Thursday, October 24, 2013

How To Not End Up Divorced In The First 6 Months Of Your Child's Life

It’s so exciting to reach the 6 month mark with your little one, but it is also a pivotal point where you reflect on what has occurred (both good and bad) in the last 6 months! Thus, several posts may be popping up on the lessons I have learned (see cloth diapering post here).

Let me start by being brutally honest when it comes to the first 6 months of your first child’s life and your marriage, both will have CHALLENGING MOMENTS!  During these times, I am sure at least one of us thought about the D-word (divorce) although neither of us ever said it. I know that I had many moments where I kept thinking, “I can’t do this.” But do this, I did.

Maybe you are reading this and you didn’t experience any conflict with your spouse, if so, please share your insight with me! For all the rest of us out there, you have been warned, conflict WILL occur! 

NOTE: As you read my tips, you may feel like this post is more about YOU than about your marriage. I have learned that, in most cases, we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves in order to take better care of our relationships (see here as well)! 

So, without further ado, here are some tips that I have found that may help you during this time:

.   Realize you are not alone. It takes TWO!

YOU ARE NOT ALONE! You will not be the only one thinking your marriage is being challenged. In fact, you will probably be thinking every aspect of your life is being challenged during the first six months of your little one’s life. This includes finances, sleep, eating routine, household chores, showering, friends/family time, need I go on?!?!?
As I go through challenging moments with my relationship as we learn to raise a child, I can’t help but think of the movie: Save the Last Dance. Do you know what I am talking about?!?!? Well, there is a scene where Kenny and Chenille (teen parents together) are talking and it goes like this:
Kenny: “Don't blame me; I didn't want any of this!”
Chenille: “What? 'Cause I did? I climbed on top of myself and got myself pregnant?”
When I get frustrated, I always laugh as I think about this scene. Reminder: It took the BOTH of you to create this child.
Please keep in mind it is normal to experience stress (marital or any other kind) during this time. Also, I had to remind myself that, just as I was stressed so was my husband. His reasons for stress and what stress looks like for him have a tendency to look very different than my reasons.

2. Realize you BOTH are running on ZERO Energy Levels.

Maybe it is just me, but I had a tendency to say things like, “well I have been up all night so I shouldn’t have to (FILL IN THE BLANK).” It took me awhile to realize that just because I was getting up all night with our little one didn’t mean my husband was getting quality sleep. In fact, I noticed him many times tossing and turning. He also woke up most of the times that I got up. He just got the luxury of staying in the nice warm bed!

In his defense, he also was maintaining a full-time job with our newborn while I enjoyed the luxury of getting a little more than 12 weeks at home to adjust. Again, bear in mind, you both are most likely having the same feelings for different reasons!

3. You BOTH also had a shock to the system.

Let’s face it, no matter how much you know that you won’t be getting very much sleep you CANNOT prepare for the shock to the system that your body will go through when your child is born. Think about the last all-nighter you pulled and multiply that by a few months, without the sleeping all day on the couch to make up for it! Yep, you got it! Not to mention, you are at someone’s beck and call. This can be especially challenging for both parents! Give yourself some slack, you are doing the best you can and that is all anyone can ask of you!

4.   Sleep is a good thing.

This is common sense, I think?!?! Actually sleeping is much trickier to do in this situation. Babies have their own schedule and pay little to no attention to the social norms of day/night schedules.

If you are like me, when you do get a window to sleep, you will have trouble shutting your mind down. List after list will be created during quiet, free moments. If you are like my husband, you will get so used to a “stay awake always” routine that you can’t fall asleep.

I must say that getting some extra sleep makes a huge difference. If someone is willing to get up with your little for one night, TAKE it! Even if you end up getting up, like I typically did, I found that I slept so much better just knowing everything didn’t fall on my shoulders! So go lay down with your hubby for a bit, even just a “rest” can help you feel better prepared to take on that next diaper change!

When you don’t have the extra help, find a balancing system for both of you to have time to sleep. This may mean one of you naps more during the day while the other one gets the luxury of a full nights sleep!

5. Making time to be together 1:1 is a great thing!

Okay, I admit it, I started going to bed at the same time our little one went to bed. That was typically between 7:30 and 8:30PM, but by that time I was EXHAUSTED. Plus, she normally was back up between 2 and 4AM. Therefore, I felt justified. After about a week of this, I realized I wasn’t really seeing my husband at all. 

I know I just said sleep is a good thing, but spending time with your significant other, just the two of you, is also essential. You are going to have to make priorities and some nights, sleep just has to come second! What about doing something special together for even a half hour after your little one goes to bed? My husband and I sometimes have a glass of wine together and just talk for a few minutes.

6. Write down what you love about your significant other.

Think about and write down what attracted you to your significant other. Also, write down what they are really good at when they are with your new child. Now, put this where you can see it every day! Look at it every day. Read it every day! It will help you to keep a positive perspective on your significant other.

7.  Change Environments Regularly.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can tell you that it becomes way too easy to NOT leave the house. My husband took 3 weeks FMLA leave when our little one was born while I took just over 3 months FMLA leave. This time flew by and we spent probably 90% of the time at home. That is a long period of time at home!

Boredom, stir-craziness, depression are just a few effects on a human body that can be caused by sitting in one spot for too long. Get up and move around. Take your baby outside, go get groceries, drive around for a few minutes. Make sure you are changing your environment together! I found that even opening the curtains and windows for a few minutes each day, turning of the television, and playing music for my little one was also a good, quick change of scenery we all enjoyed. 

9.                        Find good family moments.

In the chaos of all the emotions you and your hubby will be feeling, there are soooo many GOOD moments! Take time to note these special moments. For me, the best moments were when we were all (my husband, dogs, baby, and I) together having tummy time with baby on the floor. Such sweet moments! Enjoy those moments wholeheartedly. DON’T think about anything else. Just focus on these special times.

10.                  Remember those family moments frequently.

See 9. Keep those moments in your mind all the time! Think about them constantly! It will keep you in a positive mindset. Also, make sure you enjoy all aspects of baby time; I already miss some of those moments that have changed. For instance, now that I have been sleeping at night again for about 2 months, I do miss those quiet moments of rocking my baby in the middle of the night.

11.                     Hold hands.

Please, please take time to not only talk, but touch each other! Maybe you aren’t approved by your doctor or are not ready for sex again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any physical contact. Hold hands anywhere and everywhere you go! Cuddle. Give massages. Believe me, it WILL make a difference in your personal feelings towards your hubby!

12.                   Say something nice, constantly!

This can be hard to do when you are tired and/or frustrated. Seriously though, can’t you think of one thing that you could say that is nice about your significant other? Maybe it is just to thank them for going to work that day in order to provide for your new family!
Commit yourself to say at least 1 nice thing each day to your spouse! Hopefully, you will get some kudos from them in return! Now that would be the appreciation you deserve! 

So that is my advice as I reflect on my own experience with our first child. At the end of the day, you have to remember the two of you are playing on the same team, you are not opponents. I can tell you something about my marriage after 6 months of baby bliss (plus over 4 years of marriage), we are still together and we are still going strong!
What advice do you have that I didn’t think to add?

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