Relationships during the years with a small baby - ten key things to remember
The first five years with toddlers are often tough - this is the reality for families with toddlers. It's a tough time for relationships and can sometimes lead to divorce or separation. Here are ten things to remember that will help you through the challenging years with a small baby so you emerge with your relationship intact.
7 min read
During pregnancy, most couples concentrate on birth and everything they need to buy. Once the baby arrives parents quickly understand that life with a baby is a whole new phase in life, on all levels. The years when our children are small, with poor sleep, a more complicated everyday life and generally a lot of stress can affect our relationships. There's less time for ourselves and each other.
According to statistics, as many as 30% of parents with small children separate. This high number could perhaps be avoided with better communication. Here are some tips that can give you and your partner some key pointers to how you can meet the challenges, and make sure your love survives these trials.
1. Talk to each other
Your new life with your baby can be really difficult. The most important thing is to be able to talk about what's happening, how you feel, and how it's affecting you. You need to practice talking throughout your relationship and sometimes it might need more work. Start when you're pregnant by telling each other your thoughts and worries. Discuss your expectations and potential scenarios, and how you will handle any conflicts. Tell each other about how you view your roles as parents, how you grew up, and how it may affect you. Creating a common awareness through conversations and putting together a strategy together can help develop your relationship.
2. Keep talking
It's important to keep talking throughout the difficult years with small children. Don't just talk about what's hard - praise your partner's success and try to see the funny side of some situations. Your relationship has entered a new phase where you share both highs and lows - and the lows aren't dangerous but just a natural part of life. You can strengthen your 'us' by prioritizing communication, and even scheduling conversations. Create a little bubble where you work on your bond, and get stronger with each conversation, even if you don't always agree. Thinking about communication as 'your thing' will give you strength and help you move forward.
3. Check your expectations
The third key idea is to check your expectations and identify which expectations are possible and which are not. These could be of your partner, of you, and your relationship. When you feel frustrated, remind each other that it won't be like this forever. Try to enjoy the lovely moments, and don't get too hung up about the bad ones. If you have the right expectations everything will be easier.
4. Take care of your relationship
No relationship takes care of itself. You need to maintain and care for it, and active listening and wanting things to work well can go a long way. The fourth point is to see your relationship as something you need to prioritize and take care of. You'll have less time for each other when your children are small, but that doesn't have to be a negative thing. Small everyday things can now be the gems that strengthen your bond. Think of things you can do for your partner and try to listen to what they need. If you're both active in taking care of the little things, you'll take care of your relationship, maybe even in a better way than before you had children.
5. Take breaks and have fun together
Think about who can help you by babysitting and talking to them as early as possible. You'll need time to rest, no matter how good your balancing skills are! The fifth key idea is to, if possible, try to create some of your own time outside the home sometimes, to do something special or romantic together. This will bring you together and give you a break from the chaos at home. Try to talk about something else when you're spending time together. You might need to think of something to talk about so you don't end up talking about the same things as always. It doesn't matter if this doesn't seem very spontaneous, the main thing is that you get a break and try to find your way back to each other.
6. Do your own thing
The seventh point is that you take responsibility for your well-being and make sure you recharge your batteries. You'll be a better partner and have more energy. Talk to each other and give each other time to you do things on your own. You can work out, meet friends, go to a museum, or maybe just sleep. If it's difficult to arrange, try to find a babysitter. Taking care of yourself is an investment in parenthood and your relationship.
7. Think longterm
It's important for your relationship that you set goals and dream about adventures, travel, accommodation, or maybe just your next dinner out at a nice restaurant. Think about and discuss things you'd like to do together in the future. When your children are small, that can mean next week or month. But nothing's stopping you from also thinking about and talking about all the long-term possibilities later in life.
8. Let each other in
The eighth point is to avoid uneven division of labor in the home and when raising your child. It's easy to let one person take more responsibility at home and start acting like a boss. To avoid drifting apart for that reason, you should try to share the tasks and activities. Try to be equal parents. This means you have to let each other in and do things on your initiative as well.
9. Prioritize and plan
Life with young children, especially if you have several, is about advanced logistics for most people. The ninth point is to find a system for planning and prioritizing where you try to create space for more than just routines together. Good planning minimizes the risk of chaos, and also makes it easier to have fun as a family and couple. Check in often to see how your partner is feeling. Remember to tell each other what you want and need - you can't expect your partner to read your thoughts or interpret your needs if you don't say anything.
10. Aim for balance and acceptance
The tenth and final point is balance. To accept that life is just so messy, hard, tiring, or however you feel it is right now, is a way to find peace in the middle of the chaos. Try to be extra kind to each other to get through the challenge. The balance during the toddler years is about consciously creating a working split between family time, personal time, and relationship time. If we communicate with each other along the way and accept that for a while there will be tough demands on our relationships, we can more easily avoid pitfalls and the risk of harming the relationship. Listen to each other and keep working on your relationship. It will change over time and in different situations, but if it's strong it will also grow.
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