Let’s be honest: a lot changes when you have a baby.
1) Be upfront about emotions
You and your partner may have been at the centre of each other’s universe for years. Of course, he or she isn’t going to be pushed out of the way now that you’re a family of three, but it can take a while to re-navigate your world so that it revolves around two suns, instead of one.
Directly after birth, new mums go through huge hormonal changes,’ says Jill. The dramatic drop in your oestrogen and progesterone levels can leave you feeling euphoric one moment, and weepy the next. If your partner understands and anticipates these changes, as well as how he can impact your mood, he can actively support you through them, and that will bring you closer as a couple.
But if not, it can confuse him and leave him feeling left out of your new world. And the way to help him understand is simply to tell him what’s going on in your head. It doesn’t need to be a running commentary, but simply saying, ‘I’m feeling pretty fragile today’ is a far more positive way of communicating your mood than snapping at him because he didn’t pass you a nappy quickly enough.
‘Once you’re past the very early days, it’s common for one partner to take on the bulk of childcare,’ says Jill. And whether it’s maternity or paternity leave that your family takes, it can create a significant change in your relationship. ‘And the implications of this need to be discussed,’ says Jill. It might not sound like the most romantic way to spend an evening together, but sitting down to divvy up household and childcare duties between you could be the secret to relationship harmony.
2) Shape your new roles together
You may not get a perfect 50/50 division of labour, and that’s ok. What matters is that you’ve worked together to set the schedule, so no resentment builds up. Having a rota or agreed responsibilities also puts the whole idea of who’s doing what on the table for discussion, so you can easily share any issues as they crop up. ‘And you may find that the stay-at-home parent doesn’t get the affirmation and praise they’re used to from working outside the house, and maybe feels taken for granted,’ Jill explains. ‘Or the parent who goes out to work may feel new pressure and anxiety about being the primary breadwinner for the family.’
Do all this, and you’ll negotiate this change in your relationship together. ‘A healthy relationship is one in which you voice your feelings and needs before they explode, in a respectful way,’ says Jill. And the result of all this teamwork? It will make the two of you a far stronger unit, capable of moving mountains, withstanding earthquakes and even changing nappies at 3am in the morning!