I was surprised to read a statistic recently: most studies indicate that 70 to 90 percent of couples report being less satisfied with their marriages after a baby is born. In our pre-baby, pregnancy glow it was easy to day dream about this perfect little newborn joining our perfect little family. She’d coo and smile and we would beam with pride, hand in hand, as we strolled her in a bassinet through the neighborhood. Then nine months later here she was… it’s two fifteen in the morning, she’s crying because she’s hungry and kicking up a storm as Kenny and I are both elbow deep in a diaper change (four hands tend to get a little tangled), I’m stained with milk and Kenny is rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. We gaze at each other tired to the bone and wonder what in the world is going on!?
It has definitely been a big change to go from a couple to a family with a newborn. Kenny and I are both the type of people who really like to dote on our spouse. We would spend all of our time together if we could and genuinely love doing things for each other. It is a big change now to need to expend so much of our energy on baby M. I especially feel like I am having to neglect Kenny a little in order to take care of our sweet girl and that is something that I never want to do.
We have never been ones to fight with each other. We are understanding and fairly laid back and haven’t ever really had any major blow outs. But, things do get a little more tense when it is the middle of the night, you’re both sleep deprived, zapped of energy and feeling a little neglected. It is just easier to get snappy, your fuse is shorter and it is quicker to reach your breaking point.
I think the biggest thing that we have learned that has helped us stay close during this newborn phase of our relationship is empathy. Just consciously thinking about what the other person is feeling and taking that into consideration before our interactions with each other.
For example, now that Kenny has returned to work one challenging point in our day is right when he gets home from work. Don’t get me wrong, he is always so happy to be home and with his girls, and it is the highlight of my day to see his cute face, but it is also a time when we are both looking forward to a little break. He has been working hard at school all day and probably just wants to get a snack and rest for a second while I have been working all day nursing, changing diapers, bouncing and singing and am excited for a fresh set of hands and a bathroom break. By considering and realizing what the other person is feeling we have been able to work out a good compromise.
It is easy to get “I” centered and think about all the things that you yourself are dealing with, but if you’ll step back and think about the other person your interactions are sure to be healthier and happier. An added bonus, practicing empathy with your spouse will help you raise a compassionate child.