Well-meaning people often gave us variations of the same advice given to all new parents or expectant new parents:
- “Everything changes when baby gets here.”
- “Sleep while you still can!”
- “Make sure you take care of yourself, Momma.”
- “Enjoy your last days without kids.”
It wasn’t that it was bad advice or even unwelcome. At times, the reminders to sleep and self-care were very much needed. But the one piece of advice that we needed most wasn’t told to us by older friends or found in a parenting book. Instead, it’s something we decided on after considering a question that plagues all families:
How do you balance a new baby, work, chores, friends and each other?
The easy solution? You don’t.
When you have a new baby you have to focus only on the most important things. At the top of the list is: baby and your marriage.
Once you master the art of having a new baby in the house, you can slowly pick back up your other obligations.
How We Reduced Marriage Problems After Baby
Going into parenthood, we knew how life-changing it would be. We knew it would take a lot of work, patience, and effort. We also knew that we didn’t want to be one of those couples who drifted away from each other after kids. We wanted to remain husband and wife, teammates and fellow adventurers.
One night in our final days of pregnancy, I brainstormed a solution. “I think we should make a deal,” I said. “No matter what, we put each other before household chores.”
“I agree with that,” he answered, cementing it as a family rule. That one simple rule would help keep our marriage strong over the next several months.
Adjusting to Real Life with a New Baby
Knowing that things will be different is a lot different than actually experiencing the differences. When we made our rule, we anticipated some struggles. It was also important to us to keep our baby in a familiar home environment as much as possible.
This always sounded great in pediatric appointments, but in practice it was exhausting.
We also knew that his job as a youth pastor to a church an hour away from us would provide unique challenges. Alternating days to take care of baby in order to accommodate my job and his graduate school classes was a juggling act.
We were always running somewhere, but we expected this.
I’m so glad we didn’t put pressure on each other during this crazy time to make sure the house looked perfect all the time.
Finding Your Marriage/Parenthood Balance
While we predicted a busy schedule, what we couldn’t have predicted when we made our rule that our tiny daughter would be so obstinate about sleeping at night. While it’s normal for a newborn to wake up and want to eat, our daughter wanted to wake up, eat, and then play. Having her room with us was not an option if we wanted sleep. So, for the first six weeks of her life, we alternated shifts in the living room with her.
When we made our rule, we didn’t know that our daughter would develop thrush at two weeks, or that this bout of thrush would linger through the next few weeks. The prescribed medicine hurt her stomach. We didn’t know our baby would be labeled a failure-to-thrive at 2 months that would land us in the hospital for a week with a feeding strategy that changed our daily routines.
Life with a newborn was tougher and harder than we could have ever imagined, but putting our marriage before chores helped us stay balanced and connected.
Staying Connected After Baby
We clung to our rule to put each other over chores, which in turn allowed us to stay connected during the worst parts of the newborn phase.
Sometimes, our dishes piled up until necessity forced us to wash them. Our laundry went unfolded for the majority of 8 months – until I became a stay-at-home mom. We only vacuumed or swept on the best of days. We ate simple meals and also ate out a lot more than we should have.
Don’t misunderstand – we did do chores when we had the time. We didn’t let mold grow in the kitchen, we kept things sanitized, and we picked up after ourselves. Chores just weren’t our priority.
After taking care of the essential needs of the baby, we placed our marriage as the highest priority. *
And because of this, we made sure we had time to spend together. We talked with each other, played games together, and made sure that we both felt loved and valued.
Our one simple rule helped us to survive the newborn phase just as close as we were before our daughter joined our family.