Welcoming a new baby can be the most exciting, stressful, joyful, and scary time.
Not only are you and your partner adding a brand-new human to your family, but with that new human comes all sorts of challenges: sleep deprivation, parenting, schedules, feeding, hormones, the list goes on. But before they arrive, there are some other things to consider. How do you navigate these changes in family dynamic? How do you and your partner keep romance alive? How do you manage this new role that you’ve found yourself in, while still maintaining a sense of self? How do you balance work, a social life, sleeping, eating, exercise, spending time with your partner, other children AND a baby all at the same time? While these thoughts can be overwhelming, there are some conversations you can have before your bundle of joy arrives that may help to ease the process of managing all the wonderful changes to come.
Conversations to Consider Before Baby Arrives: It comes as no surprise that a new baby will change almost everything or that this change can be very overwhelming when you to try to process how different life will look. There is no “one size fits all” model for parenting and there are some things you can talk about with your partner beforehand in order to come together to create a rough plan for how parenting might go.
Baby Duty: Obviously, a baby will put pressure on a relationship. Instead of having all of your focus on your partner, your new baby will need to take a lot of that attention, especially in the first few months. Having a conversation with your partner about who will do what, may help in breaking up the stress after baby arrives, and avoid feelings of resentment if one person feels like they’re doing it all (1). Some things to consider:
- Changing diapers
- Day and night feedings
- Night time wake ups
- Care during the day
- Bath time
There is no right or wrong way to divvy up these duties and having a conversation about them may help you feel more prepared when baby arrives.
Finances: It’s no secret that babies are fairly expensive. According to a study done by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2015, the average family spends almost $13,000 per year per child (2). This cost includes food, medical care, clothing, child care and education, housing, and activities. This number fluctuates slightly based on how old your child is. Babies tend to require significantly less, as they are not as active and don’t do much besides eat, sleep, and poop. Teenagers on the other hand, often require more of everything (food, transportation, school supplies, clothes, activities, etc.).
Knowing this, it may be helpful to have a conversation with your partner about how you will budget your finances. Should you make a budget? Should one of you stay home so save costs on child care? Can you afford to have a stay-at-home parent to avoid such costs? Are there family members or friends willing to help with child care? Taking a look at your financial situation now -having a plan or budget in place can greatly reduce stress when baby comes.
Make sure to make time for each other and yourself: As previously mentioned, babies take up a lot of time and attention. Combine that attention shift with a lack of sleep, hormones, trying to figure out big changes, and stress, and it can be very difficult to find time to connect with your partner. ‘Mom guilt’ and ‘Dad guilt’ are very real things. Why should you want to take a break from your child, that you love so much and need to take care of? How could you possibly leave them with someone else when they’ve already been at day care all week? Regardless of how true these are, you will be better parents if you are able to get a break and spend some quality time together. Talk to each other and make a plan for how you will make time for each other before baby arrives. Here are some ideas (3):
- Have a date night – Go for a walk, go to a movie, go to dinner, go grocery shopping, go for a drive. Do something just the two of you that you enjoyed before baby came. Baby will be just fine with a sitter for a few extra hours, and you and your partner will be better because of it.
- Take advantage of bedtime – Once baby is able to sleep a little more, take advantage of the few hours after their bedtime. Put your phones away, turn off the TV, and do something together. Play a board game or cards, make dinner together, have a conversation. Make an effort to reconnect emotionally and physically (yes, parents can be romantic and sexual despite having a newborn…!).
- Make a special evening once per week – Routines are great, especially once baby is sleeping on a more predictable schedule. Maybe go for a walk after work every evening before they go to sleep. Pick a day to get take out and watch a movie. The important thing to remember here is to get rid of distractions and redirect your attention to your partner.
- Get out and about – It is possible to reconnect with your partner and bring baby along as well. Although it is easier to stay home and stay on ‘schedule’ and get sucked into the routine, carve out time on days off to get out and do things as a family or with friends.
- Make ‘me time’ a priority as well – It is so easy to get caught up in day-to-day chores and activities. However, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Make time for yourself, even if it’s only half an hour. Ask for help. Share baby duties. Do something you enjoy. Remember, you were a person before your baby arrived and that person still exists!
Parenting: Another big, important conversation to have with your partner before your baby arrives is how will you parent. This seems like a fairly cut and dry conversation, but it may surprise you how different the two of you view things. A lot of times, this conversation involves some personal reflection and assessment of your own childhood. What things did you like about how you were parented, what did you not like, what would you change? This isn’t necessarily about critiquing your parents but does involve gaining some perspective on what you want to do or do not want to do now that it’s your turn to raise a child. Here are some things to consider (1):
- What religion, morals or values do we want to pass on?
- How will we discipline?
- How will we communicate with each other?
- What healthy habits to we want to demonstrate and teach?
- How will we educate our kids?
- What do we do if we disagree on things in the moment?
- Who is going to handle what when they get older?
- There will be sacrifices for us, but what are those going to be?
- What are some hard and fast rules?
- What do we expect of one another while parenting?
- How do we support one another, and our kids?
All of these questions (and many more) may be good topics to cover before baby arrives. Long story short, communicate with your partner. Better to have these conversations now before baby arrives than try to tackle some of these questions in the moment. If you find that you and your partner struggle with being able to talk about these important issues or come to a consensus, reaching out to a professional who specializes in couple’s counseling or family therapy can help you both build communication and joint problem solving skills. Don’t assume that talking about things later will become easier…it won’t.
Do Your Best: New babies are a wonderful gift. They can bring such joy and love to a family but also add stress and present with some challenges as well. Do your best. Parenthood does not come with any single manual for how to do it “right”. It is a journey with unexpected twists and turns that you and your partner get to navigate day-by-day. Do what is best for your family and for your baby, not someone else’s. Sleep train or don’t, formula-feed or breast-feed, stay-at-home parent or daycare. There is not any one right or wrong answer – in the end, these are decisions for the both of you to make. As long as your baby is taken care of, you get to parent in a way that the two of you think is best. Have conversations with your partner before baby arrives to help you feel a little more prepared. Do your best to do what’s best for your baby, and your family, and do it with love, and you’ll be doing it “right”.
By Emily Pierson, M.Ed., Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Emily offers a holistic approach to mental health and wellness. In addition to prioritizing mental well-being, she uses a strengths-based perspective to improve relationships and physical health. She is passionate about helping teens and adults set and meet realistic, achievable goals, while also meeting them where they are in their journey.
Emily was born and raised in Alaska, where she received her Master’s degree in counseling from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After moving to the “Lower 48”, she has been working as a therapist for the past four years.
- 10 Questions to Discuss with Your Partner Before Getting Pregnant. Motherly. Retrieved from: https://www.mother.ly/pregnancy/pre-pregnancy/trying-to-concieve/10-questions-to-ask-your-partner-before-you-make-a-baby. Accessed September 19, 2021.
- The Cost of Raising a Child. Retrieved from: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/01/13/cost-raising-child. Accessed September 19, 2021.
- 9 Ways to Make Time for Your Partner After the Baby Arrives. Retrieved from: https://www.babycenter.com/family/relationships/9-ways-to-make-time-for-your-partner-after-the-baby-arrives_365. Accessed: September 19, 2021.