Sleepless nights. Lifestyle changes. Stress. No more sex. These are just some of the issues that come to mind when couples and soon-to-be parents think about having babies. While it’s true that a newborn changes many aspects of a couple’s life, easing yourself into parenthood is a lot easier if you bear in mind some helpful pointers.
First, there’s no such thing as a “perfect time” to have babies, and no such thing as a “perfect parent”, pointed out Ms Joanna Koh-Hoe. Ultimately, parenthood is an experience that’s best learnt on-the-job and there’s no need to stress yourself over it.
Joanna is president of Focus on the Family Singapore, and is an accredited work-life balance expert who has worked with more than 60 organizations. She was speaking on the topic of “The Magic of Cappuccinno…Making Your Marriage Work with Newborn” at the Maybe Baby Hot Date @ the Movies, held on 21 November 2010, at Cathay Cineplex Orchard Cineleisure. About 150 couples attended the talk, which was followed by the screening of the movie “RED”.
"The Magic of Cappuccinno...Making Your Marriage Work with Newborn"
“There will never be a perfect time to have a child, because you will be busy again another time. There’s also no such thing as a perfect parent. If you wait for yourself to be perfect before you have a child – there will never come such a time, because you will never be fully prepared,” she noted, “You might as well jump in and learn to enjoy the journey.”
That said, she added that while there is no “perfect time” to become a parent, couples should ask themselves these questions before taking the plunge:
1. Can I afford to bring a child into the world?
“As a couple, if you have talked about your finances and are ready to simplify your lifestyle for a child, then you are ready to have a baby,” said Joanna.
2. Have I achieved what I want in life?
“There are some things you may have to hold back once you have a child, so ask yourself if you have achieved what you want.”
3. Am I confident of being a good parent?
“Ask yourself, do you think you are willing to give parenthood a shot and grow with your baby.”
4. Is my spouse as ready as I am?
“Sometimes you may want a child but your spouse doesn’t. You need to discuss with your spouse before making a decision. Whatever it is, don’t have a baby in order to save the marriage.”
5. Do we have the necessary “setup” for a child?
“By ‘setup’ we mean both the physical setup – such as the space or room for a child – as well as emotional setup.”
Second, couples must have children for the right reasons. Incentives such as baby bonus, tax benefits and childcare subsidies should never be the reason for having a baby. Neither should you have children just for the sake of continuing the family lineage, nor to have someone to look after you when you grow old.
As Joanna stressed, “A baby should be a product of the love between a husband and wife; the fruit of your relationship as a couple. This should be the key reason why you decide to have a baby.”
The newly-wed who took up the Parenthood pledge
Third, couples must be there for each other, even after having children. Joanna advised couples to observe four rules of engagement:
1. Make it a habit to communicate positively.
2. Make it a priority to spend time together. Have regular date nights.
3. Make it a philosophy to work as a team.
4. Make it a given that couple intimacy will change after having children. Make an effort to work in intimacy in your relationship.
“Having a newborn at home may require you to stop other things in life and shift your focus to the infant during the initial period,” she noted, “But it will not always remain that way.”
She added that mums and mums-to-be need to recognize that their lives should not revolve entirely around their children. “Remember, you married your husband, not your baby. So take time out away from your baby to be with your spouse.”
Likewise, a husband needs to understand he cannot expect to be taken care of like another child once the baby arrives. Instead, he would need to chip in to help care for the baby and provide the emotional support for his wife. “Nowadays, men are becoming more hands-on dads, so often the first thing they do when they get home from work is to attend to the baby or children. But what men really do first is to pay attention to their wives.”
Many parents believe in providing the best for their child, but ultimately, Joanna emphasized that couples should put each other first in order to build a strong marriage in order to provide the foundation needed for a happy family.
“The best gift you can give your child is to love your spouse. It’s a myth that children should always come first. Yes, they should come first if they can’t fend for themselves, or they are in some crisis. But if they are not, at the end of the day, it’s your spouse who should come first.”
Leonard Teo and wife Hui Chin, both 29, have been married for two years. With their first child due in April 2011, the couple, who are staying with Leonard’s parents, is eager to learn more about adjusting to married life with a newborn.
“I’ve seen how hard it is for colleagues to adjust to having a baby, so I’m mentally prepared that it will be more difficult in the starting phase, but it helps to come to this talk to have a better idea of how to prepare for a newborn,” shared Hui Chin.
“As the speaker said, we will never be perfect parents, so just cross the bridge when you come to it. Don’t need to be too worried about whether you will be a good dad because when the baby arrives we will all learn to adapt,” said Leonard.
Jeremiah and Jolene Lim, 34 and 32 respectively, have been married for seven years. The couple has two daughters, aged 5 and 3, and is planning to have a third child. As a stay-home mum, Jolene believes in making time for herself every week. “I try to get my off day every Friday. That’s when I leave the kids with their grandparents to have some time for myself.”
Added Jeremiah, “It’s important that we have time for each other. So once a month we will try to go out for a date, and we will also travel once a year together, just the two of us.”
Writing comments on the event
Other comments from participants...
- Love the talk-cum-movie date session, looking forward for more such similar events. Thank you so much!
- Good idea to have the talk paired with the movie. Publicity for this could be more widespread.
- It helps to address the many concerns of having baby at a young age.
Couples who participated in "Maybe Baby.sg" game, hosted by Edmund Chen