first every day, even when it’s hard, even when you don’t want to. As a mother, it is sometimes hard to see outside your children’s needs. But, one day, your children will grow up and have their own lives. When that day comes, you don’t want your spouse to be a stranger. Stay connected and make your relationship a priority. Remember that you are a woman and a wife, as well as an individual. And remember that mothering is hard, and marriage is hard. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be present.