Having a new baby in the family is hard work.
Often, the work isn’t equal.
That can cause problems between parents – and that’s hard on the health (and spirit) of both parents.
Preparing during pregnancy pulls partners together: You get the app to see what fruit your growing fetus most resembles, you read pregnancy books or blogs, you decorate the nursery together.
Despite all the preparation and shared anticipation, most couples find that Mom is often the default parent. New dads/partners often don’t realize how much more Mom is doing. This causes resentment, and is a key cause of depression symptoms I see among post-partum patients.
Many new moms struggle with overwhelming household responsibilities, anxiety for their child, and resentment towards their partner. This can lead to:
- frequent “nagging”
- increased explosiveness during fights
- disinterest in sex
- hyper-fixation on the children
Dads and partners then feel inadequate, often baffled by the frequency or intensity of arguments. They might withdraw or shut down during confrontations, feeling like they can’t do anything right.
If you see yourself in this dynamic, you’re not alone. Many new parents are surprised and discouraged that the transition to parenting is much harder than they expected. Your doctor can help you sort it out.
I guide my patients to take a dual approach.
Decrease the mental load.
- Write down every task that needs to be accomplished in a 24-hour period of time, even the minutia that should be self-explanatory. This allows both partners to see how big the need is and distribute it creatively.
- Consider medication as another tool in the toolbox as you adjust to this major life event. It can make it easier to feel like yourself again. Your doctor can help you review your options.
Increase engagement in your relationship.
- Schedule time for just the two of you, on a regular basis.
- Also, schedule individual time to reconnect to who you were before being a parent.
- Consider couples’ therapy.
And, for the readers, I recommend:
- “Burnout” Emily Nagoski
- “How Not to Hate Your Husband after Kids” Jancee Dunn
- “All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership” Darcy Lockman
A health care provider can support you in this phase of life – and help you find your balance with each other.
Family Medicine physician Jeni Robinson, MD has a special interest in helping new parents adjust to new family dynamics. She sees patients of all ages (and life stages) in NH+C’s Farmington Clinic. Appointments: (651) 460-2300.