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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.

***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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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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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

It was 3 AM. Our two-week-old son, Strider, was crying for the third time that night. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We were full-blown zombies ready to eat each other alive.

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When groups of women who work together become pregnant at the same time, workplace conversations usually surround the fact that the department will have a hard time when these women all take maternity leave.

Contrast that response to a story that hit the airwaves about seven firefighters at the same fire station in Oklahoma. Their wives became pregnant around the same time, but no one really commented about how the station would operate while these dads took time off to be with their newborn babies.

While moms are essential to infant care, many people often overlook or don’t discuss the benefits to mom and child when the father is more involved in the caregiving process.

Articles from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) highlight the fact that father-infant bonding is just as important as mother-infant bonding. In fact, delayed bonding can alter the long-term course of paternal involvement as the infant progresses throughout childhood and adolescence. It can also increase the risk of paternal postpartum depression.

According to the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing:

  • Fathers reported that they didn’t start to experience fatherhood until birth.
  • Mothers reported that they started to experience motherhood as soon they discovered they were pregnant. 
  • Although most fathers expect to bond emotionally and immediately with their newborns, some fathers still did not feel bonded to their infants as long as six weeks to two months after birth.  

Successful father-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period offers several benefits for the infant: 

  • It reduces cognitive delay,
  • Promotes weight gain in preterm infants, and
  • Improves breastfeeding rates.
  • Research shows that when the father frequently visits their prematurely-born child in the hospital, babies are more likely to get out of the hospital sooner, develop their brains better and have more psychomotor functioning. The more the father can be there, the better the child tends to improve.

A study by Kyle Pruett at Yale University showed that even for children born full-term, the importance of father involvement is enormous. 

  • A father breathing on the child when it is first born helps the bonding process to occur. It changes the dad’s brain, too! 
  • The sooner the father gets involved with the child, neurons in the male brain begin to develop and connect with each other – mimicking the mother instinct. 
  • When fathers are involved, their oxytocin levels go up and testosterone levels go down, and Dad is satisfied from the emotional intimacy with his child. Mother and child benefit from that, too.

“Father-infant bonding is an issue that is not discussed enough and is just as important as mother-infant bonding during the immediate postpartum period,” said AWHONN’s Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “It is vitally important for a father to interact and bond with his newborn to help the infant’s development and to reduce the risk of paternal postpartum depression.”

New dads can bond with their unborn children by talking, singing or reading to them in the womb. AWHONN offers these tips to help dads continue the bonding process after the baby arrives: 

  • Jump right in. Don’t be afraid to begin immediately caring for and loving your baby. The more you hold your baby, the more comfortable and natural it will feel.
  • Take a night shift. Once mom is breastfeeding well, she may want to let you give the baby a nighttime meal. This way she can get more sleep and you will have the opportunity to bond with your newborn.
  • Read your newborn a book. Your newborn will enjoy the rhythm and pace of your voice while you read a book. In these early months, it’s not about what you’re reading; it’s about reading itself.
  • Initiate the bath. Bathing your newborn will enhance bonding and provide a multi-sensory learning experience.
  • Create a bedtime ritual. Infants will learn to depend on the consistency and predictability of a nighttime routine.

The research is solid that fathers profoundly impact the lives of their children, even as infants. While you may think bonding with Mom is more important for the baby, you might want to think again. As a new dad, this is actually a one-time opportunity to give your child a gift money can’t buy. That gift is time with you, and more benefits for your family than you realize.

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on June 21, 2019.

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“I hear so often that your entire life changes when you have a baby. But I just really want to know how… How exactly does it change? Like, specifically.”

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When David and Victoria Beckham were criticized by parenting experts for allowing their 4-year-old daughter to have a pacifier, David fought back. He took to social media to set the record straight.

“Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent,” said Beckham.

His response garnered over 600,000 likes on Instagram and more than 23,000 comments. Most of the comments encouraged him in his efforts to be a great dad.

Isn’t it interesting how people can take a snapshot in time and make assumptions that may or may not be correct?

The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish, a parenting book by pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, lists seven basic needs of children. They are:

  • Nurturing relationships;
  • Physical safety and security;
  • Opportunities based on individual personality;
  • Developmentally appropriate experiences;
  • Rules and expectations;
  • A supportive community and cultural continuity; and
  • Future protection.

Anyone with siblings or children knows that, even when children have the same biological parents, their personalities can be as different as night and day, and their needs are not the same. A parent may not be able to turn their back on one child for a split-second without something happening, where another child entertains himself for lengthy periods of time. One child may be more outgoing than the others. Some struggle with what seems like non-stop ear infections while the others are the picture of health.

Engaged parents know things about their children that other people usually do not.

Have you ever been “that parent” in the mall, watching your child have a meltdown while feeling helpless and beating yourself up inside because you know people are watching and probably judging your parenting skills?

Parenting is complicated. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge, but when you are in the throes of it, it just isn’t that simple. There is no one cookie-cutter approach for every single child. Most parents are doing the best they know how to do. Being critical without being privy to the big picture is not helpful unless there is legitimate concern of abuse.

Every human being needs to know they are loved, capable, valued and safe. Children look to their parents and want to know if they love them and believe in them and if they measure up.

How parents express answers to these questions probably will look different depending on the child’s needs. Some may need a pacifier when they don’t feel good, even when they are 4 years old. Others may cross a clear boundary and receive a very loving, firm and needed consequence. From an outsider’s vantage point, it may even seem harsh.

Some parents really do need help with their parenting skills. However, it doesn’t seem like judging them publicly without knowing more details is the answer. Remembering that healthy parenting choices vary depending on the situation, the child and the environment can help foster empathy while avoiding a rush to unfair judgment.

1. Do not feel guilty when you leave the kids to go to work—being “present” during the time you are around is what matters most!

2. Set up a few daily rituals to do with your children, like story time, bedtime snuggles, bath time, or preparing breakfast together. This way, they feel secure and confident that you will always be there for those special moments, even if you are working for the majority of the day.

3. Every child develops at a different pace; it is not a competition. So don’t worry if your child is not the first to walk, potty train, talk, or read; they will do it all, eventually!

4. Always speak to your children the way you would want to be spoken to. Teaching good manners at a young age sets the stage for being good humans.

5. Encourage your children to do things for themselves, like getting dressed, helping prepare meals, et cetera. This way they gain a true sense of independence at a young age.

6. Don’t fret about leaving your children for a romantic getaway with your spouse every once in a while. Maintaining a strong, healthy bond in your marriage is essential to being the best parent.

7. Do not hide anything from your children. Be open and honest with them, as you will want them to feel safe to have open communication with you.

8. Teach your children to live from love and not from fear, through your own actions, so that they grow up with the strength and motivation to fulfill their dreams.

9. A happy mother makes for happy children, so always make time for yourself. It’s important to carve out this “me time” to be the best version of yourself.

10. Remember that we are all human, and are constantly learning, so there is no such thing as the perfect parent. Simply be the best you can be, always keep an open mind, and never pass judgment on others’ parenting. We are all different, and that is what makes the world so great.

11. There are things you aren’t going to know, and that no blog, class or book can adequately prepare you for. But, don’t worry. You WILL figure it out and be and amazing parent.

Read the original article here:

https://www.vogue.com/article/tips-for-first-time-parents

It’s your first child. Naturally, you’re going to be highly motivated to pull out all the stops, learn all the tricks and be the “perfect” parent. Since your child doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, you’ll more than likely rely on friends, family, the internet and your own ideas about what’s appropriate and what to expect from your child.

Dr. Kevin Leman, author of First-Time Mom, says many first-timers who are trying to be great parents push their firstborn a little too hard. There’s a tendency to approach parenting from the perspective of raising the perfect child. Unfortunately, the child often gets buried underneath those high expectations and can feel as if they never measure up.

“Your firstborn child is already going to be highly motivated,” says Leman. “Instead of using conditional love and asking them to continually jump through new hoops, choose to be a nurturing, encouraging presence.”

Leman identifies 10 traps first-time parents often fall into:

  • A critical eye. Be aware of your standard of behavior. When is the last time you had a perfect day? Children are the same way. Training takes time and the standard is not perfection. Accept your child as he is and recognize that he is not going to excel at everything.

  • Overcommitment. Children want to be a part of a family and they want to identify with their home. When you choose to live an overcommitted life, you are training your child to identify her heart with what is outside the home.

  • Not enough Vitamin N. First-time parents often fall into the trap of thinking that they can make their child happier and better adjusted by what they give to their child and the experiences they provide for their child. Vitamin N stands for No! Too often, giving our child things becomes a substitute for being their parents.

  • Lack of Vitamin E. One of the biggest myths today is the concern over self-esteem. Instead of telling your child how wonderful she is just for being a child, you want to teach your child to think in a constructive, positive manner. Esteem comes from accomplishing something and from giving something back. If a child learns how to do something and her parents comment about what a great job she did, she recognizes that the most significant people in my life – my mom and dad – notice what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished and recognize that I have a role to play.

  • Playing the competition game. Human development is not a race. Early development does not guarantee that a child will be above average her entire life. Instead of comparing your child, enjoy him.

  • Overexcitement. As a first-time parent, you will go through many trials and anxieties for the first time. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace. Your baby will take his cues from you. Don’t treat minor instances like they are life and death occurrences.

  • Over-discipline. As a first-time parent you may not be as familiar with age-appropriate behavior. As a result, you’re more likely to over-discipline your child. Your goal is not to control your child, but to be in authority in a healthy way. One mother told how her 9-month-old walked up to the couch and grabbed some decorative pillows. The mom said she told her daughter not to throw them on the floor. The child looked her straight in the eyes and threw them on the floor. Instead of recognizing this as age-appropriate behavior, the mother viewed it as intentionally defiant behavior on the part of her child.

  • Under-discipline. The flip side of over-discipline is letting your child do whatever they want without any consequences. With firstborns in particular, you need to lay out exactly what the age-appropriate rules are and follow up. Since firstborns don’t have an older sibling to model behavior, you must be specific about what you want them to do.

  • Letting other people raise your child. It is too easy to give into your parents’ or in-laws’ advice. As a first time parent, it may take you awhile to assume your role as a full-fledged adult. You are the parent. No one knows your child better than you. Be responsible for the decisions you make in raising your child.

  • Allowing your child to be the center of the universe. Up until age two a child’s favorite word is “mine,” which is totally appropriate. Past this age, teach children how to share and interact with a variety of other children. Teach your child to be aware of other people and not just selfishly barge ahead.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!