Becoming a Family: The Greatest Adventure of All
Nothing can quite prepare you for the realities of parenthood. As joyful and meaningful as this stage of life is, it can be very difficult. Life with babies and small children is, for most couples, a total shock to the system. If you aren't thoughtful and intentional about what you're doing, parenthood can take a huge toll on your marriage.
As a marriage counselor, I'm always thrilled when smart, proactive couples show up for premarital counseling. My only wish is that more would show up for “pre-baby counseling.” Because having a baby is a much bigger deal, emotionally and relationally, than getting hitched. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Do a quick google search and about the only thing you find about “preparing for a baby” has to do with fitness, nutrition, and the ocean of baby-gear that you could acquire. Not the emotional, relational and structural changes that all family systems go through as they renegotiate their relationship, their roles, and adjust to life with kids.
Having kids changes everything, but it's hard to imagine what those changes will be until you actually do it. Most couples experience challenges that never occurred to them were even possible, while they were spending leisurely days shopping for baby furniture and talking about how much fun family fishing trips will be. (Or were consumed with riding the rollercoaster of protracted infertility).
But from the first day that little bundle is home, that couple is instantly faced with needing to make major changes around everything from they way they communicate, to expectations about what should be happening, to a higher need for teamwork, to establishing new systems so everything runs smoothly, to what role they each take with each other and as parents. Sprinkle in some anxiety, postpartum depression, sleep deprivation, no game plan, and a screaming baby and it can get tense pretty fast.
It's a major life transition, and a lot to deal with. And if you just let it go, and hope for the best it's quite possible to become a statistical average and not enjoy the experience that that much. Research on marital satisfaction over the family life cycle has shown that there is a trend towards lower enjoyment of married life after having kids.
Here's the depressing graph:
Parenting Together CAN Be Joyful
But that graph does not have to be YOUR reality. You are not a statistical average. You are a person with free will, choices, and you're already taking control over the situation by educating yourself. You get to be in charge of your life, and your family experience.
I'm here as a wife, mom, and marriage and family therapist to tell you that life with kids doesn't have to be difficult, and it does not need to negatively impact your marriage. In fact, if you put even half as much time into figuring out your post-baby game plan (and your own personal growth opportunities) as you do into childbirth preparation classes you can avoid many of the most common pitfalls of new parents.
Even if you are well in to your child bearing years, making some simple changes in the way you communicate and the way you do things can have a hugely positive impact. There are tried and true ways of approaching parenthood that help you keep your sanity and also set healthy boundaries around your marriage.
On this edition of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I'm going to be sharing my top tips about where to where to start if you want to have a more peaceful home, a strong marriage, great communication, easier kids, be on the same page with your partner, and have a shared vision for your family that is rooted in your core values.
All the best,