Is a baby the ultimate strain on your relationship?
You’ve read all the manuals on pregnancy, giving birth and surviving the first year with an infant, but something that’s overlooked is how this bundle of joy can challenge your relationship. Between the non-stop feeding, the sleepless nights and unexplained crying, it can really take a toll on your bond with your partner, friends, family, and yourself. Here are some tips for taking care of your valuable relationships outside of motherhood.
Take care of yourself.
This looks different for everyone, and you know yourself best. A lot of times, a long, hot shower is the perfect pick-me-up. Can you sneak away for an hour to get a full body massage? Does your heart long to make music, paint or go for a bike ride? Follow your instincts, even if it’s as simple as going for a walk around the block or sitting in the sunlight with a warm cup of coffee. Savor the tiny moments. Drink a big glass of water with lemon. Eat lots of fruit and fresh greens. Replenish your reserves. Breathe deep. You cannot pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. It is not selfish, it is necessary.
Give your partner your undivided attention.
One of the things my husband and I were not prepared for was how it would change our relationship, and to be honest, it’s been hard, but we’ve made a conscious effort to work on it. Time alone is few and far between. Because we co-sleep with our daughter, it has taken away time at night that we used to spend together. It can be really isolating and lonely. If you feel that way, communicate with your partner about what you need. Ask a friend or family member to come over to watch your child while you guys go for a hike or go out to dinner by yourselves. We love to make music together, so every few weeks we ask my parents to watch our daughter so we can go to a friend’s house to jam. Give your partner a hug and kiss when they get home from work. Surprise them by cleaning up the house or making their favorite vegan meal. As simple as it sounds, it’s the little things we do that make a world of difference. Show them that you love and appreciate their help and support. And if you can sneak away for some cuddles while the baby sleeps, do!
Make time with friends outside your relationship
Finding a group of mom friends when my daughter was first born was imperative for my sanity. Getting out of the house to chat about milestones and struggles kept me afloat for the first few months. It’s nice to have a network of friends outside my relationship, who understand what you’re going through. On the other hand, it’s also important to foster those friendships you had pre-baby and spend time with those who don’t have kids. It reminds you that there is a world outside of baby-land!
Be clear about your expectations with family members.
One of the biggest challenges for me as a mother has been trusting other people to watch my daughter, especially when it comes to feeding her. Because people have tried to feed my daughter foods that are not vegan (and didn’t ask me for permission to do so), my anxiety has grown tremendously around family gatherings and holidays. I truly do not understand why anyone thinks it’s okay to feed someone else’s child without asking the parent first. They might have an allergy or a special diet that you know nothing about. If I see someone feeding my daughter food that has dairy or meat in it, I ask them to please stop and explain to them that we are choosing to raise her on a vegan diet. It’s important to be able to trust others around your children and they need to respect your wishes.
I hope this insight can help you as your relationships evolve. And even if there is strain in one of more of them, put in a little extra time and energy (if you can manage!) — it will pay off in the long run.
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