The first year of parenthood tends to be way more work than most soon-to-be parents anticipate. No matter how intricate your pre-baby/post-baby planning — or how many in-depth conversations about roles, responsibilities, and expectations come to fruition — there's bound to be some tension between parenting partners. That's why the following rules for postpartum couples exist: so you and your partner don't end up hating each other. Trust me when I say you can, and will, make it through this exhausting time as new parents. It's just going to take some work.
I feel qualified to suggest a few new-parent mandates only because I've survived postpartum life. Twice. The first year of my daughter's life was a real testament to how much my partner and I wanted to be together. We weren't married, I was struggling through major postpartum depression (PPD), and our finances were dragging us down. We stopped talking to one another — like really talking, listening, and honestly voicing our thoughts, fears, hopes, and ideas — and were dangerously close to going down a potentially disastrous road that was sure to end in a split. We got through it though, and in the end not only did we not hate each other, but we actually fell more in love.
When my son was born my partner and I knew what to work on so we wouldn't have to experience the aforementioned difficulties all over again. That doesn't mean it was easy, though. Thanks to another bout of sleepless nights, having two children trying to find their places within our family unit, life, money, and everything else that comes along with two children, my partner and I, once again, found ourselves fighting for us. We wanted to make our relationship work so, for us, the fight was worth it. So if you're like us, and you want to maintain your relationship and love for your partner, pay attention to the following rules:
It may seem like a no-brainer, but lack of communication is usually a big reason why romantic partners decide to go their separate ways. When I was tired, cranky, and not getting what I needed from the relationship (like someone to hear my cries for help), the easiest thing to do was bottle it up and shut down. Don't do this. It nearly ended my relationship. No matter how you think your partner is going to respond to whatever it is you need to say, say it loud and say it often and until you feel heard.
Ask For Help
I've never been good at asking for help, even when I'm most desperate for it. As a result, I've forced myself to avoid relying on anyone else, which isn't the best way to approach new motherhood. Yes, being self-sufficient is great, until it's too much (and for the record, having a baby qualifies as "too much"). If you don't want to resent your partner for not reading your mind at the end of the day, ask for help.
Be A Friend First
There can't be a solid relationship without a friendship foundation. That's easily one of the most important lessons I've learned during this whole "13 years with my person" thing. At the end of the day, when you're exhausted because you've kept other human beings alive, it's comforting to know your person is the one you can laugh with, or sit and stare at nothing in complete silence.
Carve Out Mandatory Couple Time
I know it's hard when you have a brand new baby, but it's important to find small pockets of time to spend with your partner (even if it's just to complain about your day). My partner and I struggled to find "us time," because any so-called free time was spent sleeping or tuning everything else out to re-charge. But if you don't want to hate each other when your baby is grown, connect. Your relationship is just as important as sleep.
Don't Internalize Anything
You know all those times you wonder why your partner isn't doing something (like helping around the house or giving you time to yourself)? Instead of saying it, I would silently ask myself those questions, to the point I started to dislike my relationship and my partner. I'd built things up in my head instead of sharing my feelings the with father of my child. Had I just told him what I needed, he'd have helped and I wouldn't have struggled through long, lonely bouts of feeling misunderstood for no real reason.
It took time for my partner and I to view one another as parents. Instead of giving us room to grow, though, I sabotaged a perfectly normal phase of personal adjustment by being upset that my partner wasn't "getting it" yet. Make no mistake, people don't naturally know how to parent, and I needed to be patient while my partner learned the ropes.
Hold space for your partner to figure things out on their own, and demand they do the same for you. Trust me.
Spend Time By Yourself
It's hard to leave your newborn, sure, and it might even be hard to leave your partner. You have to, though. It doesn't matter if it's just for five minutes, or you spend a weekend away: it's necessary to spend time to think about yourself and yourself only.
After my daughter was born it was difficult to take time for myself, mostly because I didn't think I should. Now I know this unnecessary self-sacrifice made my PPD worse.
Utilize The Power Of Teamwork
It really does take a village to raise a child. My partner and I didn't have that village in place when our daughter was born, but we did have each other. Unfortunately, along the way we forgot that we could lean on and rely on each other I felt lonely, and I'm sure he did, too. It might not have made us hate each other — doing everything alone — but it didn't bring us together, either.
Remember Who You Are
Becoming a mother is one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. But during those first few postpartum months, I wish I'd spent a little more time investing in things that made me who I was. You know, the things I'd done before pregnancy. If I had, maybe I wouldn't have felt so lost and disconnected from my identity by the time my daughter had her first birthday, and maybe my partner and I wouldn't have gone through so many rough patches as we both fought to remember ourselves as individuals, outside of parenting.