Keeping your relationship on track as new parents

We change when we become parents - for the better and the  worse.
We change when we become parents - for the better and the worse. Photo: Getty Images

As a new mum, I went from feeling content and happy in my marriage to feeling overworked, bone tired and drained out physically and emotionally. My husband and I went from never fighting to constantly bickering about small things like why the laundry wasn't done. We had operated as a team before our son came along, but after a few months it got to a point where I felt like I was doing 95 per cent of everything – including taking care of a baby and running a home. Our relationship definitely felt the strain of a new baby and cracks started to appear in the form of fights.

I knew we weren't in feeling that way; other friends also admitted to going from happy couples to a arguing new parents.

In fact, according to the Gottman Relationship Institute, about 70 per cent of couples experience a significant slump in their relationship quality within three years of their child's birth.

Deep down, of course I didn't mean most of the angry comments. I was oh-so-tired and just wanted to sleep without awaking to a wet t-shirt from leaking breast milk or the feeding alarm.

In hindsight, I realised I changed when I became a mother, both for the better and worse. Here are the problems we identified – and how we're trying to overcome them.

Letting go of the small stuff

I became paranoid about bub's every little need and felt that my hubby wasn't responding as fast as I could. I also discovered I was a control freak, and had major meltdowns over dirty dishes.

Of course, while I was spending all my time getting to know my baby, my husband had been pushed into the background, and then went on with his routine pre-baby. Because he wasn't intimately involved with our son, he didn't know what was expected of him – then I got angry that I had to keep telling him what to do. This, naturally, lead to arguments.

Now, if I need my husband to help, I just ask without feeling like I have to be super mum. I've stopped sweating the small stuff and admit I need help instead of stewing over it. If I don't have the energy to clean, I don't do it. And I only have friends over when I feel like I can manage.

Advertisement

We've also accepted that fights are a normal part of a healthy relationship, but we try to not go to bed angry with each other. If the fight continues into the second day, we'll talk it out in a calm manner and resolve it.

Connecting again

At the newborn stage, I was forever worrying about bub's feeding and sleeping times. He had become the centre of my attention, which left my hubby feeling neglected. He missed our connection and the conversations we used to have. I actually forgot how to talk to my partner on topics not related to our baby, and the change happened so quickly I was unaware of it. Date nights also felt a little awkward!

Now I give my husband my full attention when he comes home from work. I stop working, put away my devices, make a nice cup of tea and chat to him about his day and mine. It helps us reconnect, especially as I work from home. We share our wins and losses, and start the evening on a positive note by giving each other precious time and attention.

We also make sure to communicate properly every day, and make sure we're on the same page with different things. We text, talk on the phone and even leave little notes for each other.

We've found that arguments don't occur when we are both feeling "heard". This also removes any resentment or taken-for-granted feeling from the relationship equation.

No more bottling it up

I felt panicked as I went through an identity struggle, trying to be a mother and wife, which left me moody and restless.

Now I share my feelings, instead of bottling them up and expecting him to read my mind - face it, that's never going to happen! I ask for help when I feel like I can't cope or need some time to myself. Sometimes a rant to my sister or a close friend is also enough to make me feel better.

If you're going through something similar right now, take heart in knowing it will settle down with a bit of effort and care. In the meantime, take the time to reconnect with your partner in your new roles as parents, and just try to be kind and patient with each other.