Preparing Your Relationship for Parenthood
Parenthood is often regarded by couples as the most amazing journey they have ever experienced together, and the better their relationship, the more they have been able to enjoy the ride. Studies also consistently show that the stronger the relationship, the stronger the child.
Whilst having a baby is for the most part an overwhelmingly positive experience for a couple, we will also be presented with challenges we have never had to face before like the financial stress of supporting three people on one wage, overcoming differences in parenting styles and adjusting to fatigue and strong emotions as well as changes in lifestyle and daily routines. This roller-coaster of an experience can send us and our partner in different directions.
For any job in the workplace we go through some sort of training program. We do a course, are supervised or mentored for a period of time. We do the same to learn any new skill like driving a car, making a quilt or creating a spreadsheet.
Childcare workers train for about three years to do the same responsibilities as parents. Yet parents are given no preparation for parenthood apart from what they learn about birth and basic newborn care in most ante-natal classes. This sets up the expectation that we either should know everything we need to know to be a parent and/or there is nothing to learn. Both these assumptions are false.
There is a support system in place for us before our babies are born, but not afterwards: we are not given stress management skills to cope with the stress, conflict resolution skills to cope with conflict, or change management skills to cope with change. We are left to our own devices to muddle through the sometimes confronting and confusing issues that come up when two become three, with no formal program of guidance or support
Every couple should have the option of preparing themselves to be a family. Most of the resources available for new parents focuses on identifying and meeting the needs of their baby, and this is vitally important. What is also vitally important, but very much neglected, is that new parents have needs too. The challenge for us is to become aware of our needs, articulate them, and negotiate ways to get them met. It's through learning how to do this that we can become not only a great parenting team - but remain friends and lovers as well.