It doesn't take much in the early weeks of parenthood to kick off an epic argument, but some of these spats can be avoided. We asked mother-of-two Jo Hartley for her perspective on keeping the peace.
Becoming parents for the first time is stressful. You don’t know what you’re doing, you’re overwhelmed, and the sleep deprivation is kicking in.
Throw it all into the mix and what do you get? A recipe for arguments and, in those early days of parenthood, there may well be a few.
You and your partner will have different roles, different views, and different vulnerabilities as you adjust to being first time parents.
But if you work together you should be able to resolve these five common arguments quickly.
1. “I’m more tired than you”
Turning the ‘who is more tired’ scenario into a competition is not a wise move. Sure, your partner knows you’ve been working plus helping her out, but she’s been working too. Nursing, settling and attending to a baby is a full-time job. It’s downright exhausting.
Psychologist, Giuliett Moran from Empowering Parents says that in this situation it’s best not to compare.
“Be open about your own feelings and acknowledge your partner’s feelings too,” she advises.
“Try to identify practical strategies that could assist you both to work through and manage the fatigue. For example, develop an agreed schedule, allocating opportunities for you both to get some rest.”
2. “Staying at home is harder than working”
When your partner is home all day and your baby sleeps, she’s likely doing chores. When your baby is awake she’s tending to her needs. She never gets to drink a full cup of tea and she probably hasn’t eaten all day. She probably feels that going to work is the easier option.
“Don’t get into a comparison argument, particularly when there’s a build up of fatigue and frustration,” advises Moran.
“Instead, communicate openly with your partner about their day and acknowledge that it is tough and offer additional support.”
Try doing simple things like making her a cup of (hot!) tea, ticking some things off the ‘to do’ list such as washing or cleaning, or even preparing some meals for the days ahead.
3. “It’s not my turn to…”
Whose turn it is to get up in the night, change the baby, or settle the baby are common arguments, I know. But if your partner has been with your baby all day, she’s mentally and physically tired and needs to have a break.
“When feeling frustrated, it’s best to think about how you approach the situation,” advises Moran.
“Consider whether there’s been a discussion about ‘taking turns’ and about your individual expectations. If not, it’s time to have one.
“Instead of keeping tabs on who has done what, try to recognise opportunities to take the lead and communicate openly when you feel that you need some rest or a break or see that she does too.”
4. “Your mum is judging my parenting”
Like you, your partner is learning how to parent, and every day brings something new. She’s likely feeling nervous, unsure and lacking in confidence. Feeling judged by anyone else is the last thing she needs.
Regardless of whether your mum is judging or not, bear in mind that your partner wants to do things her way. She may also be feeling more sensitive than usual so don’t see this as a personal attack on you or your mum.
“Take the time to listen to your partner’s concerns without dismissing or becoming argumentative,” says Moran. “It’s important that your partner feels heard and knows that you’re working together to manage and resolve these feelings will be comforting.”
Reassure her that you’re on her side and, if needs be, address it with your own mum – even if it’s just to gently tell her to hang back for now.
5. “You’re not pulling your weight”
If your partner’s feeling overwhelmed with parenthood, she’s probably feeling overwhelmed with everything else too. An overflowing washing basket, a sink full of dirty dishes and a house that looks like a warzone … it’s possible that you might bear the brunt of this, but this too shall pass.
“To avoid this argument, communicate with your partner about their concerns and set agreed expectations that are realistic and achievable,” advises Moran. “It’s best to continue reviewing this as demands and circumstances change, to ensure that you remain on the same page.”
In the meantime, tackle some jobs that need to be done, and please don’t wait for her to ask. Trust me, this may only infuriate her more and you don’t want another argument to add to this list!
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