Meet the expert: Sarah Abell is a relationships expert, who gave us her advice on how to transition from being a couple, to a family.
Becoming parents and transitioning from being a couple to a family can be both an exciting and challenging time. After the first few weeks of the babymoon pressures can soon be felt as new parents wrestle with sleepless nights, changing hormones (hers), their new responsibilities, reduced finances and a shift in identity.
Often the hardest period of adjustment for mum, dad and their relationship comes when the man (in most cases) returns to work after his two-week parental leave and the woman finds herself alone with their newborn.
It is interesting to note that a recent WaterWipes survey shows that 78% of respondents still equate the parent responsible for providing financial support as the “main family provider”
Many of today’s couples are determined to parent differently to their parents or grandparents and are keen not to slide into the gender-stereotypical ways of parenting. However, it can be a challenge to navigate new ground without a map, especially when parenting terminology has yet to catch up.
It is interesting to note that a recent WaterWipes survey shows that 78% of respondents still equate the parent responsible for providing financial support as the “main family provider”.
Perhaps it is time that we saw “providing” in much wider terms than just finances? New parents are much more likely to see themselves as a team if they can move away from labels such as “breadwinner” and “stay at home mum or dad” and see themselves as providing together for the family – whether that is love, care, support, engagement, space or financial matters.
When both mum and dad approach providing for their baby as a team (with all that it entails), the better outcomes they are likely to experience for their child and for their relationship.
We need to equip and encourage parenting couples to confidently discover together what is best for them and their new family.
7 Top tips for when two become three (or more)
- Create a united front – Make decisions and face challenges together. Talking in terms of “we”, “our” or “us” will help to keep you united. For example, “How can we budget our money this month?”. Only agree to solutions that work for you both and don’t be afraid to renegotiate if something isn’t working.
- Mind your language – When referring to yourself or your partner, phrases such as “the provider” or “babysitter” reinforce traditional stereotypes. Remember you’ve both fostered the same role in providing love, engagement and care for your baby despite the different avenues you may take to get there.
- Start as you mean to go on - Whether it is choosing a toy for baby or going to an ante natal class together, it’s vital that you involve each other from the beginning of your parenthood journey to build confidence between yourselves as Mum and Dad.
- Consider each other’s needs – The smallest thing can lead to an argument when you are tired, stressed or over-whelmed, though don’t presume your partner will know how you feel. Speak to them and let them know what you need, whilst also looking out for them. If one of you needs an extra lie-in, time to exercise or a night out with friends, make it happen. It’s as important to give each other space as individuals than it is to connect as a couple.
- Don’t keep score - It’s counter-productive to compare notes on who has had the hardest day. Whether it’s tiredness, hours worked or money earned, always remember you are on the same team so pull together and show appreciation rather than scoring points.
- Tune into each other - Carving out time to be together is not always easy but necessary for keeping allied. Take up offers of babysitting so you can spend quality time and always show an interest in what each other has been up to during the days when you’ve been apart.
- Keep the spark alive - Small, affectionate gestures such as a kiss, cuddle or appreciative comment can go a long way on a hard day, and it’s a precious reminder that you are all each other needs.
Sarah Abell has been working with WaterWipes on their Parent’s Pact campaign which is hoping to redefine and recognise what the term ‘to provide’ means in daily family life. For further details on the Parents Pact campaign please visit www.waterwipes.com