A new baby brings a lot of joy as your family grows but also can bring a lot of change to the dynamic of the couple. Navigating those changes can be challenging and fraught with a lot of trial and error. There is no manual to tell you how the changes are going to affect you as a couple; leaving the journey through parenthood to seem overwhelming at times. Navigating parenthood while still finding time for each other takes practice, mindfulness, and a little bit of tender loving care.
Below you will find 10 tips to help you start this journey into parenthood while still finding time for you and your partner to grow as a couple.
1. 10 minute download
As a couple try dedicate at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted talk time to each other per day where your focus is solely on your partner and their experiences or feelings. This isn’t a place for solving problems or offering solutions but just 10 minutes of focused and active listening.
As a couple or family, try and set a few nights in the week where you sit down together and eat a meal. This may even be the place where you can also incorporate your 10 minute download for that day but remember 10 minute download should be uninterrupted. If baby is at the table with you just use the time as your family gathering time. Also keep in mind that dinner doesn’t have to be an obligation to cook but rather a place to gather and connect so paper plates and Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches will do just fine.
Finding balance between self, family, and spouse is almost always a challenge when there is a new baby. Sometimes it can even seem easier to support self-care in your spouse than yourself but practice giving yourself and your partner permission to have self-care each day. While self-care is an individual focused task, the couple and family benefits from a spouse or parent who feels fulfilled and reenergized. Supporting each other through self-care requires communication and takes practice and mindfulness. Start small and work up to bigger and more fulfilling self-care moments as it will get easier with time and practice.
This is one of those tips that will pay off for years to come. Not only will your child benefit from consistent full nights of sleep but as a couple you will find some much needed time in the evening to connect with each other after the kids are in bed and before you head off to sleep yourself. Take some time and figure out the sleep schedule of your baby to the best of your ability and try and find a bedtime that works for your family and then stick with it. The reward is some quality parent time after the baby is asleep.
5. Date night
Date nights can be tricky when you have a newborn but practice getting in the habit of making time for you as a couple on a regular basis.
Start small: Use nap time to connect and enjoy each other, have dinner delivered and sit down together at the table. Or just rent a movie at home and relish in the adult time when possible. As you get better at carving out time for the two of you and you feel comfortable leaving your baby with a sitter, you can start venturing on a date night out. It is also good to be mindful of how much time you allow your child to come with you on the date and limit the amount of time you dedicate to talking about them. It is easy to imagine that you likely could talk about your children all night long and love every minute of it but date night isn’t about your children, it’s about you as a couple so set a limit and let the rest of the night be about the two of you.
6. Get out
Sometimes having a baby means finding different ways of being together. It is really easy to get stuck at home because there is always something that needs to be done. This is how a couple can easily get stuck in doing things together but not in a way that nurtures the relationship. So find a way to get out of the house and do something that isn’t chore related. Put the baby in the pram and walk around the block. Get up in the morning and walk to the nearest coffee shop and enjoy a cup of coffee. Maybe even peruse the local farmers market and plan that evening’s meal together. The possibilities are endless but be mindful of getting stuck in the “doing chores together” trap. Chores are important and should be shared but they are not necessarily nurturing to the relationship of you as a couple.
7. Tag out
Some days are just harder than others, so learn to read your spouse and learn how to tag them out and let them have a much needed moment. A common scenario is mom has been home with her newborn all day and dad has been as the office all day. Both are looking for some relief at the end of the day and both are hoping for that relief will come from their spouse. The trick is to find a way to honor both of your needs at the end of the day and learn to read when one might need a little more than the other.
If you walk in and mom is holding a screaming baby and looking frazzled you might try walking over to her, kissing her hello, take the baby and say “I got this, go take a moment to yourself”. If dad walks in from his day and has that look that tells you it’s been a day, walk over, kiss him hello and say “I got this, go take a moment to yourself”. What is common in both scenarios is that both parents are looking for that end of day decompression, and that end of day decompression is no longer the same after baby and some days are just harder than others; so learn to read your partner and learn to tag out or in when it’s needed.
8. The village
When it was just the two of you, your village plays a very different role in your lives. After having your baby, you may begin to realize that your village as it is isn’t able to support you in the same way and that it’s time to reach out and expand those who are encompassed in your village. It is a valuable part of parenthood and can be valuable in supporting the both of you as a family and as a couple.
9. Keep the niceties
It is easy with lack of sleep and the stress of a changing home life to forget about the niceties. It is important to make a conscious effort to remember the please and thank you’s. By doing so, you are focusing on all those little things your spouse is doing that is meant to be helpful and acknowledging that you see their efforts.
Lastly and most importantly, laugh. Parenting is hard and finding time for you as a couple is even harder so remember to laugh with each other. There will be epic fails in trying to make time for each other and keeping humor through it all eases the pain of it. Humor won’t solve all the problems but it sure will make it a little bit easier and hopefully a whole lot more fun.