Marcus David reflects on how he and his partner have reassessed their perspectives and priorities since becoming parents – and how this has affected their relationship
“You’ve had at least 30 seconds more sleep than me!”
“Well what about last Wednesday when you had a 5 minute nap on the sofa while I was giving her tea?”
I have to admit that through the haze of early parenthood, it hasn’t always been easy to keep things in perspective. In hindsight, though, I realise that seemingly major disasters were probably the most trivial of issues.
Adding the catalyst of tiredness to an already volatile emotional mixture of stress and anxiety can often be damaging to a relationship. Getting through it all successfully, in my experience, takes commitment and determination from you both.
As all new parents will know, the jolliest trip to the seaside can quickly nosedive into a major stress-a-thon when you add a screaming baby to the mix. It’s curious how the sound of a baby’s cry can reduce polite conversation to a series of grunts.
A wise parent friend of mine who already has 2 children (and not a single grey hair to show for it) gave me an extremely good piece of post-birth relationship advice: “When you argue, just remember that it’s not real!”
With the unfamiliar stresses that come with parenthood, it’s far too easy to become crabby. Unfortunately though, your grouchy pincers can often nip the person that is closest to you – your partner. In my experience, you both have to make an extra effort to keep talking about how you’re feeling and make sure you share personal duties equally to stay sane. If you can both anticipate ‘parent irritability’ early on, you can set up strategies to protect your relationship before its onset.
Setting aside some ‘couple time’ also helps you stop feeling that your relationship has become purely functional, focusing only on the baby, work and chores. My partner and I try to have a night off once a week, getting a friend or relative to babysit while we go out and have some time away from nappies and bottles.
Our sex life has, at times, taken a back seat. After a day at work, feeding and putting the baby to bed, and then trying to keep the house from resembling a disaster zone, both of us are snoring within seconds of getting to bed!
Making an effort to stay physically close is an important ingredient in keeping a relationship healthy, but it’s also easy to neglect for new parents.
Looking back to before parenthood, I’m amazed at the time we had to spend solely on us. Life would focus on Friday and Saturday nights at the pub, and we would feel hard done by to have to be up by 9am!
From my new fatherly vantage point, I feel my priorities in the in the past were somewhat trivial, and life now seems to afford a much clearer view. My whole universe revolves around keeping my little girl safe and happy, and that just seems to make complete sense.
As well as there being a change in my relationship with my partner and our priorities, I feel there has also been a change in me as a person. My friends and family have always thought of me as being a slightly dizzy type of man, which is probably a fair description. But as a father, I’ve begun to feel increasingly empowered by some curious force of nature that has not only filled me with a sense of confidence and assertiveness, but has also boosted my motivation. Around the home, I feel in danger of turning into a DIY fanatic. I just can’t seem to leave that toolbox alone! Perhaps this is the fabled urge to nest I’ve often heard new parents talk about…
Becoming a parent involves a whole heap of changes and a steep learning curve for both you and your partner. The most valuable advice that I can offer is that maintaining a healthy relationship means both of you making a big effort, and working as a team.
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