And Baby Makes Three
And Baby Makes Three – From the moment you make the decision to start a family, your relationship with your spouse changes. It’s no longer just the two of you. There is a new element in your lives. You will probably need to rethink your work hours and your household budget. You should be aware that relationships with friends and family will change. And you also need to remember to spend time alone together. In this chapter, we will show you how to make the adjustment as smooth as possible, while keeping your relationship strong.
➤ Adjusting to family life
➤ Rethinking past decisions
➤ Changing outside relationships
➤ Making special time for each other without the kids
Bringing the Baby Home
Bringing a baby into your home will be one of the most memorable times of your lives. You are the proud parents of a beautiful bundle of joy. You are beaming with delight. Your entire world has changed. You now have the breathtaking responsibility of raising a human being to adulthood.
The transition from couple to family is one of the biggest adjustments you will ever make. Every little thing is new, from having someone dependent on you for everything to not being able to make many concrete plans for a while. You have the awe- some responsibility of the full-time care of someone who is totally dependent on you!
Caring For Each Other
It’s very common for one of the new parents (often the dad) to feel left out. The new baby makes his or her needs very obvious. Somehow it seems that the two adults in the house don’t need to be taken care of, and the focus is always on the baby. But this is not true. You are both probably feeling insecure and sleep-deprived. Pay attention to each other’s needs and support each other as much as you can. Do your best to communicate how much you love each other.
Marilyn loved being a mother. She felt particularly lucky because she fell into the role easily. Nursing was easy for her, the baby was thriving, and he had a good tempera- ment. Marilyn spent more time with her mother, who also loved being with the baby. The moment her husband, Jim, came home from work, she would tell him in great detail about all the things the baby did that day. She would describe how many hours he slept, how much he ate, and how many times he spit up. They would eat dinner quickly, and then Marilyn would nurse the baby, sing the baby songs, give the baby a bath, and put the baby to sleep. After that, she would tell Jim she was going to bed so she could get in a few hours before the baby’s nighttime feeding.
Jim loved being a father, but after several months of having every evening revolve completely around the baby, he started to feel left out. Marilyn used to ask about his day, and they would discuss some issues from his work. He knew that they would be able to go out less often with a baby, but he didn’t think he would have to give up his entire relationship with Marilyn!
Over the next few months, things escalated to the point where Jim would come home late every night because he didn’t even feel that it was worth it to come home. He pitched in with the baby on week- ends, but he was feeling distant and somewhat hostile toward Marilyn. They were beginning to have many fights, and the fights were worse than before the baby was born. Jim was feeling very guilty about how he felt, but he didn’t know what he could do about it.
They came to see us and talked about what was going on. Jim described feeling his relationship with his wife was almost nonexistent. Marilyn said she didn’t know what to do because all of her time and energy were taken up with the baby and she didn’t have anything left for her husband. We assured them that the things they were experiencing were very common with a new baby in the house.
We suggested Marilyn always, without fail, ask Jim about his day when he came home. We also said Marilyn didn’t need to share every single detail of the baby’s day with her husband. Jim assured her that he was
very interested in the baby, but not necessarily in exactly how long he slept or how many diapers were changed that day.
Now that Marilyn was not nursing exclusively, we thought it would be beneficial for Jim to feed the baby a bottle in the evening so that he would have some time alone with the baby. Marilyn could use that time to relax or talk with someone on the telephone. At this point, Marilyn suggested that maybe her mother could come over one evening a week to give her and Jim a chance to go out for coffee together. Marilyn didn’t feel ready to leave the baby for a long stretch of time, but she knew that she and Jim needed time together. When Marilyn and Jim made these minor changes in their evenings, they noticed a big difference. Jim felt more involved as a father, and more important, he felt valued again as a husband. Things became even better as the baby grew older and began interacting with Jim.
It’s Not Just the Two of You
The sooner you adjust to the demands of a new child, the better. One of the hardest things about the transition from being a couple to having a child is coming to terms with the fact that your life is going to change in every way. If you try to do all the things you used to do and add a baby in there, too, you are setting yourself up to be really overwhelmed. The baby needs a certain amount of attention and will make that clear to you. You will need to make choices, especially about time and money, that take into account the fact that you are now a family.
Managing your time when you have a child can be quite a challenge. In the past, you would estimate how many hours a task would take and set the time aside so that you could get it done. While the basic principle still applies, there is one major difference: Taking care of a child is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job. You can make a schedule based on the expectation that your child will sleep through the night and not be too sick to go to child care. But your schedule can easily be thrown out of whack. Imagine that your baby cried for most of the night. You’re pretty tired, but you’re set on going to work anyway. When you pick up your baby to get him ready, you realize he has a fever. Someone needs to stay home with him today, and maybe take him to the pediatrician. A big wrench has been thrown into your schedule. This can be very frustrating, but if you expect unexpected problems, they will be much easier to deal with. Understanding and accepting the fact that you need to be flexible will prevent many conflicts between you and your spouse.
Marriage Q & A’s
Q: Now that I’m a parent, my plans keep getting changed. What can I do?
A: As a parent, many plans you make will not work out. Being flexible is one of the most valuable traits you can have. Just remember it’s all for a good cause! Your sacrifices now will grow a loving (and hopefully appreciative!) human being.
Alice planned to go back to work part-time when her baby was three months old. After her baby was six months old, she planned to switch to full-time work. Her hus- band, Robert, worked full-time. Since the baby was so young, they decided to hire a nanny to watch her at home. Ideally, they wanted to find a nanny who would work part-time for three to six months and then would work full-time when Alice went back to working full-time. But they found when they interviewed people that no one was interested in that arrangement. Most of the poten- tial nannies wanted a full-time job. And the ones who wanted to work part-time had other obligations like school and would not be able to switch to full-time.
This couple’s carefully conceived plan was ruined! They realized they needed to hire someone full-time now, even though Alice was not going to be working full-time. It was going to be more expensive than they had planned; in fact, it would cost Alice’s entire parttime salary to pay for a full-time nanny. Initially, Alice and Robert were upset, but then they began to see some of the advantages. Alice would have a chance to get to know the nanny because she would be home half of the time. It would also give Alice the opportunity to rest and get caught up on much needed sleep.
They hired a nanny and things went smoothly while Alice was working part-time. She had time to do errands, catch up on her sleep, and even had a little time for herself. Everything changed when she went back to work full-time. Even though the baby was sleeping through the night, she was exhausted. Before the baby, she would do all of the errands and have personal time after work. Now, she needed to be home by six, which gave her only enough time to drive home from work. Alice didn’t have time for the grocery shopping, let alone time to get her hair cut or talk with a friend on the phone.
Alice became irritable, and she and Robert began to fight more. They came to see us because they wanted to work things out before the situation became even more un- manageable. When they described their situation, it was clear that they had a time management problem. They just didn’t have enough hours in the day to get every- thing done that they needed to, let alone have time to relax. We asked them if it would be possible for either of them to work less than full-time, so they would have some time dur- ing the week to do errands. They said that right now it wouldn’t be possible, but that it might be a reasonable solution in the future.
We asked if Robert could pitch in with more of the errands. In the past, Alice did the majority of the errands because her job was less demanding than Robert’s. But that was no longer true because now she was taking care of the baby when she came home. Robert agreed to do the grocery shopping every week. Robert also planned on coming home twice a week at six to relieve the nanny. On those nights, Alice would have a chance to do an errand, catch up at work, or go to the gym. This new schedule made a big difference. It took into ac- count the fact that either Robert or Alice needed to be home at six every day, and it divided their new obligations more fairly.
Your Time Costs Money
It can be quite a shock when you realize you cannot go out to a movie with your spouse without thinking about it ahead of time. And unless you happen to live next door to your baby’s doting grandmother, it’s probably going to cost money! All of a sudden, you need to spend money just for the privilege of being alone with each other.
It can also be a big surprise to realize that if both of you work you are not bringing in two paychecks, but actually two paychecks minus child care costs. You must rethink the value of your work when you have a child. Sometimes paying for child care takes an entire paycheck (after taxes are considered). If you are working and receiving personal satisfaction from your job, it still might be worth working. But if you are working solely to bring in additional income, you will definitely need to reconsider the financial benefit. Either way, you will probably need to compute a new budget to meet the additional expenses of a child.
Don’t forget to consider the hidden expenses of a two- job family. Items such as gas, dry cleaning of work clothes, and costly convenience foods really add up! When you add in the cost of child care, you might find there is little financial benefit to both of you working.
When you have a child, you will need to readjust your relationships with other peo- ple. This doesn’t mean you need to give up close friendships or never see your family. It might even mean the opposite. But the rhythm of your lives has changed, which means the other parts of life will change as well.
The reaction that your family has after you have children will vary. It might depend on how close you were to begin with, or whether your child is their first or their seventh grandchild. But, you can bet that most of the time they will want more involvement with you, rather than less. Bringing a child into your lives is a family event. Your lives are more public than they were before. You are carrying on the family for your parents, and they have a stake in how your child is raised.
Hopefully, your family’s involvement will be mostly a positive thing. For the most part, your children will benefit from involvement with them. Don’t deny your chil- dren access to a family member because you are carrying a personal grudge. Children can bring out the best in others and might help you put aside past grievances.
Thinking back to Chapter 14, “I Married You, Not Your Whole Family,” on dealing with your family, there are often family members who are interfering and might be- come more so when a grandchild or niece or nephew is involved. If you have a partic- ularly difficult relationship, or if a relative has been abusive, you will need to be more cautious.
When you have children, you have many new responsibilities. If your family lives nearby, they can share these with you. Encourage your family to help out. If either of your parents is able to baby-sit, say yes. It’s a great way to have time alone together without having to pay for it, not to mention the value for your child. Welcome your parents and siblings into your family; they will enrich the lives of your children. And, if they are willing to babysit, they can give you much needed time alone with each other!
Marriage Q & A’s
Q: My relationship with my parents is not great. Does that mean my children won’t get along with them as grandparents?
A: If you have a grudge against one of your parents, remember that he or she is your child’s grandparent, not parent. The relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is different than a parent-child relationship.
All of a sudden, you will start seeing your friends as those with children and those without children. The ones with children will understand your new rhythm of life. They will realize that it’s not always so easy to get a baby-sitter and get together with them. They will probably enjoy getting together with you and your whole family.
Your friends without children might need some education. Your relationship with them might change. They might be offended that you don’t want to pay for a baby- sitter to go out and get a bite to eat; you would rather have them over for dinner.
They might get annoyed that you cannot finish a thought completely before your child needs something. If this happens with some of your friends, don’t write them off. Explain your new constraints (involving both money and time) to them. Hopefully, they will understand and you will be able to enjoy each other’s company in different ways than you did before you had children.
Making Special Time for Yourselves Without the Kids
The single most important factor in having happy children is to be happy in your relationship with your spouse. If the two of you feel close to each other and are supportive of each other, your chil- dren will feel secure. That’s why it’s very important to have time alone with your spouse. Your kids might throw a tantrum when you walk out the door together, but don’t feel guilty! You will be better parents if you spend time alone together, and they will be happier kids!
Ideas for Dating When You Have Kids
Some parents are very good about going out every week or so without the children. Unfortunately, these days it’s more common for parents to forgo time together for family time. Don’t let that happen to you! The following suggestions take into ac- count the huge time commitment and general exhaustion most parents have:
➤ See an afternoon movie on the weekend and have an early dinner afterward. That way you can have family time with your kids in the morning before you go and still be home around their bedtime. The baby-sitter could have them ready in their pajamas with their teeth brushed, and you could tuck them in bed. Then, you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour, too!
➤ Go out in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. You can be together as a family during the dinner hour and not lose that time together.
➤ Spend an evening together without spending money if you are on a tight budget. Browse through a bookstore together or take a walk. It might seem silly to hire a baby-sitter if you are not going to a movie or out to dinner, but everyone needs that carefree feeling once in a while, even if it must be paid for!
Maybe you won’t be able to date as regularly or elabo- rately as couples without children, but there are still things you can do that will be fun. All things that you enjoy doing together or any suggestion from Chapter 4, “Keeping the Passion Alive,” would be great ways to spend time with each other.
Ideas for Getting Away Without Your Kids
It’s extremely difficult to get away overnight without your children. Many couples simply don’t do it until their children are older. If it’s at all possible, try to go away, even for one night. It takes planning to find someone to watch your kids. You might be extremely lucky and have grandparents or other relatives around who will watch your kids overnight for you. That’s great. Most people need to use a combination of a hired sitter and friends or relatives.
Keep in mind that it might be more refreshing to go away for a short time in a more expensive, luxurious setting than a longer vacation that would be less special. Every night you spend away from your kids will entail some expenses or worry. If you go away for only one or two nights and spend as much money as you would on a five- day vacation, you might have a better time. Plus, you will have to spend less on a baby-sitter, or imposeless on other people. Start small. Even one night away can be refreshing.
The Least You Need to Know
➤ Be sure to remember to give each other attention and not give it all to the baby.
➤ When you plan out your time, be realistic and take into account your full- time responsibility to your child. You also need to be flexible and ready to change your schedule if it’s not working out.
➤ It’s worthwhile to reconsider your reasons for working when it will cost a sub- stantial part of your paycheck to pay for child care.
- ➤ Your family will become more involved in your lives after you have children. Use this to your advantage.
- ➤ Make a commitment to regularly spend time with your spouse alone. Try to go away overnight with your spouse at least once a year.