When my husband and I got married we had zero plans for kids for at least 5 years. We were still in our ‘I hate kids’ phase and was loving our DINKs (double income no kids) life and were too busy for the pitter patter of little feet.
But for sure, when you are madly in love with someone, and your relationship is very close to being perfect, it isn’t long before baby fever sets in and you want to create that outward expression of your love …. a tiny little bundle of joy. But even though we knew that a baby changes a marriage, I wish someone had prepared us for all of the stress… ahem fun 🙂 that would come along with a tiny person.
So here are my ‘couple of things’ you’ll want to do to ensure your marriage will have a smooth transition through this life amazing, life altering roller coaster of childbearing that I wish I had known.
1.Antepartum depression is a real thing
We’ve all heard of baby blues – postpartum depression. But what many people don’t know, is that we can suffer from antepartum depression too. That is being depressed while you are pregnant. Yes, at the happiest time of your life, you can be completely miserable. What’s worse, is that you have so many people around you that are telling you should be so happy, and while you try to put on a good face, you are slowly dying inside.
For me, in my second pregnancy, my body did not handle the flush of hormones in the first trimester well and I was extremely depressed. I would cry in the shower from intense sadness, felt completely disconnected and resentful of the baby growing inside me, didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours a day, and had violent mood swings so much so that I couldn’t bear to look at my eldest son for 2 whole weeks. I was in a dark place and had to talk to my doctor about it. After week 20 it subsided considerably, but we talked about medication to help if I recognized that there was more going on.
When you are pregnant everything is different. It could just be the morning sickness that has you down, the hormones, or it could be something more.
What to do: Know the signs of depression and know that it’s okay and recommended to immediately share with your doctor if you having those feelings – ANY of them. Antepartum depression affects about 14-23% of women, and being able to identify when there is a problem is key.
2. Celebrate the life you have now – soon it’ll be gone, and it will NEVER be back.
Take the time to enjoy your current life together including the free time to travel, leave the house in the middle of the night, snuggle with each other and sleep late on a Saturday night or whatever you do for down time. Because your life will change a lot, not only in the sense of free time and on demand sex, but also your motivations and how you make decisions, the qualities you expect/admire in your partner, your whole relationship dynamic and who you are as individuals and a couple WILL change. Even things as simple as when you go to the grocery store can change and you have to accept that it’s gone and never coming back.
There is no – ‘when life gets back to normal’. When you have a child you create a brand new normal – at least until your kid leaves the nest. But it’s not the worst. Contrary to the dribble usually spouted by magazines and even some other parents, this doesn’t mean that life will be horrible. It’ll just be different, and you have to expect it and welcome it if you want to keep the fights to a minimum.
We all grow and mature, and who and how you were before kids won’t be the same as when your children are babies or when your kids get older – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better!
What to do: Take the babymoon – that great vacation, trip, adventure, or quality time with each other before the kiddo comes. And be prepared to take each new phase with a positive attitude. Don’t try to morph your current life into your past life set up – believe me, it doesn’t work. You’ll end up depressed and sad about how things used to be and how ‘messed up’ they are now.
3. Accept that you will probably be late everywhere for the first month after baby arrives
Do you have an impressive schedule? Know precisely what time to wake up, get dressed, and leave your house to get to work on time? I did, and I get really frustrated when I’m going to be late. But when the little one came, that all went out the window.
It sounds easy, but you don’t just add an extra 15 minutes to dress kids and get them in the car. Oh no, getting babies ready is an hour long event full of feeding, changing diapers, soothing tantrums, dressing, brushing teeth, grabbing snacks to go, and then strapping them into the car seat. And that’s the best case scenario. You have to learn their flow and make time for the unexpected.
Like when you change your kid and get him all dressed to go and right when you are about to strap him into the car seat he makes a poop in his pants. Now you get to decide if you are going pretend like you didn’t know he pooped and to take him to school so the teacher can clean him and still get to work on time, or if you will unbuckle him and change him now and be late for work …again.
Being late is not cool, whether single, pregnant, with kids of otherwise but it’s not the end of the world.
What to do: Be prepared for the schedule shake up and plan for an extra hour of prep and commute time until you learn your new flow. People will seriously start to hate hanging with you if you don’t.
4.Prepare to argue more – maybe than ever before
I knew we would argue, but I seriously didn’t think it’d be as bad as it was. Don’t care how madly in love you are, you will fight over who is getting more sleep, how your partner cares for the baby, how little your partner is helping, how much more you are doing that they are and whose turn it is to change the diaper.
So be prepared.
Just know it’s out of exhaustion and sleep deprivation, not out of lost love. Once you find your new flow, you will discover ‘new normal.’
what to do: Talk about your worries and fears with your partner. Let him know that you know that babies strain marriages and that it will be stressful and prepare yourselves that no matter what happens you will get through it together. That you will be a united front regardless at the end of the day.
5. Parenting isn’t split 50/50
We’d all love to think that in a marriage where both folks work, and both are equals that the child rearing is split 50/50. But hate to burst your bubble, but that doesn’t happen.
For most families, there will be one person who is ‘the primary caregiver.’ This person keeps track of the feedings takes them to the doctor, buys the clothes, etc. because the whole family unit can’t go everywhere and do everything together. And since women at least get some maternity leave – thanks to FMLA – and are home with the baby for a short time, then it’s usually us (at least in the beginning).
So if your husband changes two diapers I can guarantee, you’ll change ten more than him throughout the day. Also, if you decide to breastfeed, then you are now the milk truck, and since you own the boobs, most feedings are yours to command. Not to mention the continuous pumping required to keep up the supply.
what to do: Regardless, it can feel daunting and make you resentful of each other, but try to be open and honest about how you feel – as Daniel Tiger says – use your words and say how you feel. If you want a 50/50 split, talk to your partner and make a plan to divide the duties, but be flexible. You never know what will work until the baby arrives.
6. Motherhood will TRY to steal your identity
When becoming a mother, everything people see will relate to your children. When they ask you how you are doing, they really mean how your baby is doing. And when you go anywhere, people will talk more to your kid than they do you. After being the incubator for this tiny person, and being the lifeline for this helpless cutie, you become the background to their foreground. At least, that’s how you feel.
No one can live like this for long, and there will be a day when you might have a full mental breakdown about your life. You may grieve for who you could have been, and for who you are now. At least that’s what happened to me.
The point is, being a mother is amazing, but it doesn’t change who you are. It’s just another facet of who you are. Your children haven’t enveloped your life. You don’t disappear. Your passions, dreams, and goals still exist, although they may live alongside your desires and dreams that you have for your children as well.
Society might make you think that your only function now is to protect and serve your little one, but it’s not. You have an obligation to yourself, your creator, your community and even your children to let your unique light shine and to be an example for all.
what to do: Remember that your children are separate unique individuals, and so are you. You aren’t suddenly sharing the life of your kid. Plan out things that YOU would like to do once you are a mom and make a decision that having a baby won’t stop you from doing it. Want to travel? You can still do it after the baby. Want to sky dive? You can still do it after the baby. Don’t lose yourself in your kids.
7. Don’t delude yourself every day will not be glitter and sugar – Some days you’ll hate being a parent
Your baby will make you cry and make you miss being childless. They might even leave you broken and wondering why you EVER thought you wanted to have a baby.
I don’t say it to make things sound horrible, I say because there are some days when being a parent will suck. Big Time. I’ve had some bad days with the kids, but there are ‘rest stops’ on the path of parenthood. Sometimes you have to take a moment to yourself recognize/acknowledge that I’m in a bad place, do some self-care and take stock of your feelings. My husband takes a trip away from the family to see friends, I sometimes take a few hours on the weekend to do whatever I want too. No kids. Usually, that helps me feel better. There is no point in brushing off that you are frustrated, annoyed, sad, or angry. However you feel, it’s okay, and you are a great mom regardless.
Some days kids take the last thread of your patience and leave you with a hollowed-out shell of yourself. So if you need a quiet space away from them – spouse, kids, tv, dog, basically anything that can make a sound – then put the kids in a safe place and take it. And if it gets really bad, talk to someone to ensure it isn’t more than just being tired.
what to do: Be realistic. No matter how much you love your kids and have been waiting for them since you were a kid, you need to make time for yourself and to practice self-care.
8. Paying daycare sucks
We know babies are expensive. And when people say it, we typically think of diapers, clothes, and the necessary gear. But daycare is a whole different beast. You will get used to it, but you will never like it. You will want to find out the cost as soon as you think about having kids.
Do not be fooled; daycare is the devil you owe!
what to do: Plan and find out if your job offers an FSA to help alleviate the cost. If not, you can take advantage of the child tax credit. Start setting aside the average daycare cost for your area in your paychecks WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT. It will help to get you used to feeling of being poorer than you were before
9. Trust Yourself
You are going to be under more scrutiny than ever before. Everyone, from your mother to the non-parent pre-pubescent teenager at the Burger King drive will have an opinion on your body (while you are pregnant) and your parenting. And you will be tempted to follow everything you hear. Why? Because you don’t want to be THAT parent that kids talk to their therapist about.
But you have to learn to tune other people out, or straight up tell them you aren’t doing what they say. Some people will be mad, hurt or offended, but it’s your kid. Do what you feel is best for your child.
10. Don’t fret for every step
We – I mean I – freaked out about how many teeth or the first kid had, was he walking on schedule, how many words was he saying, etc. I was on constant guard to see if he needed a speech therapist, glasses or anything else he would need to be successful and boy it was tiring.
While it is great to measure your kid’s milestones to see if there is a need for intervention, all kids aren’t the same and don’t all move through the milestones at the same time. Rushing to the next step means you missed out on fully absorbing and being in the moment for the current levels.
Still be on guard for signs your child might need a specific help from a specialist and keep an eye on their progress over time – but still, try to enjoy the ride. I know it is hard to do. Every stage is so exciting for you and them because it means they are growing up, but enjoy all the time with them while they explore.
You got this
Having kids is not for the faint of heart. It can put just enough strain on your marriage to make you want to rip each other’s head off. But all in all having kids is an amazing experience which deepens the love in a relationship especially when you go with the right expectations and commitment to making it awesome!