Alright, new parents. It's truth time. Parenting is hard work. Harder than anything else you’ve ever done. In order to survive it, especially in those early days, you need to rally together as a team. You know how football players get pep talks before a game? Well, this is your parenting pep talk. This is about supporting one another in and through this exhausting time, so you can remain a cohesive unit. So, yes, there are ways strong couples protect their relationship post-baby, especially when that baby hits certain milestones and, as a result, the way you parent as a couple changes.
Now, I must admit that my suggestion is to just wing it during the first and second post-baby months, then take the time to really focus on the following. Why? Well, because in that first postpartum month things can feel pretty surreal, exhausting, and somewhat unstable. The formerly-pregnant parent will still be coming off the high of childbirth, dealing with those wild hormonal roller coaster feels and allowing their body to heal from labor and delivery. At the same time, both of you will still be adjusting to this whole #TeamNoSleep lifestyle. In other words, give the two of you some space — as a couple and as individuals — to adjust to your new life as parents before really focusing on how that new life has impacted your relationship. Demanding much from one another during this time period is, honestly, unfair.
Once you get the hang of around-the-clock diaper changes, minimal sleep, bedtime routines, and feeding rituals, you and your partner will be much better equipped to shift your focus and start looking at, and tending to, your relationship as a couple. That is when you should try doing the following, if only to make sure you remain the strong couple you were before your little bundle of joy came into the world. After all, parenthood itself doesn't mean your relationship no longer matters. If anything, your new life as a parent means your romantic relationship is more important than ever before.
They Ask Each Other About Their Days
I know it’s been all about the baby during those first few postpartum days, weeks, and even months. Honestly, it's difficult to focus on anything else when this tiny human needs so much from you (and looks so damn cute). Still, you need to focus on one another, too. A month into parenthood is a good time to start asking one another about your days, if you haven't started already.
They Actually Listen To One Another
I have a toddler, so trust me when I say I know that interruptions are a part of daily life. Still, try and do your best to give your partner your undivided attention for at least three to five minutes a day.
They Take Turns Changing Their Baby
I know new parents worry about how to actually change a baby. For example, I was convinced I would hurt my baby, somehow, during each and every diaper change. Sometimes I would pass the responsibility to my partner, only because I was so anxious. Still, by the time you're a month postpartum you should have the diaper changing down, which means everyone should be taking their turns and sharing the responsibility.
They Take Turns Feeding Their Baby
Some moms are all about exclusively breastfeeding, and that’s totally cool. If you don't want your partner to handle the feeding responsibilities, for whatever reason, that is completely and totally your right. After all, only you know what's best for you and your family, and no two families are the same.
Having said that, if you can, I say pump occasionally now that it’s been a month out. In fact, you might just find your partner to be ridiculous excited about the prospect of feeding his or her child. And if you’re a formula-feeding mom, then hopefully you both have been taking turns already. Obviously do what works best for your family, but sometimes sharing the responsibilities is good in the long run.
They Take Turns Doing The Laundry
Laundry is everyone’s job. I wish I could report that my partner does his fair share of our son’s laundry, but we exchange certain chores and that ends up being mine more often than not. It works for our family, to be sure, but it's still frustrating. So to you partners out there: wash the damn socks.
They Make Space For Their Partner To Take A Solo Bath
You should both get to take a solo bath and/or shower once in awhile. No co-bathing. No showers with a baby crying in their bouncy seat. No rushed five minutes because you need to do this or that. Just you and your loofah belting out some early '90s in the shower. Trust me. Make it happen.
They Take Turns Cooking
I must admit that, sometimes, I'm happy I never learned how to cook meat products. If I had learned, I have a feeling I would be the automatic chef du cuisine of the household. Fortunately, my husband enjoys cooking and we’ve always been pretty good about splitting meal duties for the three of us. You’ll want to do the same to maintain some sanity and good will in your home, too.
They Go On Dates
It’s OK if you’re scared to leave your baby, especially for the very first time. That, my new parent friends, is totally normal. After a month or so, though, I would highly encourage you to consider leaving your precious little one in the hands of a capable adult (maybe grandma or an uncle or a best friend). Then, I suggest you go out and spend some time alone, just the two of you, so you can remember what it's like to be partners. Nothing is better for morale, trust me.
They Have Consensual Sex
You won't be cleared to have safe sex until your six weeks postpartum, although many couples feel comfortable having sex before the six week mark. Either way, strong couples don't push the issue, and whatever postpartum sex they have is always consensual.
There are always other options when it comes to physical intimacy, too. Make out for a while. Do some mild groping. If you’re up to it, mutual masturbation can be fun. Or just snuggle together under the blankets and watch half a movie while your baby is sleeping. Boost those oxytocin levels so you can find some joy together from something other than your child.
They Encourage Each Other To Spend Time Alone
Just like y’all should go out on a date, you should also cover for each other to you can both go on solo dates. You will totally come back to your family refreshed as hell and super appreciative of your partner and all they do.
They Let Each Other Sleep In
If you’re still not down to go out on your own (or even if you are), something your partner will always appreciate is having a morning to sleep in for as long as they like, sans interruptions.
They Give Each Other Space To Learn How To Parent
It’s so easy to overstep your bounds as a parent, especially when your partner is struggling. But each parent needs to learn how to do things their own way. Be a good parenting partner and don’t hog the ball.
They Tap Each Other Out When It's Obvious One Parent Is Spent
Sometimes it’s your partner’s time to give your kid a bath. But maybe baby is especially wriggly and maybe your partner is going through a hard time because they just got some bad news. At this point, it’s cool to step in and ask if they need you to tag yourself into the game. Rather than taking over (not cool), you’re giving them the chance to tap out if they need to. They’ll remember to do the same when they see you struggling, too.
This is what real partnership is about: being there for one another when your person needs it the most.