1. It’s about you, your partner and the baby – nobody else! Never mind what in-laws, friends or family have to say, or how they suggest you do things. You and your partner need to determine your own life together as parents, and that decision should be made by you alone. People may want to offer ideas (read: interfere!), but it’s completely acceptable to say no, no matter how pushy they may be.
2. Be prepared to argue – that’s perfectly normal! Every new parent I know spends more time fighting with their spouse after the arrival of baby than ever before. New routines, lack of sleep, fear of raising your child appropriately – all of these things cause stress. Be prepared for it, and be ready to handle it (not just ignore it); it will make your relationship stronger in the long run.
3. Relax! Having a new child might be stressful, but if you can’t laugh about being peed on, about the pureed beets all over your crisp white shirt, or the permanent marker on your freshly painted walls, then you’ll lose your mind. Your child will feel your emotion, so laugh it off.
4. Take some time apart. Some couples seem to spend every waking minute together after baby arrives, but I feel it’s important for both parents to get to know their new little bundle one-on-one. Taking this important time gives your spouse a little break, and it offers essential bonding time between parent and baby.
5. One at a time. You don’t both need to get up in the night to look after the baby – just one of you can do it! A good friend who had twins last year recently reminded me of this. She couldn’t ascertain why parents of singles both get up in the night to tend to the fussing baby, and she’s totally right! Just take turns; one of you may as well be (somewhat) rested!
6. Continue to enjoy time together, just the two of you. Whether you and your partner take a weekend away, a night out for dinner or just enjoy each other’s company when the baby’s in bed, be sure to keep connected and tell each other what’s happening and how you’re feeling. It’s easy to be exhausted by the time you have some alone time, but make use of it and keep connected.
7. Talk about your parenting style before you have the baby, and after the wee one arrives. Take some time to consider the type of parent you want to be, and let your partner know. In many ways your role will evolve organically, but having an idea beforehand can be helpful. Then discussing it as time goes on is important too.
8. Don’t over-schedule yourselves. People will want to be visiting your new addition all the time, but remember that it’s okay to say no. It’s important for the three (or four, or five…) of you to have time to learn about your new family life. That doesn’t include others; just you!
9. Lighten up! Parenting is very serious, but it’s also extremely fun. I recall my husband saying, long before our first child arrived, that he thought with my perfectionist personality I wouldn’t let our kids leave the house with their shoes on the wrong feet when the time came. I’ve always remembered that, and now I have to think a little before I let my kids leave the house with the Cinderella dress on, but I’m always glad that I can relax enough to let that happen.
10. Who does what? Domestic duties become greater the moment the baby enters the house. That few-pound bundle in the blanket may be small, but boy, can they make a mess!! Who will put out the garbage, make dinner, clean the bathrooms, tend the garden? All of these little tasks that seemed easier before become more challenging to get to, and seem like more of a hurdle. Determining ahead of time who will do what takes away the frustration of sitting there just WAITING for your partner to take out the garbage while their perceived lack of motivation drives you crazy!
11. Keep talking. The moment you stop communicating with one another is the moment you will struggle. Tell your partner what’s frustrating you, what makes you happy, what you’re excited about. Be open and honest about everything so you’re not left guessing at how your spouse is feeling or what they are thinking.
Above all – have fun! Parenting is serious business, but it’s the most fun you’ll ever have.