Updated: May 16, 2020
You’ve prepped and painted the nursery, you’ve washed and folded the baby clothes, and you’ve cleaned every nook and cranny in your home.
You’ve taken the baby classes and come up with your birth plan. You and your partner have established expectations and roles for the delivery room (personally, I was adamant my partner’s head was to remain up at the top of the bed and there was to be no peeking down there!). You’re ready for baby to be born!
But.....what happens when you bring baby home?
I often find when meeting with expecting couples in my practice, the conversations about expectations and roles upon returning home are often overlooked. Many assumptions tend to be made about what feeding, diaper changes, nighttime wakings, household responsibilities, and pediatric appointments will look like. What will it look like when one parent returns to work during the day? Who is responsible for what? There’s so much parents are trying to figure out on the fly about simply keeping their baby (or babies) alive, they figure they’ll wing the rest and figure it out as it comes.
Well.... that is certainly one approach. In my experience (both professionally and personally) that is a set up for a lot of frustration and potential resentment between partners. A little dialogue about some of these practical daily life tasks can go a long way to avoid even greater conflict and miscommunication during a time when both partners tend to be sleep deprived, emotionally drained, and overwhelmed.
I distinctly remember a moment at 3am when I was breastfeeding my newborn son in bed. My husband was snoring away peacefully and totally oblivious to how long I had been awake and all I was doing for our son. This made me so incredibly angry and resentful toward him. I literally reached over and poked him in the ribs... hard. Of course, he woke up and was confused and annoyed at my very rude wake up call. What I really needed in that moment was to not feel alone and to not feel like it was my responsibility all night every night to take care of our newborn. This was something I
could have avoided had I realized the importance of explicitly discussing a more realistic division of responsibilities. Of course, there are some things that will almost always fall on the shoulders of the mother at night, particularly if she is exclusively breastfeeding (and not using bottles); however, there are other ways a partner can help reduce the load and feelings of loneliness that tend to creep up on you in those very long, early morning hours.
So, take some time to think about how you envision the division of responsibilities for both baby and home. Then, ask your partner to do the same. Compare notes and find the problem areas ahead of time so there can be compromise and problem-solving before you’re completely tapped out and overwhelmed with all that accompanies the awesome little person the two of you created. After all, the goal is to be brought closer by the birth of a child, and this is one way to avoid potential rifts between you as you navigate the crazy sea of parenthood together.
Jennifer is a perinatal mental health therapist and is passionate about helping women (and their partners) manage postpartum mental health challenges as well as support healthy and realistic parenting. She lives in Oakton, Virginia with her husband, their 3-year-old son, and their dog, Evie. She loves to Zumba, cook, and travel whenever possible. If you’re interested in reading more of Jennifer’s thoughts on mental health and motherhood, you can access her blog here: www.mytherapygoals.com/blog-1.