There’s no mistaking the love that you and your partner have for your baby and yet you’re experiencing a truth that was impossible fully to appreciate before the birth: life as a couple has changed for ever.
The transition to parenthood is a stage of paradox: it can be euphoric, wondrous, but it’s also profoundly challenging, as the old familiar roles of partner, lover and friend shrink to accommodate the practicalities and emotions of being parents. The overwhelm isn’t something that’s singled the two of you out as a couple – it’s well researched and documented by family therapists (Minchin, Cowan and Cowan), you are not alone.
You may find unprecedented issues of identity and roles bubbling up, for example, if one parent is working and the other is on parental leave. ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’ sighs one parent on parental leave. They miss their working persona and the confidence of doing a good job well under their control. They worry that they’ll feel left behind when finally back at work. Days unravel as the baby has no set clock, so plans to phone a friend, shop or even take a shower fall apart. They have the sense of huge adjustment while they perceive their working partner’s life seems pretty much unchanged – they can walk out of the door unencumbered by prams and nappy bags and spend time in the adult world.
But it’s likely that the working partner doesn’t see it that way …they feel the conflicting pressures of pulling their weight at work but also being a hands-on parent when at home.
The rise in couples seeking therapy as they adjust to parenthood suggests that the pandemic has exacerbated issues – less access to support from family friends and baby groups, the 24/7 intensity of being closeted at home. Add to that the perennial problems of new parenthood: quality time together, which previously had the power to put things right, doesn’t happen, you’re just too, too tired. How can you share chores 50/50 anymore? Those tasks now add up to infinitely more than 100.
Can anything make the transition to parenthood sweeter? Yes indeed – please stop whatever is keeping you so busy right now this moment – or as soon as ever possible – take a mindful moment and warm yourself on the small miracle you’ve created. Really stop to feel, and celebrate as a couple, the fact that you’ve made it through all these tough post baby weeks or months. Try harnessing humour, recognising that this stage is entirely normal and will pass. In the blink of an eye, or at least a few fast-flowing years, your child will be in school. The chance to sleep will return. Hopefully a family member or a friend will hold the fort while you have a meal out or even a walk, just the two of you. Try to be kind to one another, a hug or a kind word can go a long way. Most importantly always keep talking to each other.
If you feel couples’ counselling would help you at this momentous life stage, krysallis therapists are here to support you. For a free telephone consultation please contact krysallis.
If either partner is experiencing symptoms of depression, post-natal depression can affect both parents, please speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor.