A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Friday, May 9, 2008

We Have a New Baby! Will Our Lives and Our Relationship Ever Get Back to Normal?

Sharon C. Peters, Founder and Director of Parents Helping Parents in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has worked with hundreds of individual families and led many workshops for parents in schools and community organizations. Sharon writes a monthly column for Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx Family Magazine and is in the process of writing a book entitled, Parenting: the Art of Trying. We're so happy to have her contribute to Hip Slope Mama with some great advice for our elated and exhausted readers who happen to be new parents:

"A new baby brings plenty of changes that are almost impossible to comprehend ahead of time. It is hard to really believe that eating, sleeping, taking a shower, or even brushing your teeth might suddenly become herculean accomplishments. It also can seem mind boggling to expect that conversations with partners or friends about anything other than “baby stuff” could easily become a thing of the past.
Nevertheless this tiny person who brings such limitless joy is also a completely dependent and incredibly complex human being. Figuring out how to fulfill a new little one’s almost limitless need to watch, learn from, respond to, interact with and snuggle on top of loving and relaxed parents is no simple feat. The acts of helping an infant sleep and eat combined with the changing and cleaning of diapers, clothing and bedding can consume huge amounts of time and energy.. Plus if a baby feels alone, bored, frightened, overtired or has a tweak in their digestive system (in other words if anything is even slightly out of whack) they complain, and complain loudly without any respect for the time on the clock or anything else that is going on. Given all of that it is no surprise that most parents who juggle hectic lives and the ups and downs of adult relationships can feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the addition of this 24 hour, 7 day a week job. How can parents cope and remain close and loving towards each other after the birth of a child? Here are a few ideas that can help:

1. Take time to compliment your partner. In those first few weeks it is very important to take a little time to appreciate each other. Comments, like “you are such a wonderful Dad, I love the way you play with the baby”, or “This baby is so lucky to have you as a Mom, I was amazed at how well you did during the birth and now it’s wonderful to see how you ________” can really make a big difference.

2. If you can, join or start a new parents group.
New parent groups are excellent ways to remember that you are not alone with the tasks at hand, they can help you laugh about your fatigue and overwhelmed state as well as remember how much this new person has become the love of your life. Mom and Dad can take turns attending.

3. When a child is over the initial newborn infant hurdles make sure you and your partner spend some time outside of the house together. Take the baby along for a walk in the park or on a street you love. Remember to hold hands or find other ways to communicate to each other that you are still the same couple you were a short time ago. When your baby is a little older spend time alone with each other, even a half hour together in a nearby coffee shop can make a big difference. A relative or a friend you trust who already has a strong relationship with your little one is usually more than happy to help out. You can go out when the baby is taking a nap and bring your cell phone if you are concerned.

4. When your child is beginning to feel more confident and independent in the world around them add a regular date every 2 or 3 weeks to your calendar.
I recommend planning this for a time when your child is usually happy and alert. Sunday morning is often a good beginning time. Try not to go to the movies, you’ll find out that you had no quality time to talk to each other. Take a walk, go for brunch, or do something that you both loved to do together before your precious little one arrived and soaked up every minute of your leisure time. As your child gets even older one date a week becomes an important way to keep up with the needs of your relationship, an essential ingredient in your entire family’s happiness.

5. Some reassuring thoughts:
The first months after birth can be the most demanding period for any parent, but when these seemingly endless hours are over your child’s life will actually move at a very rapid pace. As hard as it is to have a newborn, many parents look back nostalgically on the beginning moments they had with their little one. In a relatively short period of time phrases like, “Where did all the time go,” and “I can’t believe how big ____ has gotten” will be rolling out of your mouths. Whatever you can do to make this all important time go well will mean much less parenting work for you when your child grows older. When you stand together watching your 5 year old head off to kindergarten all of the hard work and bonding you are doing now will be a distant memory that helped produce the wonderful child you have before you.

Will your life ever go back to normal? Life will definitely get easier than it is now but it will not return to a pure adult agenda again for a very long time. Having a child is one of the biggest transitions you will go through in adult life but the rewards can far outweigh the losses you both now feel. The wonder of a new baby and the way parents fall so magically in love with their new addition is one of the most precious gifts of life. Congratulations and enjoy - in a few more months you will be on to a whole new stage of family life".