New moms are superstars (obvi). But behind those mesh undies and leaking boobs are the new dads who might not have endured any physical pain (literally none, at all, so pardon us while we watch our nipples get huge and say goodbye to any and all sleeping positions), but let's be honest; parenthood isn't exactly a cake walk for new dads either.
Hormones are insane, sleep is a mythical creature, it's the perfect storm to make even the most solid relationships a little tense. We chatted with our friend, Jessica Hutchison, a licensed clinical professional counselor in Chicago, and picked her brain for ways to maintain a healthy relationship despite the fact that your worlds have just been totally rocked (in the best way).
Not only is Jessica a counselor, she is also a mom of two so she's been through the weeds and is sharing her insight from first-hand experience.
So often we talk about the excitement that accompanies bringing a new baby home. What we don’t talk about is the chaos that accompanies that adorable little human. I remember bringing my oldest daughter home, and my gosh was it different than bringing my son home. I was absolutely terrified of this little human. Even worse, I didn’t know how to express that fear. When I did decide to talk about it, it usually happened when my husband came through the door after work. I hadn’t showered, was still in my pajamas, and probably looked a little insane. Problem with looking insane, is you often are treated with extra care. Extra care often means that your concerns are minimized or brushed aside. My husband wasn’t intending to minimize my worries; he was trying to make me feel better. Men tend to be problem solvers, while woman tend to want to talk through their problems. Problems occur when the man feels like he can’t fix his wife's problems, and the wife feels like her problems aren’t understood by her partner. So, first let me tell you, “What you are feeling, and experiencing is NORMAL.” I promise that you are not insane, and yes, that tiny human can create more chaos than you ever imagined. Yes, they are adorable, and you are beyond excited to have them, but that doesn’t mean your world hasn’t been turned upside down. To help ease this transition, here are a couple tips from the woman who probably could have used this advice 5 1/2 years ago when I brought my daughter home.
3 Tips We Wish We'd Known:
1. Communication is key.
We have all been told how important it is to communicate, but we don’t often talk about what is important when it comes to communication. We make WAY too many assumptions in marriage. We often assume that our partner knows how we are feeling, even though we haven’t directly told them. We assume that our partner knows what we need. Let me fill you in on something…. they don’t. If you need something, ask for it. Be direct about what you need. Most importantly do not feel bad about asking.
In addition to being direct, make sure to tell your partner when they are doing something right. We often deflect to the negative. We focus on what they didn’t do, not what they did do. Everyone loves positive reinforcement. It feels good when you know you did something right. I used to joke with my husband about having a gold star chart when my oldest was a baby. Looking back maybe I should have been more direct and asked for a gold star chart. I think we both could have benefitted from highlighting all the amazing things the other was doing to make it through this season of our life.
2. Find something you can do together.
Fancy date nights are great, but not always realistic. If you are nursing your baby, it can be difficult to leave the house for longer than an hour or two. It can also be difficult to find someone to watch your baby, or maybe you get nervous leaving your new bundle of joy. Hormones are crazy post baby, and your fears aren’t always rational. You don’t have to leave to spend time together. Start your own book club if you both enjoy reading, or try out easy new recipes for a date night in. My husband and I once had a cookoff with appetizers. We each made a new appetizer and then sat together and discussed who’s was better. For the record, it was my husbands. Despite me being the cook in our home, he always creates something delicious. He would have gotten a gold star for that dish! Get creative. Doing things together during this season of your life helps you go through it together, and we are always stronger together.
3. Remind yourself that this is just a season of your life.
When you are in the trenches of the fourth trimester, it can feel like an entirety. The lack of sleep certainly doesn’t help either. Remind yourself (and your partner) that this is just a season of your life. You will not be exhausted forever, and that tiny human will eventually not dominate every minute of your day. You will get into a routine, and you will forget how tough it was when you were in the trenches. Don’t be too hard on yourself during this season. This season is about adapting and surviving.
I promise that it does get easier, and you will feel like a human again. Honor yourself by asking for help. We forget that humans are pack animals. We were meant to be among others. The animal that steps outside of the pack always becomes the prey. We are all stronger together.
Jessica Hutchison is a mother of two and a counselor in Chicago, IL. You can learn more about her approach on her website, JLHutchison.com or follow her journey on Facebook. She's currently accepting new clients locally and virtually, so if you're looking for professional guidance, we're biased, but she's an excellent resource!