New baby means changes to relationships
Mike and Dawn Norris welcomed their first child, Isla, on June 6, 2011. Though the couple said they've been really lucky with their daughter, the new parents said they need to check in with each other to see how each is doing.
"It's okay to feel overwhelmed and it's okay to have your tough times but talking it out makes things better," said Mike, 29.
"Sometimes you get so frustrated you don't want to talk ... but even though that seems like the good thing to do at the moment, it's never the good thing to do. You need to talk and get it out. Sometimes it just takes a few minutes to actually admit that and talk," said Dawn, 25.
Judy Arnall, a parent educator, said most parents take classes to prepare for birth but not as many take them to prepare for parenthood.
"Parents need to have conversations with each other about what kind of parenting style they have," said Arnall.
She said topics to discuss before baby arrives include philosophies on discipline, values and how each parent wants to raise the child. These issues can become "definite sources of conflict later" if not addressed early.
Arnall provides coaching and private consultations to new parents at Professional Parenting Canada. Sessions vary in price depending on length of the appointment.
Once the baby arrives, Arnall suggests couples use "I" statements to describe how they feel and what they need. An "I" statement can be as simple as 'I need to nap.' She said this type of open communication helps partners know how to support each other because, "no one can read minds."
Carving out time to connect with your partner each day is another area for new parents to be aware of, Arnall said.
"Quantity of time is not nearly as much, so you have to (consciously) make sure the quality is much higher," Mike said.
Partners need to find time to be intimate again even though most women don't want to talk about it - men do, Arnall said.
"It's important to bring it up and put it on the table," she said.
"All of a sudden your life revolves around this baby," said Dawn. "And it's the little things like Mike and I rarely eat together because one person is usually taking care of Isla and the other person is cleaning up or whatever it is."
The Norris' said it's great they have a large family support system with most of their family living about five minutes from each other.
"Friends are supportive and great and they look out for you and stuff, but I think it's really family that are going to be there for you in the end. And they're the ones that care for you the most," Dawn said.
Arnall said family support is great but can be a double-edged sword that often pushes dad out of the picture. She suggests fathers get in there and care for their baby.
"It's okay to do things differently than mom – as long as there is no safety issue. Babies thrive with difference," she said.
"All babies need is to be safe and loved, everything else doesn't really matter."
"It's definitely the hardest thing we've done but I also feel like it's not as hard as I thought it was going to be," Dawn said. "I love being a mom."
Mike's other tips for new parents, "Number one if you can afford it get a maid and a dog walker, and lastly buy extra laundry detergent."
- By Allison Chorney