One of the things that I was most unsure about with the arrival of Liam was how becoming parents would change Mike’s and my relationship. I knew we would both change and grow immensely in our individual roles as mom and dad, but wondered how we could change as parents, coming together to care for our baby. Being over three months in, I can honestly say that becoming a mom, and doing it with Mike as “dad”, has been one of the great joys of my life. It hasn’t been without its difficulties and bumps in the road, but it was a smoother transition than I anticipated. Some of that has to do with Liam being a good baby – he’s never been very fussy or super high maintenance. He has a sweet and gentle demeanor and has been without any major health or development issues. But I also think I should give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the work that Mike and I did to make that transition smooth.
A focal point in our marriage, especially in the last year or so, has been communication. Sharing our feelings, frustrations, expectations, and more has helped greatly in feeling heard and valued, as well as mitigating potential arguments and conflict. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t see eye to eye on everything and still have miscommunications about things, but we’ve come a long way since the beginning of our dating relationship! In the final weeks of my pregnancy, as we were all excitedly anticipating Liam’s arrival, I remember my sister and her husband telling us both to remember to be on the same page with one another when it comes to parenting. No matter what our decisions would be in our role as parents, we needed to be on the same page. We may have differing opinions on what the decision should be, but we need to make sure that we are both willing to move forward with said decision together. From the 2am wake-ups and wondering who is “on duty” to how we chose to feed him, that has proven to be very true.
On top of communicating in general terms, I’m big on setting my expectations accordingly. I’m a planner by nature. I like to know what’s going to happen when. It’s how I’ve always been, although I’ve learned to relax a bit since Mike and I got married. He’s very go with the flow and laidback about things. I think we’ve impacted each other positively – I’ve helped him plan ahead better, and he’s helped me to realize that flexibility is very important.
So, to the single most important thing that Mike and I did for ourselves and our marriage since becoming parents: communicating our expectations for the day/night/Liam’s care. It’s safe to say that Mike and I both don’t really thrive with minimal sleep. We have a smaller amount of patience, tend to become more self-focused (I.e. when am I going to get to rest), and our communication takes a hit. From the first day that we were home, we started verbalizing our plan for the night, as well as what we wanted/needed from the day. Before we would go to bed in the evening, we would talk through what our plan was. For example, I’d be “on duty” sleeping in our room with Liam from 10p-2a, then switch and let Mike take over for a few hours so that I could get some sleep. Then I’d get up with Liam to feed him, hang with him for a little while, and switch again, so that I could get another nap in.
We did the same thing for the daytime, too. If I felt like I needed to get out of the house for a walk or to run an errand, I would tell Mike in the morning that I hoped to get to do that, so that he could try to make it happen for me. And I did the same for him when he needed a break or a nap. For me, it was helpful to have him verbalize to me what he needed, so that I could make it happen for him, instead of him surprising me with trying to get out of the house when I was hoping he would take over for a little while so I could do something. Having a plan for the day and night (while allowing for it to change, of course) made for much less frustration and tension because we knew what to expect.
We still do this today. We have a tentative plan for our weeks, but we’re always communicating about what we need or want to do during the week and/or days, even if it’s as simple as spending 30 minutes to clean up the house or get a quick workout in.
While this exact situation may not work for every family, depending on other children, work, etc., the basic principle will. Communicate your expectations. And know that not everything will work out how you want, but that’s okay. You can try again tomorrow. It will make a world of a difference!