Amidst the joy that baby brings, parenting also calls for patience and understanding as everyone learns to play a new game that comes with its own special set of rules.
“I would say that having children drove us apart initially in terms of our time and commitment to each other as we spend so much time on them. And the loss of freedom therefore takes it difficult to sometimes even remember to pick up the phone to just have a chat during a work day,” says Cheryl Lim, 29, mother of 18-month-old Martin.
“But becoming parents has brought out the best in each of us and challenges the marriage in a positive way that brings us closer each time we overcome a difficulty,” she adds.
“All these issues are challenges that husbands and wives can resolve by sitting down and having a good talk. It is also a bad idea to go to bed with resentment and misunderstanding,” says Song Xiaoling, family life educator and social worker with Feiyue Community Services.
Keeping the Peace
Let all the differences show and be frank about how baby’s demands are challenging you. “Don’t be afraid that others will think you are weak when you tell them that you need time for yourself, even if it is to sleep,” advises Cheryl, 31, mother of one.
“I recall being perpetually exhausted with the night feeds and crying spells and I was in no mood to go to the movies which used to be a regular activity for us as a couple,” she says.
At first Sebastien was rather frustrated that they were chained to the baby’s schedule even though there was enough help at home. But after she explained how she preferred to stay at home to rest, he understood.
As an alternative, they watched DVDs at home instead. “Occasionally I try to make time for a blockbuster movie at the cinema because I know he really enjoys watching the action on big screens,” she adds.
“I’m Not A Superwoman”
For Lynn and Jerry Tan, the issue was a disagreement over hiring a domestic helper. While she wanted the additional help, he was adamant that he couldn’t trust a helper fiddling around the house.
“Growing up in a family where his stay-at-home-mum does everything from cooking to cleaning and nappy changing, he couldn’t see why I can’t do everything by myself,” she says.
And while he was disappointed, she was hurt that she couldn’t measure up to his expectations. They had their fair share of shouting matches before her girlfriend helped them put things in perspective.
“It wasn’t about failures and expectations, but dwelling on these negative thoughts was pointless,” Lynn realised.
In the end, they sat down calmly and recognised that Lynn wasn’t going to become the superwoman that Jerry’s mum was. Jerry also agreed that times have changed and that Lynn wants her career back at some point in time.
In the end they decided the best solution was to leave baby at an infant care centre during the day while they were at work. They scouted and found a suitable centre. Every Saturday afternoon they did their housework together and could even manage to cook some meals on weekends.
“We believe that there is always a solution and if we’re just focused on the fights and quarrels, then we’ll just take a longer time finding it,” says Lynn.
No matter what the issues are, couples must communicate frankly and find solutions together, says XiaoLing.
Sometimes the solutions may not be available or easy, but it is the process of rectifying and exploration that will bring you closer.
While the arrival of a new baby brings about a whole new world of joy and wonder, many new parents admit they feel ‘boxed up’ in their new, unfamiliar roles and this can take a toll on their emotional balance.
While the new mother may feel she’s now at the beck and call of baby 24/7, the new father may feel left out of the action.
“I felt sidelined and no one tells me how I can help. I also recall getting scolded if I can’t remember how to work the steriliser,” admits Jerry.
Many dads would love to help out but they just need to be told what they can do to help.
“Parenting probably comes more naturally to mothers than to fathers, but fathers today are certainly more involved in parenting than it used to be, especially when women have a career as much as we do,” he adds.
Acknowledge that parenthood will bring about changes in your roles and responsibilities and seek help and support from family and close friends. Learn time management techniques to get more done within less time.
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication with your spouse open because parenthood is a joint effort that gets better with practice.