During pregnancy and the first few months of a baby’s life, couples tend to cope better if they can find specific ways to support each other. In any stressful period, communication difficulties can arise and you may feel misunderstood or ignored by your partner.
You might find that you and your partner have different ideas about how to be supportive. Some parents, particularly mothers, just want to vent their frustrations, or express their desperation at feeling unable to meet their baby’s needs. You might hear this and feel your partner wants you to find the answers. However, she might just be looking for reassurance that she’s doing her best and is a good mother.
Many parents, often fathers, feel overwhelmed by having to be the breadwinner, particularly if they feel that this is their main role. They may be looking for attention or hoping to be let in more to the parenting decisions. When a parent feels left out, they may also feel angry or resentful towards their partner and the baby.
Both parents can be left feeling unsupported and unloved, which can lead to further difficulties if the problems are not dealt with. In reality, you both still want the same things: to be happy together with your baby and to be comforted and supported by each other. Couples who get through the difficult early months and take pleasure in enjoying the baby together, can find a deeper bond emerging.
New parents often argue about differences over how to handle the baby; pick her up or leave her? Feed on demand or four-hourly? Should they follow their parents’ methods and, if so, whose parents?
Mothers, or primary carers, may feel they know best because they spend more time with the baby and feel they know them better. However, if you find it hard to let your partner help, or question his handling of the baby too much, he may end up feeling undermined and unsupported. It’s better to talk through your differences calmly – criticism on either side will only make things harder.
As new parents, you may find it difficult to get time to talk, as well as not always knowing what to say. You may just want to bottle up your feelings or you may become more argumentative because you’re tired and irritable. It can start to feel like you’re on different sides and you may feel hurt and resentful.
But it’s always worth opening up a conversation. Be honest about how you feel and the part you want to play, both as a parent and a partner. Give your partner the opportunity to talk. Keep listening to each other and try to agree that you’ll both do your best to support each other in your new roles.