The saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd” can be true for some new parents who are caught unaware. Eva Li looks at some of the changes that have impacted her own life (and the lives of many) since the arrival of her daughter and offers suggestions on how to cope.
The first news of a new addition to the family is always an exciting event for many couples and many get caught up in the whirlwind of preparation, setting up nursery and what-not. However, when the dust settles and reality hits, some parents find themselves struggling to cope with this change. Those of us who are already veterans in the field of parenthood – our parents and elders – will casually remark that children require a change in every aspect of life. How true they are.
Expect a drop in time left for couple nights and “me” time.
You can still enjoy some nights out or “me” time but it won’t be the same as before your baby arrives when midnight movies or supper as well as long trips to the hairstylist, shopping and facials were a norm. For breastfeeding mothers who are exclusively latching on, this drop in “me” time is especially true. Also anticipate that baby will most likely be accompanying you to dinner and shopping trips. The simple act of zipping to the store nearby to buy emergency groceries won’t be easy, especially for those with no help (maid, parents or in-laws).
What about sports, vacations and late nights out?
Anticipate a change in the level of organisation and be prepared to compromise on many things ranging from activities to accommodation when travelling with a baby. Some sports activities like hiking can be accomplished but with the aid of a baby carrier. Prepare to shelf activities like rock climbing, diving, skiing and other more adventurous pursuits for the first few months – if you’re travelling with your child. Many babies also get cranky if they stay up for too long so early nights will be common place among parents.
Sleepless nights become the norm.
While late nights out were a norm during dating periods, a baby brings about a different side to this. You may find yourself unable to sleep in or sleep early as babies go through midnight/early morning feeds, late nights and bouts of fussy clingness during their early months. Some parents may find themselves coping with these night-waking episode into their children’s toddler years.
Compromise & sacrifice
One major shift in priorities would be towards money, time and energy. For many new mothers, there will be some form of struggling to juggle the demands of a home, career, family and baby. Be prepared to expand money into things like savings, insurance, medical bills as well as current or future necessities. House chores and other duties like cooking may take a backseat as couples try to cope with the new addition in their families.
How to cope?
Fret not! All is not lost. Before this turns people off the idea of having children, there is always help and a way to cope with such changes.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
I cannot stress this enough! Many couples prepare for the arrival of their baby but hardly for the change in their roles in life. Talk to other parents out there to get a fair idea of how you want to be as a parent and what sort of parenting style you would like to approach. Read as much literature as you can on the topic. Share with your spouse about your stand on things like who to care for your child while you’re at work or if you want to be a stay-at-home-parent, discipline, babywearing, breastfeeding, medication/vaccination, house chores, language and education, as well as other practical matters like finance, savings and insurance.
Keep track of your parenting goals and progress.
Revisit the goals set before regularly and throughout your journey as a parent. Newborns, toddlers, children and youths all require different parenting styles so it never hurts to talk about where you are together as parents.
Sharing is caring.
Remember that parenthood is a partnership like marriage. The traditional view of fatherhood is evolving and changing. Fathers are no longer expected to just bring home the bacon and leave the rest to mothers. As such, men should help out with day-to-day care of their children – this helps promote a more positive and proactive relationship between parent and child. The simplest thing like changing diapers or even bathing a baby can make all the difference. Women can further make the transition easier for their spouses by being encouraging and supportive as well as provide tips for childcare.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Parenting is not about being a superhero – mother or father. It’s about learning, sharing and getting support together as a family, immediate or otherwise. If at any point, you find yourself struggling with parenthood, talk to your spouse and explore the option of enlisting help. It can be in the form of parents, in-laws, a part-time cleaner, babysitter, playgroup, live-in nanny, a maid or even professional help like a counsellor, and lactation consultant. This is especially important in the first two years as women are susceptible to post-natal depression and can be a danger to themselves and their families.
Money, money, money.
Money may become an issue so it never hurts to save as much as possible. Opt for second-hand items like clothes, baby furniture, and even stroller or toys. Buy during sales or promotions and opt to buy as and when you need the item; this is especially true with clothes and toys. Make your own flash cards and toys if you like tinkering with sewing and paper crafts. In the early days, babies are not picky and will settle for anything.
At the end of the day, stay positive and always tell yourself this – “babies don’t stay babies forever”. Before you know it, those days of big changes will soon be over and parenthood will suddenly be the norm in every way.
“Beauty is in the eye of the be holder.”
Many women lament the change in their bodies during and after pregnancy. It continues on into motherhood as some mothers struggle to go back to their pre-pregnancy figure and appearance. For a number of us, we find ourselves trying to accept the appearance of stretch marks, extra flab or loose skin and even C-sec scars. Because there is a drop in “me time”, many women lose out on the opportunity to go for regular spa and facial treatments. Even a simple haircut or shopping trip becomes a luxury when a baby appears.
Tina (not her real name), 27, was overwhelmed soon after her baby arrived.
“I’ve always taught that having a baby was all about fun and cuteness. Nobody ever said anything about sleepless nights, prolonged tiredness, non-existent sex life or even giving up shopping or chilling out with friends. It caught me off guard. I resented my baby for messing up my life. I thought I was a horrible mum.”
Tina suffered from post-natal blues for a month, crying and isolating herself from her community. Things began to improve when she started talking to experienced mothers through the Internet.
“Seek for support, talk to your spouse, pour your heart out. It’s completely normal to feel this way. Over time, you’ll find that having a baby is indeed more about joy than sacrifices.”