By Jenni Ho-Huan
We all swooned when Ali, a street urchin made good took Princess Jasmine on the magic carpet and they sang ‘a whole new world!’ while flying high above the cares of the world…
Getting married and then, having a baby are major milestones – as well as – opportunities for us to create whole new worlds. But as Ali and Jasmine will soon discover, the journey ahead, while exciting, could be filled with some tension and challenges.
So the first step to create a whole new world called a family, is to agree that you both want a child and look forward to the wonderful shared experiences with your child. . Next, since we don’t have a magic genie like what Ali and Jasmine had, we should have regular conversations to help manage our feelings, roles and expectations with a baby.
A baby is totally dependent on the parents to meet his physical and emotional needs. As parents, you need to discuss how to share childcare duties with your spouse, in a way that both parties are comfortable with. Should you discover gaps in your knowledge during the discussion with your spouse, take the initiative to find out more by referring to resource materials, attending talks or speaking to friends and family members who have undergone the journey.
Living up to expectations can be a real minefield. With so much information and choices, we can shoot for the sky and miss the point with excessive shopping and fretting over every minor detail. While we all want the best for our children, we must be careful not to miss the woods for the trees. What our kids truly need for their emotional well-being are our attention and love; we need to invest time in communicating, playing and bonding with them.
Different family upbringing will also lead to different parenting styles. Couples often clash over this, with both parties accusing each other of being not understanding or supportive enough. Many of us wish to be better parents than our own parents are. But somewhere along the parenting journey, your mom or dad’s values and style may crop up. You are merely being true to who you are (and you are growing and changing) so don’t fret too much about it. However, it is advisable to discuss and align parenting expectations.
Talk about the kind of family life you hope to have. Is this aligned with what your partner has in mind? For example, you may long for fun and adventure with the baby, but if you are married to a homebody, then be prepared to discuss and come to an agreement on the best time to travel with baby. In addition, you can discuss whether there is a need for either party to take a step back in his or her career to spend more time with the child.
Talk also about your expectations for your marriage. While it is natural to focus attention on your bundle of joy, don’t forget to set aside time for each other as well. Romantic dinners and movie dates need not be a thing of the past if you seek childcare support from family members once in a while. Be willing to embrace new ways of spending time with each other, such as watching a DVD when the baby is asleep or allocating at least 15 minutes for chatting before going to bed every night.
Danny Ho, psychotherapist with OnePlace Consultancy, highlights that the intensity of caring for a new life can cause new tensions in a marriage as priorities shift and couples feel the physical strain. Often, he adds, the mother rises up to the new challenges while the father feels left out of the action. And while an extra pair of hands with the child is useful, it could also be a source of tension. Whether it is help from a domestic helper or parents/in-laws, this means adjusting to one more person at home. Not everyone eases into such changes easily.
Conflicts and stresses can be minimized by talking through issues with all parties involved.
Keep in touch and get past the functional details (eg: no, we use only this brand of diapers) to talk about your feelings too. Feelings create the tone in the home and could explode when not given due attention. Becoming a mom and dad also creates some amazing new feelings that need to be expressed and appreciated. Don’t let the change in routine, the lack of sleep or the fears douse out the wonderful feelings that come with the creation of a whole new world!
Take time to say positive words to each other and be each other’s cheer leader. Laugh at how both of you melt and go ga-ga over your baby. Take lots of photos to capture the feelings of the moment.
Finally, most women do change after childbirth – physically and emotionally. The husband often feels helpless and unsure of this new terrain. It is advisable for the wife to communicate her needs and feelings clearly so that the husband could be more understanding and patient.
As you work together with your better half towards an exciting future with your children, remember that ongoing, constructive conversations with each other will go a long way in addressing the challenges along the journey. Be prepared to discover yourselves afresh in parenting, and be amazed at what you are now able and willing to do!
I Love Children would like to thank Danny Ho, psychotherapist with OnePlace Consultancy, for his professional input.