After having a baby one of the biggest transformations isn’t your once immaculate living room or your once even more immaculate pelvic floor but your relationship. The baby might have come into the world because of the love between you, but that doesn’t mean it’s all flowers and rainbows after they’re actually born. There are lots of different issues that can crop up in the early months – here are a few of the most common, and how to tackle them.
The issue: Bonding with the baby – or lack of
If you’re breastfeeding, your partner might feel like they don’t get opportunities to bond with the baby. Funnily enough, getting to change nappies instead does feel a bit like a, well, booby prize. If you don’t want to implement the odd bottle (or your pesky baby simply won’t take one…) there are still things your partner can do to feel more physically bonded with the fruit of their loins. Bathing with them is one lovely one – babies are generally in a good mood at bathtime – and bringing the baby into bed in the morning for giggly cuddles is another. They can also read to them from the word go. Sure, the baby doesn’t have a clue what’s going on but you’ll fall in love with your beloved all over again when you hear them putting their heart and soul into The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
The issue: You envying their freedom
If you’re in a trad set-up where you’re on maternity leave while they bound off to work every day, you might find yourself resenting them getting to leave the house unencumbered by baby paraphernalia, swanning onto public transport without a care in the world (or getting shouted at to fold up the damned pram when THE BABY IS SLEEPING), guzzling hot drinks at their desk, idly tucking into a burrito for lunch and maybe even having a cheeky drink after work. You watch the clock all afternoon, desperate for them to get home so you can do a wee by yourself, and they don’t understand what the fuss is about. Encouraging them to take the odd day or half-day off just to hang out with the baby will help or, if it’s really getting you down, look into shared parental leave. It’s the only way they’ll truly understand the ups and downs of spending every waking (and sleeping) hour with a baby.
The issue: Competitive tiredness
You’re knackered because you’re surgically attached to a baby 24/7 and they’re knackered because they’re getting up and going to work, but no longer getting very much downtime outside of this, as well as getting woken regularly in the night too, even if they’ve been shipped off to the spare room for the time being. It can be a seriously tough time, and a huge source of tension early on. It’s important to acknowledge that you are both entitled to be tired, and that there is no way of scientifically measuring this so stop acting like you’re competing in the fatigue Olympics. Instead, take it in turns to have little lie-ins (like, 8am) at weekends and try to give each other mini windows of downtime at other times – even if it’s just 15 minutes when they get in from work, when you get to go upstairs and have a shower by yourself.
The issue: Cold hard cash
If you’re on mat leave – particularly if you’re on statutory maternity pay aka not much more than pocket money – chances are you’re probably feeling pretty skint. And yet still you buy stuff – the odd coffee and cake out, a few quid on groups and classes, irresistibly cute baby clothes, 3am Amazon purchases that will almost certainly revolutionise the entire household’s sleep – and that might well wind your partner up if they’re contributing a bigger chunk of cash to the household funds. The solution? Explain that you NEED to leave the house and do stuff for your sanity, so there needs to be a budget for that, but try to curb the spending – or at least sell off all the tat you haven’t used before you buy all of the new things.
The issue: The state of the house
Babies are tiny, and yet one moves in and suddenly it looks like you live in a war zone. What’s that about? Even if you and/or your partner used to be Monica Geller levels of particular, you’ll both struggle to keep up to your high standards once your home’s been invaded by Hurricane Newborn, and we all know there’s nothing like a row about dirty socks on the floor. A professional cleaner is a huge luxury, but throw your money at one if you can afford it – it’s cheaper than marriage counselling. If that’s not an option, getting a bit more structured with your cleaning routine can help. Adjust your expectations a little bit, and choose one or two jobs that you can realistically get done between you at the weekend. Alternatively, just live in squalor like the rest of us. Or wait until your little one is crawling and then attach sponges to their hands and feet. Kidding. Ish.
The issue: Lack of touchyfeelyness
It’s not just the fact that the baby spends most of its time lounging around your body, like a human electric fence that wards off all invasions from other sources, but the fact that even when they’re tucked up in their bed, sometimes you feel totally touched-out and the last thing you want to do is get snuggly with another person. Plus, you might well still be feeling vulnerable about your body post-birth – whether it’s worries about your weight or fear of pain if you get jiggy. Nobody expects to be at it like rabbits in the early months, but your partner might not understand exactly how you’re feeling – and if they’re keeping their distance too then you might start feeling paranoid too. Obviously, be honest with them about how you’re feeling – but if you can find the energy to put your head on their shoulder for a few seconds before zonking out, it might help reconnect you.
The issue: no quality time
OK, so deep down you suspected life with a baby wouldn’t involve leisurely afternoons in the pub reading the papers and romantic getaways in seaside towns, but when your relationship suddenly feels just so tediously functional, revolving around nappy changes and feeds and, later, nursery drop-offs and nit remedies, it can be hard to handle. If you’re not ready to leave your baby with anyone else, it doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a bit of quality time. Even just enjoying the same box set instead of spending the evening staring at separate devices will help bond you. Eat something nice at the same time, et voila: you’ve just had a date night.