Bickering like babies
Bickering: “To argue about things that are not important.”
If you’ve had a new baby, you know all about bickering. It doesn’t matter that you were the pinnacle of coupledom before the baby arrived, or that you had adult and sensible ways of dealing with any issues that arose. You might have had an argument-free existence, a brunch in bed, rose filled rooms, handholding, lip smacking, can’t keep your hands off each other type of relationship that made you the envy of all of your friends. But that all changes the minute that new bundle of joy comes into your life. Your view of your husband can change from “I can’t live without him” to “I can’t stand to be near him” in a matter of days, and, by the way, when did he start to chew so loudly?
Bickering comes with the baby territory. In fact studies have shown that couples are 40% more likely to argue after the birth of their baby. Another shocking number suggests that up to one fifth of parental relationships in the United States do not survive the first year of a new baby’s life. But of course we fight, of course we bicker. We are exhausted, terrified, stressed and completely overwhelmed by this new life stage we’ve entered.
So how do we stop it? No one wants to live in a constant battle and no one wants to fall out of love with the father of their child. But relationships take work, they don’t just blossom on their own and we can’t neglect them. So even though your baby is taking up every minute of your day, spare a thought for your relationship and put some time aside to nurture it.
“I thought a new baby would bring us together. That’d we’d fall in love all over again.” This makes sense, you’re so filled with love for your new baby, surely some of that emotion will spill over into your relationship with your other half. Of course it will. There will be moments when you’ll look at your baby and look at your husband and you will both be overcome with love, with the miracle of what you’ve made. It’s usually when the baby’s asleep. Trying to get the baby to sleep, trying to get some sleep yourself, trying to make dinner, trying to do laundry, trying to tidy the house, trying to get some work done. That’s when it all becomes a bit, well, trying.
Bickering when you have a baby is normal. But you don’t want it to become your new normal. This is not how you want your relationship to be forever. So maybe it’s time to think about ways to help ensure that your relationship not only survives, but prospers.
It’s important to remember the reasons you are feeling irritated and to try and figure out a way to combat them. This is not about proving you’re right or changing your partner’s personality, this is about finding a middle ground and working together as a team.
- You’re not getting any sleep. That’s enough to make anyone cranky. But you know what? You’re other half probably isn’t getting any sleep either. So that’s a double cranky whammy. Maybe it’s time to tag team nights, so at least one of you is getting some shut eye. Take turns with night feeds and putting the baby to bed and grab a nap when you can. Planning in advance and being honest about just how tired you are can help to reroute arguments before they begin.
- You’re worried about money. Yes babies are expensive, very expensive. If you’re worried about finances sit down and talk to your other half about it and make a plan. Where can you save? How can you make it work? Can you change your spending? If you need help with financial planning, check out our finance advice section here.
- You’re not having any sex. Or not enough sex. Of course you’re not. You’re tired, irritated and you smell like baby sick. You are really, really not in the mood. Fair enough. Sex was what got you in this position, it’s understandable if it’s not top of your to do list right now. But it may be worth considering that sex is a vital part of a healthy relationship and you might be missing it, without even realizing. You don’t need to hop into the sack every time the baby naps, but don’t lose the closeness that sex brings to your relationship, even if it’s just a brush of the cheek, intimacy cures a lot of relationship ailments. And you may be surprised to discover that a recent study has shown that average satisfactory sex only takes 7-13 minutes. So if the urge takes you, you probably can fit it in between feeds.
- You’re doing more than your fair share. Here’s the biggie. The number one bug bear. “I do more than you” “You’re not pulling your weight”. We all know that traditionally women do more in the house and with the baby than men. And we also all know that times have changed and that should not be the case. Unfortunately though, it happens, especially if you’re breast feeding because “well I don’t have boobs” is a great way for dad to get out of that dreaded night feed. The best way to deal with this is to sit down and divvy up the tasks. Dole out the jobs in a way that suits you and that fits in with your schedule. It’s also important to let your other half do his fair share. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of ‘maternal gatekeeping’ to criticize and worry that he’s not doing everything right. You’ve got to remember that just because it may not be your way, it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong way. He may be your husband, but he’s also now a dad.
It’s easy to get stuck in a negative rut after you’ve had a baby. But it’s important to remember that this phase doesn’t last forever and neither should your bickering, You may find your other half annoying and he may find you unreasonable, but that doesn’t have to last. One night your baby will sleep through, one day you’ll find the bottom of that laundry basket, one evening you’ll get back out to the pub with your work colleagues and one morning, you’ll wake up, roll over and remember why you fell in love.