Is Your Relationship Babyproof?
The arrival of a baby marks the real end to the honeymoon for many couples. Instead of fighting about sex, money, “me time” and more, learn how to nip the damage in the bud, both now and after your little homewrecker arrives.
CONFLICT: division of labor
You feel like you’re doing everything; your partner feels like no matter what he does, it’s never enough. “You think, ‘Nobody can do it like me,’ so, unintentionally, you sideline the dad,” says O’Neill. “Most dads are happy to take on the co-pilot role, but you’re setting yourself up for trouble.” The upshot: Dad doesn’t learn how to bathe the baby or perfect a swaddle, which makes him feel incompetent and makes you resent that he’s not pulling his weight.
Make Two Lists of Chores
One is the requirements to keep your household running, and the other is babyrelated tasks. “Get a friend who went through this recently to spell it out,” O’Neill advises. Combine the lists, divide the labor and be specific. Instead of “I’m going to need a lot of help,” tell your partner, “I’ll need you to change the kitty litter and bathe the baby on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights.” Men like to have targets to hit, O’Neill explains. Start sharing the workload now by having your partner research the best stroller or day-care options.
Plan a Job Switch
Most men have no clue what it’s like to spend an entire day with a newborn; so early on, put him in charge for a full day. (If you’ll be nursing exclusively, pop in to feed the baby, then leave the house.) Just make sure you don’t criticize his choice of baby clothes or his diaper-changing technique; he’ll (rightfully) feel you’re too controlling and lose incentive to help.
RAMP UP THE SWEETNESS
“Develop a habit of dropping thank-yous and praise,” says Deborah Roth Ledley, Ph.D., author of the 2008 book Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress and Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood and a psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Appreciation feeds motivation. If you say, “You did a great job feeding the baby breakfast” or “You handled that diaper blowout really well,” he’ll want to help more.
Your parents want to give you a gift? Suggest a cleaning service for two weeks. Before the baby arrives, schedule family and friends to babysit so that you both get a break and have less to fight over.
Once a month, over a glass of wine when the baby is asleep, ask each other: “How are we doing? What’s working; what’s not?”
CONFLICT: parenting style
You want to pick up the baby when she cries; your husband says, “Let her cry it out.” You want the baby to sleep in your room or your bed; your partner wants her in the nursery. “Expectant parents get caught up in what color to paint the baby’s room, but these are the topics you really need to be talking about,” Ledley notes.
Discuss Your Options Together
“Women tend to shut the dad out of these decisions,” says Tessina. Talk to friends whose parenting style you admire and ask what methods they used. Read a variety of books and decide which ones speak to you. Settle on a first-choice approach and a Plan B. Establish a date about one month after delivery to see if you’re still on the same page.
Take a Philosophy Class
Those two-hour classes given at the hospital that teach you how to diaper, feed and burp a baby are useful, but what you may really need is a parenting philosophy course. A few good examples: parentingtots.org; chidseyseminars.com; rie.org.
Create a Cheat Sheet
Write down a summary of the parenting methods you’ve agreed upon. This way, your partner won’t have to read the books if he doesn’t want to. Keep the sheet handy and take turns reading it out loud.