My husband and I have never done very well in stressful situations. We have been together since we were in college, and there were definitely days when we would give one another the silent treatment after an argument instead of talking it out or say things in the heat of the moment that we really shouldn’t have. It was often a game of who was the most stubborn versus who was going to give in and apologize for whatever petty thing started it all. Luckily, we matured over the years and slowly, but surely, our communication improved and our arguing lessened to almost nonexistent. We had been married for 4 years and together for 11 before we had our son, so our relationship was happy and stable in all aspects – but I still remember having a small fear that those anxiety-driven arguments would return once we threw a new variable- a baby- into our well-established and comfortable life.
So one day, with our son’s birth getting ever so close, we sat down and had a talk. We made a pact, similar to wedding vows, that we both promised to keep to one another. We said that no matter how stressed out we became, we would not turn against each other. We would work as a team. If one of us became overwhelmed, the other would step in for support. We would give each other a break when we noticed that stress creeping in. We would not snap at the other person nor tell them that they were wrong. Because the reality was, no matter how many books or articles we read, or friends we talked to, or Baby Story episodes on TLC that we watched, neither of us really knew what the hell we were doing. This was all going to be new to both of us and it was going to be a learning process, so we needed to stick together. So we made a deal purely to combat the stress on our relationship that being new parents could potentially bring.
As simple as it sounds, I truly believe this 5 minute conversation had a huge impact on us, especially in those first few weeks with a new baby, when you are putting on diapers wrong, getting peed and spit up on, not able to figure out why the baby is crying, forgetting your diaper bag at home, leaving out a bag of breast milk so it spoils, or any other little mistake or trial and tribulation you encounter. We never yelled at one another, we never spoke in a condescending manner, we never snapped. We just laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, at the blind leading the blind, and at how this tiny 7 lb poop-machine had turned our world upside-down.
We made a deal, and we stuck to it, and I think it made us able to appreciate the joy of the experience of being new parents instead of turning it into some kind of pressure-cooker of who is going to freak out first. My advice to you, couples about to embark on the journey of parenthood, is to make a deal. Make a commitment to one another that you are going to be there, support each other, and not turn on each other no matter how rough the road gets. Make your own parenting vows to be together forever, day and long, long night. Because, to quote one of the classics, Pink Floyd, “Together we stand, divided we fall”.
How did you combat new parent stress? Let us know your ideas!
(photo credit: French Fly Photography)