Welcome the folks from Parents 2 Parents as this week’s guest bloggers
Tony and Lin are thrilled to bring home their new baby girl, Isabella. The first few days at home are a whirlwind of visitors, diapers and feedings. After several weeks, they feel more settled in with Isabella. However, they discover their very orderly lives have really changed. At times, Lin feels out of sorts because she isn’t able to keep up with her usual chores. Tony works long hours and was not prepared for the extra workload at home. Finally, after much frustration, the couple decides to look at the roles they each play in their new family life together.
Even for parents like Tony and Lin who are ecstatic when the baby is born, there is often a major change of expectations and roles that parents go through after a birth. The issue of changing expectations and roles is a natural one for many new families to face as they adapt to the baby in their lives.
Research shows that many couples don’t talk with each other about what their expectations, roles and life changes will be after the baby is born. Often, there are unspoken assumptions, and the danger is that these assumptions can be very different for each parent. They both may have a different point of view about their own role or their partner’s role. This can lead to a clash of expectations after the baby is born. Many new parents are surprised at how much friction occurs in the first few months after their baby is home.
Experts on couple and family relationships suggest that you ease the impact of a baby’s birth on your family by talking about your expectations and roles before your baby arrives. It’s helpful for both of you to agree on chores like regular household cleaning, cooking, bathing baby…etc.
Let’s take a look at some common barriers that couples may face:
It’s a woman’s job to take care of the baby. It’s hard to shake the idea that child rearing is women’s work. Despite men becoming more involved in childcare and taking care of the home, for most families, it’s the woman who most frequently bears the brunt of the workload. This set-up is fine, if a couple has talked about this and both agree to it. The important thing is that expectations for the responsibility for baby care need to be thoroughly aired before the baby is born.
Moms should automatically be able to do everything right with the baby. Both men and women still tend to expect mothers to be skilled at caring for a baby right from the start. However, a lot of research shows that both moms and dads can lack in experience and confidence with newborns. Often, both parents are equally competent and incompetent with small babies. It’s a modern-day myth that moms know more and feel more competent than dads.
Fathers are not as competent as mothers and can be in the way rather than helpful. Sometimes mothers, grandparents or other relatives can give fathers the feeling that they are not able to take care of the baby “in the right way.” Many fathers who are timid or anxious in the beginning can end up less involved in their role. It’s normal for both mothers and fathers to lack in experience and confidence with newborns. However, it’s important for both moms and dads to learn to be equally at ease with their infant—and for many couples that means that dad needs to learn how to become as competent as mom, “in the right way.”
Criticism and unwanted “advice” from others can create self doubt and frustration. As a new parent-to-be, chances are you will welcome the support of relatives and friends. But, in some cases, there may be people in your life who don’t know when to stop, or they have opinions you just don’t agree with. Too much advice, or advice you can’t accept, can be very frustrating, annoying and even undermining. If this is happening, it’s up to you to decide when someone crosses the line.
It’s helpful for you as new parents to talk about how you want to handle these opinions in advance of your baby’s birth.
Understand that, in most cases, the advice-giver is trying to help. Thank them for their advice, but be firm that it’s your right and responsibility to deal with your pregnancy, as you think best. You could talk to them about your values in gentle matter-of-fact words.
When the advice is something that doesn’t really matter to you, but the person giving it is important in your life or the life of your new child, you can offer to “think about it.” This will help strengthen your relationship with the advice-giver and keep the lines of communication open. Remember, there will be times when you may be glad to have their advice and goodwill.
Most importantly, if the advice is something you can not follow, try not to let the situation get too emotionally heated. Stay calm and gently firm in your response.
Aiming for total equality may be an unrealistic goal. Some parents get stuck on trying to create a perfect 50/50 split in housework and baby care. Today, many men are much more involved with childcare and housework than in prior generations. However, it’s still usually the woman who takes on the majority of the tasks. How the duties are split is very important. If the workload seems out of kilter, when it was supposed to be 50/50, it is important that both of you have the chance to talk about how it appears in reality. Maybe 50/50 is not achievable in your circumstances. Talk it over. You should try hard to come up with a plan that can work for the two of you.
This article is used with permission of The Phoenix Centre for Children and Families. The Phoenix Centre is host to a number of local, national and international programs which share a common goal – to better the lives of children, youth and families across the country.
One of their popular parenting programs is Welcome to Parenting , an online series of prenatal and parenting classes for expectant and new parents with an infant up to 12 months. The program includes the online classes, ability to post questions to our panel of health and parenting professionals and an online group of parents who are expecting or with babies about the same age.
Filed under: Parenting Tagged: | common barriers that couples may face, Couple and family relationships, Couple relationships after having a baby, Family, new baby, Parenting, Parenting expectations, Parents 2 Parents, relationships