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Welcome to the most incredible adventure of your life… parenting. I’d love to offer you a roadmap to being a successful parent, but I’m still looking for that one. I can provide you with what I’ve learned from almost 10 years of mistakes and countless conversations with fellow parents.

So, buckle up and get ready for the wildest ride on earth – PARENTHOOD. 

Here are 14 tips for first-time parents.

1. Parenting is hard.

Especially at the beginning. No way to get around that truth. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are loads of worry, anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness. Some things will get easier as your child grows, especially sleep. Every stage is a beautiful mess in its own way.

2. Everything is about to change (if it hasn’t already).

It’s all about to get rocked, from your social life to your work life. That can be scary. But I think you’ll enjoy it and won’t be able to imagine life any other way. 

3. The days are long, but the years are short.

As a parent of a 9 and 6-year-old, time flies. Try to enjoy every stage of childhood. Live in the moment.

4. Don’t stress yourself.

Things won’t always go the way you want. Your house will never be as clean as you want it to be. You won’t always get the perfect picture. Your child may not meet all your expectations. You might miss out on some events or milestones.

5. Take care of yourself.

You can’t give what you don’t have. Taking care of yourself has to be a priority. It’s not easy. But do your best to spend a little time focusing on yourself. Take a walk, grab a coffee with friends, get in a quick workout, do a puzzle – whatever fills your soul.

6. There are a lot of opinions out there, but you know your child better than anyone else.

You spend more time with your child than anyone. You may sense that they aren’t feeling well or something isn’t right. Trust your instincts. Social media and the internet are full of people who think they know best, but they really don’t.

7. Hold your baby a lot.

Don’t worry; you can’t spoil a newborn baby by holding them too much. (And research supports that it’s okay). They need your touch and attention. You’re providing a foundation for them to grow and feel safe emotionally, physically, and mentally.

8. Your baby will get sick.

That’s normal, and not because of anything you did wrong. It’s so hard to watch your baby get sick. It can be anything from minor infections to food allergies to significant illness. Be there for them and reach out to doctors as often as you feel is necessary. Don’t feel like you’re calling your pediatrician too much. They are there to help you. You are your child’s greatest advocate.

9. You’ll make mistakes.

There is no handbook for parenting, and every child is different. You’re gonna make mistakes. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. 

10. When you do make a mistake, own it and apologize.

Your baby isn’t going to remember this, so this is for you. Create the habit now of apologizing when you mess up. As your child grows, they will learn this from you.

11. You are your child’s first teacher.

Learning doesn’t start in daycare or school; it begins with you. You are their first teacher. You have the privilege and responsibility of introducing your child to the world. Start early and use every opportunity to teach them as they grow. 

12. Do what works for you, your child, and your family.

Every child and every family is different. Figure out what works best for your situation.

13. Surround yourself with people who will help you.

You’ve heard it said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s true! But it’s not just for the child, you need a village, too. Surround yourself with friends, family, and parents in the same stage. 

14. If you’re married, keep your marriage first.

Make sure and keep your relationship first and your parenting second. The best thing for your child is for your relationship with your spouse to be healthy and strong. 

Parenting is a journey. Take it one step at a time, and don’t get ahead of yourself. And have fun! You’ve got this. I’m rooting for you.

Other blogs:

Seven Things Every Child Needs to Thrive

10 Questions Couples Should Ask Each Other Before Having a Baby

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First

Sources:

Can You Spoil a Baby by Holding Them Too Much?

Bilgin, A., & Wolke, D. (2020). Parental use of “cry it out” in infants: no adverse effects on attachment and behavioural development at 18 months. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 61(11), 1184–1193.

Ribar, D. C. (2015). Why marriage matters for child wellbeing. The Future of Children, 25(2), 11–27.

Preparing for Fatherhood

Set your course with these quick, easy and totally practical steps.

Being a dad has been the most incredible adventure of my life. Emphasis on adventure! There’s nothing quite like being a dad (moms are awesome too, but I can’t speak to that experience). I remember when I found out that we were expecting our first child. I was so excited and so freaked out! And I wanted to prepare myself for fatherhood in every way possible.

If you’re preparing for fatherhood, here are some things you can do:

Do your research.

Read as much as you can about becoming a dad and what it takes to be a dad (the tasks and the relational aspect). There are plenty of books, blogs and podcasts about being a dad. Here are a few of my favorites:

Talk to other dads.

Experience is a great teacher! Talk to new dads and those who have years of experience. There is immense value in learning from both groups. Talking to experienced dads can also help you decide the type of father you want to be.

Finish those household projects.

Got unfinished projects that you haven’t had time to finish? Well, now’s the time. No need to have those hanging over your head after the baby arrives.

Make a plan for responsibilities.

Talk with Mom about who will do what. This isn’t a one-time conversation, either. Be open about your expectations of each other and parenthood. You need to discuss this before the baby gets here and you’re both exhausted. The goal is to make sure you both have sufficient baby time and the ability to get sleep when you can.

Talk about parenting with Mom.

There are different types and philosophies of parenting. Whether you’re married or not, discuss how you want to raise your child. 

These questions can get you started:

  • How can I best support the method of feeding you choose?
  • Where will the baby sleep?
  • Will both of you return to work? If so, when?
  • What about childcare? (Childcare is often in short supply, so if you’ll be seeking childcare, start now. Apply everywhere you can and be prepared for long waitlists.)

Start buying those baby supplies.

There’s no time like the present to purchase what you need. Make a list and buy throughout the pregnancy. Decide on a diapering system and stock up. If you’re using disposable diapers, buy different sizes and brands. You never know how the baby will react to certain brands. [Pro tip: Don’t open the diapers and keep receipts. You can always exchange them as long as you know where you got them.] 

Take care of yourself physically.

Becoming a parent takes a lot of energy. If you need to make some healthier choices for yourself, do it now. It’s much easier to make life changes before your child is born. 

Talk to your employer.

It’s about more than just taking time off after your baby is born. Will you have the flexibility to attend doctor’s appointments? Will your job allow you to occasionally work from home?

Attend doctor appointments.

You need to go to as many prenatal doctor’s appointments as possible now. Your role is significant. Ask all the questions you can think of. 

Spend time with your friends and family.

You may have all the time in the world right now, but that’s gonna change when your little one arrives. That’s the life of a new parent. Spend time with your friends now. If they aren’t parents, let them know your time is about to get REAL stretched. If they’re parents, they’ve been there, and they get it.

Don’t stress yourself out.

The only way to know how to be a dad is to BE A DAD. No two kids or experiences are alike, so don’t worry that you won’t be prepared. Learn as much as you can now without putting too much pressure on yourself or Mom. If you’re both first-time parents, it’s a big learning curve. Do the best you can.

Like I said: Being a dad is an adventure. Your role is crucial in the development of your child. They need you, and you have what it takes to be a great dad.

Other resources:

How to Be a Supportive Parent – First Things First

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

10 Traps for First-Time Parents

How to Feel Confident as a New Mom

It may take some time, but you will find your way.

JUMP TO:

• Is It Even Possible to Be Confident as a First-Time Mom?
• How to Shift Your Mindset And Become What You Believe
• It’s Possible to Balance Trusting Your Intuition & Searching for Information
• How to Stop Comparing Everything
• Why Leaning on Another Supportive Mama Who Gets You is Crucial
• The Bottom Line To Cultivating Confidence
• Other helpful resources

Is It Even Possible to Be Confident as a First-Time Mom?

“I can’t believe it…. We have a baby!” I half laughed-half cried in the moments right after giving birth to my daughter. I was exhausted and barely able to register how my life had just been forever changed in that instant. The next 24 hours were a blur of diapers, latching, crying, swaddling, belly massages (ugh), and constant check-ups. And even though the hospital room was cold, the bed was uncomfortable, and we really just wanted to be at home with our new little love, a slight wave of panic washed over both my husband and me when they announced that we could be discharged. We caught each other’s eyes, wide and questioning, silently asking, “Wait, what do we do now?”

Fast forward 5 years and 2 more daughters, and life is still a whirlwind of diapers, latching, crying, swaddling, belly massages (“Mom, your belly is so squishy!”), and constant check-ups. (Those boo-boo’s ain’t gonna kiss themselves!) Although I suppose having three kids makes me a veteran when it comes to motherhood, I still vividly remember how it felt to be a first-time mom. The uncertainty, the sleep deprivation (still struggling with that one, unfortunately), the unsolicited advice from everyone (thanks random stranger in the grocery store), the fear of failure, the mom guilt, and most of all, the lack of confidence in myself.

I’d like to give you some free unsolicited advice. (No, I’m not going to say “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” although if you can, go for it!) But let me first preface these insights with a pill that might be hard to swallow: You won’t feel confident as a new mom. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but hear me out. You CAN absolutely fake it ’til you make it. It’s gonna take time… but you WILL make it. You WILL find your confidence. Here’s how.

How to Shift Your Mindset and Become What You Believe

Our minds are more powerful than we give them credit for. When you hit a major transition in life, like creating a tiny human, your mind is doing some pretty heavy lifting trying to navigate all the newness. You’re in the trenches, as I like to call it. It’s do-or-die survival mode. And that puts tremendous stress on your brain. It’s easy for negative, intrusive thoughts to slide into your mental DMs. Especially when the learning curve is so high, you are so tired, and the baby is soooo fussy. It’s easy to feel like you have no clue what you’re doing, which, as we know, is pretty much a confidence-killer.

But there’s this really cool little thing called experience-dependent neuroplasticity, which is just a fancy way to say we can change our brain through our experiences. Our brains are designed to be malleable and constantly rewire themselves. Basically, everything you experience WILL alter the physical nature of your brain. 

So, take those pesky negative thoughts: If you constantly focus on your worry, mom guilt, fear, self-criticism… your brain will reshape itself to make you more vulnerable to worry, anxiety, and depression. You’ll find yourself only seeing the negatives of a situation and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

On the other hand, if you focus your thoughts on giving yourself grace, believing you are a good mom, and knowing it will get easier in time, your brain strengthens those neural connections. You’ll become more resilient, optimistic and have higher self-esteem in the long run. In the wise words of Oprah, “You don’t become what you want; you become what you believe.”

Try this right now: 

  1. Think about something you did well as a mom today. But don’t just notice it; really feel it too. 
  2. Take that thought and dwell on all the goodness in it for at least 20 seconds. (No fleeting thoughts here! And absolutely NO BUTS, unless, of course, your happy thought is that you cleaned a poopy butt really well…) This gives your brain time to fire those neurons and hardwire that belief into your brain. 
  3. Let the confidence boost commence.

It’s Possible to Balance Trusting Your Intuition & Searching for Information

Have you ever googled some seemingly harmless symptoms (albeit worrisome enough to google) and ended up convinced you were dying of cancer? With all the conflicting parenting advice/opinions/facts/hullabaloo out there, it’s no wonder we parents think we are ruining our children for life if we don’t do the RIGHT thing at ALL TIMES. Confidence goes out the window when your best friend says one thing, your mother says another, the internet, best-selling authors, pediatricians, or statistics all say yet another. And then, there’s your gut feeling. It’s so easy to second guess what we feel deeply in our gut because a trusted friend or family member disagrees. So my advice to cultivate confidence as a new mama? Dig into the latest research AND trust your mama instincts at the same time. 

When my oldest daughter was going into her terrible terrific twos, I had no idea how to handle her meltdowns. I didn’t feel comfortable punishing her for having big emotions. Yet, I watched others around me telling their kids to “stop crying” or sending them to timeout when they acted out or wouldn’t calm down quickly enough. I wondered if I was being too permissive by not following suit. I frantically searched the internet for information on whether I was screwing up my child by lack of discipline. Did I need to toughen up? Implement consequences? Or maybe, just maybe… was my gut telling me something that other parents weren’t aware of? 

Enter: Positive Parenting, a parenting style I had never heard of that I immediately embraced wholeheartedly. It presented exactly what I felt on a deeper level, and it had the research and neuroscience of child development to back it up! It taught me things I hadn’t even considered, and I’ve been a better parent for it. 

Try this right now:

  1. Think of an aspect of parenting that you’re second-guessing yourself in.
  2. Take some time to really look into what research says.
  3. Take into account what works for YOUR unique situation. It may not feel right or align with your values, or it could add more stress to your family dynamic. That’s why considering what your intuition says is crucial. 
  4. Find a balance between the two and choose the best solution for YOU. (Not your mom, or friend, or pediatrician, or… you get my point.) 

** Not sure where to start? I highly recommend reading Parenting Right From the Start by Dr. Vanessa LaPointe or Cribsheet by Emily Oster. 

How to Stop Comparing Everything

The more we worry, the less we get to enjoy motherhood. Falling into the comparison trap is hands-down the easiest way to lose confidence in yourself. Her baby is already crawling! Why isn’t mine? She pureés her own organic baby food. She must be a better parent than I am. Her Instagram photos are picture-perfect. My life feels like a hot mess right now. Why can’t I lose the baby weight like she did? You get it. Listen, we’ve all been there. 

So my advice? Figure out the things that trigger feelings of comparison, a “compare-snare,” if you will. (Social media, anyone?) Once you’re aware of what’s happening and how it makes you feel, try to minimize your exposure to it. And if that’s not possible because you’re addicted to the dopamine hit of a new like, when you do get triggered, remember that everybody has insecurities. (Even Beyoncé! Or Kate Middleton! Or Michelle Obama!) No one is perfect. Even the “perfect mom” has bad days. So stop believing the highlight reel of people’s lives. (Psst… Their highlight reel is not real life.) It’s only 1% (…maybe 2%) of their life. It’s not fair to compare the worst of yourself to the best of another. Even if it’s really easy to do.

Try this right now: 

  1. Create a mama-mantra that will help you overcome those moments when you’re being held captive by comparison. Something like, “I am enough,” or “A bad day does not make me a bad mom,” or “I’m still learning, and that’s okay.” Something short and easy to remember on the fly. 
  2. Write it down on a Post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror for a daily reminder to repeat it often, in good and bad times. 
  3. In moments of stress, simply repeat your mama-mantra and you’ll feel your heart rate slowing, your breathing becoming steady, and your confidence building up.

Why Leaning on Another Supportive Mama Who Gets You is Crucial

Chances are, the people you already surround yourself with probably look similar to you, have a similar upbringing or lifestyle, and have a similar belief system. That’s because we tend to like being around people who are similar to us. However, there may be people in your life who only diminish your self-confidence by questioning your decisions or flat-out disagreeing with them. When it’s a stranger, it’s easier to brush it off. When it’s your own family member, it’s a wee bit harder. 

So, for my last but certainly not least piece of advice, I highly suggest that you confide in another supportive and like-minded mama who shares your attitude toward motherhood and all the decisions surrounding it. This is what psych-nerds call consensual validation, and it will absolutely boost your confidence in your own attitude and the decisions you’re making! 

Having just any ol’ mama friend/sister or literally your own mother is sometimes not enough. Even though they get motherhood because they are indeed mothers, they’re contributing to your lack of confidence in a big way if they’re opposing rather than supporting your decisions. 

Find the mama who has been there and also totally listens to you, encourages you, supports you, builds you up, and pushes you to be the best version of yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll always agree on everything, but it does mean that she won’t hurt your confidence in the process if she doesn’t agree. Plus, you’ll likely agree on way more than you disagree on anyway (remember that consensual validation)!

Try this right now:

  1. Think about a mama who just gets you and accepts you for who you are.
  2. Go ahead and send her a quick text thanking her for being so supportive. If she doesn’t already know, tell her how you’ve been struggling with a lack of self-confidence in this season of life.
  3. Ask if she has any tried and true suggestions for your specific situation.
  4. Lean on her.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If she’s a true friend, she’ll be honored to guide you through the trenches.  

The Bottom Line To Cultivating Confidence

It is completely normal to have a lack of confidence in something you’ve never done before. Even if you’ve babysat or worked with kids, motherhood is a whole new ballgame. It’s the difference between sitting in the stands, maybe catching a fly ball every once in a while, and being up to bat in a sport you barely know the rules to. 

So, give yourself permission to:

  • Believe in yourself.
  • Trust your intuition.
  • Ask for help or support.
  • Know that you’re the best mama for the job.

Confidence will come when your decisions yield positive outcomes. You won’t always choose the right thing. Remember, there’s a big learning curve. When you feel like you’re failing, acknowledge and validate your own feelings. Repeat that mama-mantra until you believe it, and confide in your supportive mama friend for a little extra encouragement. You got this.

Other helpful resources:

3 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently After Having a Baby

Help! We Just Had a Baby and Now We Can’t Stop Fighting

5 Reasons Why Marriage Can Be Harder After Having A Baby

Dear Wife, This is What You Should Know About Your Husband After Having a Baby

OH, Baby! Online

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Grieving Infertility and Miscarriages

There are many common challenges and misunderstandings.

In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for the parents who lose a child.” ~ Jodi Picoult

Children bury their parents up on a hill. It’s the sad, natural cycle of life. But parents bury their kids deep in their hearts for the rest of their lives. Then, some people are forced to bury their dream of having children… in the murky depths of what might have been.

For Those Dealing With Infertility, Miscarriage, or the Death of a Child

There’s probably been no shortage of people telling you to get the help and support you need. Or maybe there has. People often don’t know what to say, when, or how to say it. Or perhaps they’re afraid to say the “wrong” thing. So, they say nothing. The deafening silence around the loss of a child or the ability to have children can make you feel ashamed, or marginalized, or lost in the solitude of your own grief.

Some well-meaning people say, well, dumb or insensitive things. Unfortunately, the hurting and grieving individuals often feel like they have to be understanding, gracious, and compassionate toward someone who makes callous remarks.

Some statistics have reached urban legend status concerning divorce rates for parents who’ve lost a child. I’ve heard 80% or even 90%. Don’t let these numbers scare you. The actual number is around 16%, including couples experiencing marital difficulties before losing a child. [The divorce rate is actually higher (30%) among parents having their first child.]

This is not to say that fertility issues, miscarriages, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS), or Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDS) don’t create unique marital challenges and difficulties. 

One challenge is the reality that people grieve differently. Some cry, some get angry. Some people need to process their feelings out loud. Others need to process their emotions internally. The important thing is for spouses not to judge each other’s grieving process or draw conclusions about who cares more. Men and women often process loss and grief differently, especially after a miscarriage.

In Helping Men with the Trauma of Miscarriage, published in Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, Mark Kiselica and Martha Rinehart, Ph.D., looked at case studies of men whose partners had lost a baby. They found that the fathers’ sadness and grief were dismissed by others.

Additionally, men also grapple with the physical loss of their wives after a miscarriage. 

What I know from my own data, and working with support groups in counseling, is that miscarriage does a number on your sex life,” says Swanson. “For men, it was, ‘When can I go back to her? I miss her.’ For women, it was, ‘If I never have sex again, I’ll die a happy woman.’”

Similarly, many people mistakenly believe that an early-stage miscarriage is less complicated emotionally than one that happens later. Research indicates that this isn’t the case. A woman can start bonding with her baby as soon as she tests positive on a pregnancy test. 

Many other misunderstandings surround grief, infertility and miscarriages. 

People often have a dismissive attitude toward those trying to conceive. Some assume that medical advances and adoption provide a “fix” for couples facing infertility. However, medical procedures only go so far and are too expensive for many. Same for adoption. Plus, psychological hurdles like guilt, blame, and the desire to have a biological child are challenging issues to navigate. Sterility or infertility can leave an individual feeling “broken” and burdensome to their spouse.

One thing to be careful of when dealing with infertility or the death of a child is Partner-Oriented Self-Regulation (POSR). POSR is where one spouse tries to stay strong for the other. They may bottle up their emotions, avoid bringing up the loss, and act as though nothing has happened. A spouse who “regulates” themself in this manner mistakenly believes they are helping their partner. In reality, they may be sending a message to their partner that they are unmoved and calloused. Plus, they could unknowingly be invalidating their spouse’s feelings and hampering the grief and healing process for both of them.

Whether a couple is wrestling with fertility or losing a child, communication, counseling, and cultivating a support system are crucial. Remain a team in your marriage and utilize the resources available to you. 

Other helpful resources:

A few years ago I was walking through the grocery store when I encountered a mom and her toddler who was giving her a run for her money. As we were both walking down the aisle, I could hear her whispering, “You can do it, Susan! Hang in there. Just a few more minutes.” 

At first I thought she was talking to her daughter, but then I realized she was encouraging herself in the midst of a hard moment with her child. I thought to myself, “You go girl!” I can remember plenty of hard moments, and just plain bad days with my daughter that I didn’t handle well. Even into a new day I found myself struggling to get over the bad day we had the day before.

Fortunately, I had some moms in my life who were further down the road in their parenting than I was. They didn’t judge me, which I am very thankful for. They did take me under their wing and offer some wise words to help me get over the bad days. Now, I’m passing their wisdom along to you, with a little of my own.

Realize that it’s not usually about you.

Believe me, I know it’s hard not to. When they act a fool in the checkout line or look straight at you and do exactly what you asked them not to do, it’s a challenge to remind yourself: it really isn’t about you. However, if you can train yourself to do this, it will be helpful.

Avoid beating yourself up.

We all have bad days, kids and parents alike. When your child is especially challenging, it can bring out the absolutely worst in us and it just goes downhill from there. The natural tendency hours later or the next day is to say, “If only I had…”  or to question your ability to be a good parent. None of this is helpful to you or your child.

Acknowledge your emotions.

Listen, parenting isn’t a walk in the park. Tell me something I don’t know, right? Some stages are more challenging than others. I remember calling a friend after a particularly bad day with my daughter. I was crying, actually sobbing and I said, “I’m an utter and complete failure at parenting.” She point blankly said, “No, you are not a failure. You just haven’t figured out what works yet with your daughter.” Then she talked me down off the ledge. 

There literally may be days where you are asking, “Where do I go to resign?” because you are angry, resentful, hopeless, and exhausted. Believe it or not, it’s very helpful to say those things out loud or to write them on a piece of paper.

Look for underlying issues.

For example, COVID-19 quarantine has had all of us out of sync from our normal routines. As adults, we can talk about how much we don’t like not knowing what tomorrow will bring. But for a child, especially a young child, while they pick up on your stress and anxiety, they aren’t able to verbalize it, so they act it out. Hence your very own child creating their own version of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” A death in the family, something happening to your dog, overhearing you fighting with your spouse—any number of things can bring on a bad day.

Seek to restore the relationship.

Once you have taken a moment (or a few hours) to calm down, find your child and apologize straight up. Don’t add on, “but if you had done what mommy asked…” Just apologize. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” You might say, “If that happens again, let’s do things differently,” and calmly talk through a better way to handle the behavior or the day. All of this models behavior you want your child to learn and the skills they need for healthy relationships.

Spend some time together doing something fun.

After apologizing and spending a little time talking about what happened, find a way to spend some calm, easygoing time together. Take a walk, play with blocks, read a book (The Color Monster: A Story about Emotions is a great read), play “I Spy” or make cookies together.

Never underestimate the power of a hug.

Adults and children alike need them, especially after a bad day. Even if you aren’t completely over the bad day, you still want to avoid withholding hugs. Loving, physical touch can be as healing as spoken words.

There will be days when you don’t like your child’s behavior or your own for that matter. However, don’t confuse not liking their behavior with not liking or loving them. Our children need to know that even on their very best or worst day, there isn’t anything they could do that would make us love them more or less. 

For the most part, I am on the other side of the bad days. In the midst of them, I often questioned my Fit Mom Card, and I had a hard time believing there were better days ahead. In case nobody else is saying it to you—you are a good mom. Even on your worst day, you’re a good mom. Stop telling yourself otherwise. It’s a wild ride. We all have moments we want to forget. It is unlikely your child will hold your bad days against you, especially if you put into practice what we have talked about.

Image from FreePik.com

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5 Reasons Why Marriage Can Be Harder After Having A Baby

Doing these things as a couple can make it a little easier.

No matter how you slice it, the birth of a child brings about changes that can be challenging. Here are some of the reasons why marriage can be harder after having a baby and how those challenges can make your marriage stronger.

  1. Unspoken Expectations. You probably have a picture in your mind of what your lives will look like after the baby is born. You might be expecting to split household duties, take turns sleeping, grow closer in your marriage, and agree on parenting decisions. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations however, disappointment and resentment can build. 
  1. Entering the Land of the Unknown. Between the internet, books, experienced parents, and doctors, you try and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible. And yet once the baby is here, you realize there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Disagreements arise as couples differ on how to tackle these issues that you simply didn’t see coming. 
  1. We’re Changing and So Are Our Needs. Maybe your wife used to like you to open the car door for her. Now, she’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the kids in their seats. Herr needs may change after the birth of a baby. Sometimes she might not be consciously aware of the changes. As your needs change, it’s so easy to focus on meeting your own personal needs after a baby is born that you lose sight of the changing needs of your spouse. How you help, support, and comfort one another looks different. Even how you respond when something triggers your emotions may change. There were times when I was so focused on my tiredness, schoolwork (I was in school), and my job that I resented my wife for not understanding and expecting more out of me than I thought I was fair.
  1. Lack of Intimacy. So much focused energy is on the baby, trying to get rest, work, and everything that comes with a newborn that marital tension can replace marital intimacy. Plus, after carrying a baby for 9 months and breastfeeding, lots of women don’t want any physical intimacy because they are totally exhausted. They want to heal.
  1. Emotional Exhaustion: You are not at your best when you are exhausted… and that’s understandable. A tired and stressed person trying to adapt to change doesn’t respond as well as a rested and peaceful person. Imagine if both of you are suffering from emotional exhaustion. The stage is set for irritability, aggravation, and a short fuse.

These are all challenges that can make your marriage stronger, as long as you don’t avoid dealing with them. It’s possible to address them and work as a team to transition into parenthood well. Here are a few things you can do as a couple:

  • Discuss Expectations. Conversations about balancing work and family are a great place to start. Nighttime feedings. Diaper changes. Household chores and responsibilities. Who will do what and who can we ask to help us? Think of grandparents and family. Talking through what you hope this will look like can help the two of you be on the same page as you navigate your new normal.
  • Remember What’s Important. Your baby doesn’t need perfectly-prepared parents for every situation. They need loving parents who are attentive. Figuring it out together can provide lasting memories. My wife and I have made tons of mistakes when all seven of our children were babies. There are some things you simply don’t know. Gather information, talk to one another, and do your best. When you or your spouse makes a mistake, you learn from it and everyone is better for it.
  • Talk Openly About What You Need From One Another. It’s hard to know what my spouse needs if she doesn’t tell me. I kept opening her car door until one day she said, “I’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the car cool.” I would’ve never known. Talking about our needs helps us ward off the resentment that builds. Trying to read someone’s mind can be harmful. Open communication is the only antidote.
  • Intentional Marriage Time. Do it, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to emotionally connect or hold one another. Virtual date nights are great for just a little marriage time. Don’t forget that your marriage needs both of you.
  • Lean In To Each Other. Lack of sleep is an obvious issue after having a baby, but I’m not going to tell you to get more of it. Sometimes that’s just plain impossible. Here’s what will be helpful to your marriage: Pay attention to each other. Help each other. Look for ways to support one another. In sports, the team that functions as a team in the fourth quarter when everyone is tired typically wins. You are that team. And winning as a team is sweet and exhilarating, especially when you’re tired.
  • Express Appreciation. It’s highly probable that each of you is doing things for the baby and the family that are going unnoticed. Look for those things and express gratitude.

Your love isn’t measured by every right decision you make. In fact, the best gift of love you can give your new baby is a healthy, thriving marriage, not a perfect one. 


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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There’s a lot that happens when a couple has their first baby

Sleepless nights. 

Endless, life-impacting decisions. 

The world being turned upside down.

Re-creating a “new normal.”

A constant fear of things going wrong.

The steep learning curve for both parents.

The list could go on, and on, and on. And I’ve heard it all… The good, the bad, the ugly, the astoundingly beautiful… And it’s all made me a little worried.

Reality Check

First, let me back up for a second. My husband and I have been married a little over a year, and we are not hoping to have kids for another two years or so. That being said, I’m fully convinced that I was brought into this world to be a mother. You can ask any friends or family. That whole “motherly instinct” has always come very naturally to me.

But for my husband… not so much. Although we both want kids someday, the timeframe and the number of kids differ just a little bit (or a lot, depending on the day). Even though we don’t have kids yet, the conversations around our future kids have already caused some division between us. And it’s caused a little bit of fear for the day that we do become parents.

And as we watch friends around us start to have kids and we hear the stories they share about all the challenges that come with starting a family, our fear has only grown…

“Wait, WHAT happens during delivery??”

“Are you SURE you want to go through that?”

“When we have kids, you can’t ________ anymore.”

“Why don’t we wait till we’re 40 and just adopt?”

“We’re cranky enough in the mornings on 8 hours of sleep.”

“There are very few parts of parenting that sound like a good thing…”

These are just a few pieces of conversations we’ve had about our future. The fear is real. And it’s for good reason.

But the desire to have kids is also real. Very real. So how do you balance the fear of parenting, the fear of having kids, the fear for your marriage—with the desire to have kids? Well, I can’t fully answer that for you. That’s something you and your spouse are going to have to work through together. But I can give you a few tips on how to have that conversation!

Here are a few questions to ask each other before having a baby:

  1. What are you most fearful about when it comes to having kids?
  2. In what area do you think having kids will cause us to have the most conflict?
  3. Is there anything we can do now to work on that area before we have kids?
  4. What tendencies do you see in me that might be a problem for you once we have kids?
  5. How will we share responsibilities so that one spouse isn’t totally overwhelmed?
  6. Are you willing to start our routines completely from scratch?
  7. How can we work together as a team and rely on each other’s strengths?
  8. What are your top 3 expectations of me as a parent?
  9. What roles did your mom and dad play in your life growing up? Are there ways you want to be like them? Not be like them?
  10. What are things I can do right now to help us both not fear becoming parents?

Prioritize Your Marriage

Having kids rocks your world. I don’t know that from experience, but I’ve been told that what seems like a bajillion times, so it must be true. Kids are a lot. They come with new responsibilities, new challenges, and new things to argue about.

And if you let it, being a parent might overtake being a spouse. But the key is to always prioritize your marriage first. Yes, kids require a lot. But they grow up. And after they’re grown, you’ll still have your spouse by your side.

So, choose today to strengthen your marriage. Actually, choose every day to strengthen your marriage. And the rest, even babies, will fall into place—a wonderful place.

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Dear Wife, 

Congratulations on the birth of your new bundle of joy. You and your husband have started a great new chapter in your relationship. I’m sure you have fantasized about having the best family and you are probably looking forward to seeing how great a dad your husband will be.

That’s why I decided to sneak away from my wife and 7 kids and write to you. I want to help you help your husband be the great dad that he is. You see, if you’re anything like my wife and countless other wives I’ve talked to, one of the reasons you married him is because you thought he’d be a great dad. So here are a few things that are good to keep in mind as the two of you join together to raise your new little one.

He wants to be a great dad, too. It just may look different.

The definition of being a great parent may be different for the two of you. And that’s a good thing. When he doesn’t do things the same way you do it doesn’t mean he’s not interested in being a great dad. It’s just different. Notice the things that he does and the way that he does them and be grateful. We change diapers differently. As long as it’s on there well, it’s good. We may put the baby to sleep differently. The way he tests the milk to make sure it’s warm enough may be different. Is the final result a warm bottle? That’s what matters. He wants you to know that it’s important to him that the baby properly wears a diaper, sleeps peacefully, and has warm milk to drink. His path to those results may look different.

Often the strength of the connection between dad and baby takes some time to grow.

Jerrold Shapiro, professor of counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif., said that it is not uncommon for fathers to experience a delay in bonding with their children shortly after they are born. The baby has been in your womb for potentially 9 months. Your body has released oxytocin which strengthens your bond with your baby. The baby was a part of you.

Lots of guys are more visual. Some may not be as much of a doter when the baby is born. I was jealous of the bond my wife and our first child had in the first few months. When I didn’t have the same desire to hold the baby for hours like she did, I began to think something was wrong with me as a person. I questioned if I loved my child. But then around the 5 or 6-month mark when the baby’s face got more color, she could make facial expressions and talk (at least that’s what she was doing in my mind), I couldn’t get enough of her. Don’t expect him to be like you in his affection for the baby. 

It may take him some time to figure out his role and when he does, he may take that role very seriously.

When our babies were born, my wife’s attention was wholeheartedly on the baby and recovery. It seemed as though she could hold the baby forever and do nothing. What was I supposed to do? I was unsure of myself at first. I wanted to be like her. And then I finally figured out my role, which may be different for your husband. However, I realized that I had to help my wife get her rest. I had to regulate how many people visited and how long they stayed. I had to make sure that the other parts of life got whatever attention it needed. And I became vigilant. This is new territory for both of you. The adjustment period takes time. Be patient with him and be thankful. 

He can’t relate to you not wanting sex.

My doctor told us we had to wait 6-8 weeks before we had sex after the baby. Not having sex and not wanting to have sex are 2 different things. He probably doesn’t get how you aren’t the least bit interested in having sex. He may ask, get grumpy, or even drop hints. I don’t know what he may do. Your husband may be one of the “great” husbands that simply waits patiently without complaining. (If so, know that you’re the envy of my wife and many other wives.)

My encouragement to everyone else… is just be patient with him. He’ll probably try and be sensitive. He’ll try to understand. He may do good for a couple of days and then his desires may awaken again. He doesn’t—and he can’t—understand. His body didn’t go through what your body did. Never has, never will. Don’t hold that against him. Be patient with him until you’ve recovered enough. Give grace. Consider alternative ways to stay physically intimate during this season. (If this becomes an issue that creates serious tension, talk to a trusted married couple who has children or bring in the professionals.) 

Having a baby did not make him a mind reader.

At some point, you may have some resentment for what he is or isn’t doing. He may not move quickly enough to change a diaper. He may not adjust his work schedule as much as you’d like. It may seem as though he’s making you carry a disproportionate amount of the load. The easy thing to do is to build resentment or begin to look at him with contempt and disdain—and next thing you know your marriage is filled with tension. Your husband wants you to know that he can’t read your mind. And there’s a good chance that he isn’t good at catching a hint either. He needs you to talk to him, be open with him, tell how you’re feeling, tell him what you need. Be specific. (Read this blog from a new mom who expected her husband to be a mind reader.)

He has thoughts on parenting as well.

I have met wives who thought they were just naturally the best parent ever.. And they wanted to make sure their husband knew it. According to Pew Research Center, 53% of Americans in 2016 said that mothers do a better job caring for a new baby. Your husband brings more than just his good looks and sexy body to the family. He may or may not have as many thoughts and opinions as you, but he has the ability to work as an equal parent. He needs the opportunity to contribute his thoughts on parenting the child, and he really wants you to work together. Value him as a parent.

Your new baby is a celebration and representation of the love you share and your togetherness. According to research, many couples cite children and parenthood as a major source of disagreement in their marriage. Let these nuggets help your marriage grow stronger as you raise your precious little one together. The best thing you can give your newborn is a healthy, stable marriage.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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