When most of us think about preparing for little one’s arrival we tend to think about physical things that we need to buy, like prams, cots, etc. and practicalities like where baby will sleep. The common theme in this planning is typically baby…thoughts about ourselves, our partner, our relationships and support networks feature much less prominently, if at all.
Having had two children and having worked with thousands of moms, I can confidently say that we should all spend more time discussing how a baby (or another one) will change our lives. So here are a few questions to think about…
- Who has what roles and responsibilities currently in your relationship? How might this change (or how might you want this to change) when little one arrives? Think broadly across finances, household chores, childcare, your careers, etc.
- For example, it can be really challenging feeling like you have to ask for money if you and your partner keep your finances separate and you go from being the breadwinner to being on maternity pay.
- Similarly, money might be tight beforehand and money worries on top of a new baby are sure to create tension in your relationship. Budget and plan in advance to avoid this.
- Whilst you might have planned who’s taking parental leave, have you really discussed what will happen to both of your careers afterwards – will one of you put their career on the back burner? Will one or both of you work part-time? Will you both work full-time? How will you deal with pick up, drop off, school holidays and other childcare duties? And how will you value this important role within your relationship? How will you feel if your partner’s career takes off whilst yours stalls or vice versa? Post parental leave, will the parent who’s been off be given the time and support to reignite their career if that’s what’s important?
- Equally, being at home with little one all day is no easy thing and it doesn’t necessarily follow that all domestic duties have to become your domain.
- How might your relationship with your partner change when little one arrives? Finding time for yourselves and for each other can be really hard in the early years (yes years!), and practically impossible for many, particularly if you don’t have friends and family locally. Looking after a baby is pretty all-consuming, particularly if you’re breastfeeding. It’s not uncommon for mom to feel like she has no capacity to think about anyone or anything else and her partner to feel sidelined. How will you deal with this?
- Connected to this, how well do you deal with sleep deprivation? What about your partner? How might you work together to keep each other sane when you’re both feeling exhausted? Many new parents try to stay up with each other and baby out of some sense of solidarity in the beginning, but tag teaming for sleep tends to be a more effective strategy. Could you schedule lie-ins for each other around work and other commitments? Could you take it in turns to get an early night whenever your partner is available to have baby?
- What support network do you have or do you need to build? Positive people who offer support, rest, a spare of hands, homemade food, etc., are what you need around you in those early days. Great if family can and will do this for you, but this often isn’t the case so think about how you might meet and join forces with other new parents locally to support each other. Similarly, the involvement of well-meaning grandparents can be a source of real friction so make sure you’ve discussed how you want this to look and any boundaries so that you’re both on the same page.
- Where do you both stand on parenting styles and decisions like dummies, leaving baby to self-soothe, etc.? Typically the first time you find out is in a tense situation with an unsettled baby which doesn’t make for the most productive of discussions!
- How tuned into your own mental health and self-care needs are you? What about your partner’s? Do you understand how to talk to and support each other if one of you is struggling? It can be hard to really notice what’s happening for someone else and to have empathy when you’re struggling yourself and have had a bad day. Knowing in advance leaves you in a great place to support each through the inevitable highs and lows that await you. Also know that there are amazing resources out there to tap into as you need them. Two of my most recommended are Acacia Family Support and PANDAS.
Whilst I definitely don’t have all of the answers for you, you’re always welcome to join our tribe and to find some fabulous women to share the motherhood rollercoaster ride with.