Disclaimer: As I discuss the state of your marriage with a new baby in the house, I fully realize that everyone has their own unique situations- some of which can be quite difficult. Please take these ideas as suggestions that may help, but not as law. I also realize that some women may find themselves in the midst of an abusive situation with a new baby, and in that case, your initial course of action should be first to ensure the safety of mother and baby through getting help and a safe place to stay, and then deciding what you should do regarding your relationship. This post is not directed towards your situation. I am not a counselor, just a mother and a wife sharing from my own experience.
Me and my hubby, sans children, back when we first were engaged.
Many people will discuss finances, sibling relationships, space in their house, and new car purchases when considering a new addition to the family. All of these are important issues to think through. However, I think that it is most important to consider how a baby will affect your marriage. While there is no real way to know what its like until you get there, talking through your possible reactions will help you to prepare for how you will approach the troubles that often accompany the transition.
For example, with a newborn in the house, you will be utterly exhausted. You will be frustrated sometimes because you don’t know what your baby wants. You will be disgusted because your kitchen counters are covered in crumbs, the dishwasher isn’t loaded, and the diaper bin is overflowing. You might think that only you can soothe your baby and that your partner is doing it all wrong- or you might think you can do nothing right and push all responsibility to your partner! You may feel near breaking at certain points, and perhaps experience the meaning of the phrase, “at your wit’s end.” If you have other children, this may complicate the issue further, or they may be a great help to you. The problem is, you don’t know which of these challenges will be yours- but you are pretty much guaranteed to have at least some minor obstacles to overcome.
Why is it important to keep your marriage strong when you have a new baby? First of all, because you vowed to one another that you would love and care for one another- for better, for worse, for as long as you both shall live. Now is not the time to take this promise lightly. It’s also important because you each have unique roles to fulfill as parent, and your child will benefit greatly by having both of you consistently involved in his life. May I add that your marriage- strong or weak- will be an example to your child for years to come. You can also be a great help to each other during this uncertain time, and may be surprised how wonderful it is to rely on each other for help and encouragement, rather than tearing one another down day in and day out.
I suggest discussing this topic in the preconception/TTC period (or through pregnancy), because just by talking about these struggles beforehand you may alleviate some of the stress as it happens. Ask yourself some of the following questions now:
- How do I react when I’m tired? Sore? Overwhelmed? Frustrated?
- How can I exercise self-restraint when I really just want to be miserable?
- How might my husband/wife feeling right now?
- How can I help my husband/wife when he/she is feeling this way?
- How can I show patience and caring? How can I show love even when I don’t feel like it?
- How will I remind myself not be self-righteous or to accuse him/her?
- How will we reasonably and realistically share responsibilities for the baby, home, and work?
As a Christian, I try to think of what type of character qualities I should be developing, even in the midst of an unfamiliar or stressful situation. “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galations 5:22-23.) I find this verse a particularly fitting reminder to me for when there is a new baby in the house.
What do you need to keep in mind when you are striving towards keeping up a good marriage while you’re also trying to be a good mom or dad?
That you will make mistakes. You will reach the end of your rope, and then you will recover again. That you won’t be perfect, and neither will your spouse. That you can forgive. That you will have some regrets. That you start each day new.
“22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
While parenthood can be stressful on your marriage, it is not something to be feared. It is a journey to be embraced and traveled joyfully, for it shapes you and your family deeply and permanently. It is an opportunity to grow in ways that you would not have had the chance to do had you not had children.
Let parenthood grow you and your spouse closer together, not apart. It is an unparalleled privilege to experience a strengthened marriage through a difficult time.
What helped you keep your marriage intact during the first few weeks, months, and years with baby? Please share your wisdom!