4 rows all new parents have
Recognise any of these? You probably wouldn't be human if you didn't. From whose turn is it to put the bins out, to pretending to be asleep when your baby cries, here's how to spot the flashpoints and keep the peace
Argument 1: Who works the hardest?
Ah, the classic. Which is harder - looking after a guzzling, grizzling, crying machine or coping with the 'real' world of daily commuting and office politics?
“First, remember it’s not a competition,” says Lin Griffiths, practice manager for Relate for Parents. “You have to be united and understand you’re both working towards the same thing – a loving and stable home for your family.
“Second, try setting up a reward you can both share. Every now and then book a babysitter (or rope in a friend or relative) so you can get out of the house. Just going for a walk – without the buggy – is an easy way to spend time together. And it will give you both something to look forward to.”
Mum Sophie says...
“When we were having the ‘who works harder’ debate we even went as far as keeping mental lists of our days to prove how much we’d done. After a big chat we realised we were being ridiculous and we also found that I was expecting too much of myself during the day – including dusting the banisters. So now I’m only allowed to do one non-essential chore per day and we’ve completely stopped the petty point scoring.”
Argument 2: Who knows best?
It's tempting... You know the burps, the facial expressions, the real smile (and the windy smile) - and of course, how to do everything right. But then your partner has a different way of bathing or feeding. Are you able to bite your lip, or can you not help yourself?
“You both know best, but the one who spends the most time with your baby will have a better understanding about his daily needs,” says Lin.
“As a mum you’ll have a very primitive instinct and it’s important to follow it, but you have to compromise and come to a decision you’re both happy with. Most couples have a formula of understanding for their differences and you mustn’t forget this when your baby arrives – there will be some things you can tackle together, others you’re better at and some that he’s better at.”
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Mum Celine says
“The biggest thing we disagree over is sleep. I’m quite strict about what time Henry goes to bed, and leave him once he’s down, but Simon will go back if he’s crying. I’m always telling Simon how to do things, like when and how to feed Henry, but after he told me this wasn’t fair I’ve learnt to let things go. For little things, Simon does it his way and I do it mine, but for the bigger things, Simon trusts my ‘mummy’ instincts."
Argument 3: Whose turn is it?
You've spent the day looking after a new baby, cooking, clearing up and general housekeeping. So a little time off in the evenings from baby and house duties would be a godsend. But his idea of doing his fair share may be rather different to yours...
“Even though it might seem obvious to you, sometimes you have to spell out how exhausted you are,” says Lin. “Your partner is more likely to help out if he knows how much you’re struggling. With a baby it’s all about give and take – you need to be flexible. Remember, both of you, it’s not about one person being responsible for a particular chore.”
Mum Sarah says...
“Every few weeks me and my husband completely switch our evening roles for a few days. He’ll cook the dinner, bath Charlie and put him to bed, while I’ll take the dog for a walk, get the bins ready and load the dishwasher. It makes a change and also helps us appreciate what each other does.”
Argument 4: Who gets up in the middle of the night?
The mother of them all. It's your turn is a common refrain in many new parent bedrooms. Do you keep count? Do you pretend you've already got up when your partner was sleeping? Many new mums marvel at the way new dads seem able to sleep through torrential crying at night-time. But then again, many new mums are so good at rousing a sleeping dad...
“Getting up in the night (once you’ve mastered expressing if you're breastfeeding) is one of the few things dads can do, and most of the time you’ll find he’ll be happy to do it if he’s appreciated,” says Lin.
“Lots of praise and cuddles will stop this becoming an issue pretty quickly. Both of you can catch up on your lost sleep at the weekend when you take it in turns to be the main carer."
Mum Sian says...
“As Tom has to get up early for work I find myself doing the night shifts. Although Tom makes up for it at the weekend, it still leaves me exhausted during the week. We now have a scheduled ‘Daddy’ night per week and if Cerys doesn’t wake up on this night then he does the next night that she does wake. Occasionally, he’s also on duty from around 8pm and I’ll go to bed to ‘bank’ some sleep before the night shift.”
5 great ways to survive new parent tensions
Sophie Linington, from the Family and Parenting Institute, offers these top tips to help your relationship survive the strain of being new parents:
- Sit down together and talk - even if it's only for a couple of minutes a day. Turn off the TV, unplug the phone and concentrate on each other.
- Take it in turns to talk - when you're the listener, give the talker your full attention. Don't interrupt or let your eyes wander.
- Praise each other - recognise the work you're both doing by telling each other.
- Have a night off - it doesn't have to be anything fancy - a meal or a DVD while your baby's at the grandparents' is perfect. And if you can stay up a little later it's a good opportunity to get close and feel loved.
- Remember it's not forever - your baby won't be a baby for long! As he grows up you'll both learn how to compromise better.
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