13 Jun Parenting as a Couple
Parenting as a Couple
By Laura James, LPC-S
Parenting is an adventure many couples will undertake. The statistics about how children impact relationships are formidable. Studies conducted by John Gottman have found that “67% of couples experienced a precipitous decline in relationship satisfaction in the first 3 years of the baby’s life.” Knowing this research, I think, can normalize the struggles couples feel as their relationships change due to children. Here are a few tips for couples who are wanting to develop resilience through the transition to parenthood.
Ask Lots of Questions in Preparation
We often have in our mind the values we want to instill in our children and who we want to be as a parent. In order to parent as a team get curious and ask one another lots of questions about
each other desires. Here are a few to consider:
What makes you want to be a parent? Have you always wanted children? What fuels your desire to become a parent now?
What are your expectations of what parenting will look like for us? Can you describe qualities that you think to make a good parent?
What different roles do you think we will take as parents? Where could you see us disagreeing about parental decisions?
What are major issues that you feel strongly about as a parent?
(Religion, Family or origin relationships, Electronics, Schooling)
How will we make space in our lives for another human? How might important areas of our life be impacted?
(Jobs, School, Travel, Hobbies, Relationships)
Do you know what type of discipline you align with the most?
What is considered spoiling a child to you?
What values, beliefs, and ideals feel the most important of yours to pass on to your child?
What do you think our downtime will look like with a child?
What issues from your family of origin do you think will impact you as a parent? What from your family of origin do you want to incorporate as a parent?
How would we co-parent if our relationship ended and we had children?
Honor the Changes
Having a child has a huge impact on your body. Having understanding from both partners about these changes and having open conversations about the impact that pregnancy and childbirth will help you remain close and connected. Open up a dialogue about these changes after the baby is born and continue to have these conversations. Offer lots of appreciation and support if your partner experienced pregnancy and childbirth. Questions to ask your partner about their experience with pregnancy and postpartum may include:
I wonder what it has been like for you to carry our child? Although I cannot understand what that must be like I would love to understand more about your experience.
What have the different stages felt like in your body? Was pregnancy the hardest? What was it like to give birth? Did you have expectations of how childbirth would go? Did you have any disappointments about your birthing experience? What was the hardest part of the postpartum healing experience for your body? Does your body still feel like it is healing? How do you feel about the changes that your body has experienced?
How does your body feel different from before you had a baby? Your body is amazing for having done all that and I wonder what words or actions you need from me? Do you want to talk about these changes with me?
How has sex changed for you since having a baby? Have any of your preferences for touch or sex changed with this transition for you? How can I best support you in this area of our relationship?
Don’t Compete About the Struggle
Both partners have gone through a huge transition becoming parents. Couples need to choose to intentionally stay on the same team instead of starting to play the comparison game. You both are probably tired and adjusting to the transition. Make some time to sort out how to support one another and try to validate one another’s perspective a lot! Ask each other the following questions:
What is the most fatiguing part of being a parent for you?
(Work, Mental load, Anxiety, Extended family, Limited alone time)
How do you feel the most supported by me? Do you need more alone time? Would you like more family time enjoying certain activities? Are you needing more couple time for just us?
What do you miss the most about our life before becoming parents? What have you enjoyed the most about becoming parents?
What do you think we are doing great at as parents? What do you think we are excelling at as a couple? What has surprised you about watching me become a parent? What parts of
parenting am I doing well?
Confront Parenting Disagreements
Your kids will inevitably create some disagreements between you and your partner. You will believe that the kids need to clean their plates while your partner thinks food battles are counterproductive. These are moments when tempers can flare and both parents may dig in. Unaddressed parenting differences may cause conflict or resentment. I also see when parenting differences are left unaddressed usually one partner may take a backseat role in parenting, leaving the other partner to make most of the parenting decisions alone. Use these conflicts to deepen understanding of one another and develop boundaries for your children that work for the whole family. Ask the following questions when you feel stuck:
I notice we have a differing opinion about how to parent on this issue. Could we take some time to talk through this so we can understand one another’s perspective?
What feels the most important about this issue for you? How would your family of origin have handled this issue? How does this impact your beliefs about how to handle this situation?
Do you have fears for our child if we do not handle this in a certain way? What are your fears if we disagree about how to handle this parenting issue?
What outcome are you hoping for by choosing this boundary or discipline approach for our child?
How do you think we could incorporate both of our values to address the issue our child is confronting?
Having children will create opportunities for growth for your relationship. Couples who have mutual respect and a lot of curiosity for one another can develop a deeper connection that will benefit their children. If this transition has been difficult for your relationship you are not alone! Most couples will spend several years creating a new normal in their relationship. If you are having difficulty with this transition couple’s counseling can provide tools and space to help you and your partner grow together as parents.
*This blog author is aware that some couples will become parents through adoption, marriage (step-children), surrogacy, etc and some questions may not be applicable. These situations may also create other stressors for couples*
Laura works with couples who are striving to have meaningful relationships and feel more fully present in their lives. Laura helps her clients understand and accept themselves, so they are able to engage authentically in their relationships. She has advanced training and is seeking certification in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) which focuses on the emotional connection in relationships.