Bringing a child into this world is a hard, wonderful, difficult, and an amazing experience all at once. And no matter how excited parents are to do so, the research is pretty clear: having a child together brings down a couple’s overall happiness. That’s a sad fact to consider, especially considering how much they're both looking forward to it. The good news is, there’s never been a better time to set the stage for future success. Much like how many couples see a marriage counselor before they’re even married, thinking about how they can set the stage to be there for each other as parents before the baby even arrives can do a wonder of good.
Thinking through things like finances, conflict-resolution strategies, how to handle breaking points, and life goals are definitely not the easiest conversations to have. But now is a far better time to do so while mom can still think somewhat logically (feel free to laugh now, all the pregnant mama-to-be who are ravaged with hormones). At the very least, she will have more time and energy now than she will after the baby comes to discuss such things. If the pair tries to figure out responsibilities a month into parenthood, they'll be doing so in a desperately sleep deprived state.
Learning the skills to discuss complicated matters in a positive way will help parents become a strong couple in the future. And, while it may not be the most pleasant thing, discussing these things now (and regularly) will set them up for success in the future.
15 Book A Getaway To Remember
Booking a pre-baby getaway (or babymoon as some like to call it) can be an excellent way to connect before the baby comes along. Let’s be real – life is about to change significantly and irrevocably. It will no longer be just you two anymore (or you three, if you already have a little one). It can be far away and exotic (think Europe, Hawaii), or it can be a small town a couple hours’ drive away. Either way, getting out of your everyday routine and finding a place to disconnect, relax, and just enjoy each other’s company can be truly meaningful.
Try to be present and in the moment.
Resist the urge to pull out your cell phone, and consider even spending a full day lounging and laughing in bed. While it won’t necessarily prepare you for the baby life, it can be a moment you can look back on in the more challenging newborn days to remember the good times. It’s all about building a bank of positive memories together. I’m not saying you’ll never travel again. We visited England, Australia, the USA, and flew all across Canada, during the first year of our child’s life (I totally recommend traveling during maternity leave!). However, there’s something special about babymoons, that allows you to just enjoy each other.
14 Share Your Fears With Each Other
Think you’re the only one who has some fears about what’s to come? Think everyone else around you is just brimming with joy and you’re the odd one out? Not so, mamas! No matter how excited you may be to bring your child into the world, every mom-to-be has some fear associated with it.
Some days, it may be all you can think about!
Chances are, your partner is not immune to this. They may be trying to cover up their fears to be the strong man they think you want (does anyone know a man like this?). The fact of the matter is, having a kid can be scary. No matter how much you read, you don’t truly know what to expect. And once they come, and you’re responsible for taking care of this tiny little miracle, the fears may actually increase. Finding a way to connect, to share, and to be able to discuss these concerns will only strengthen your relationship. Learning how to communicate about these things now, means that it’s a skill you’ve developed for the harder days to come.
13 Practice Leaning on Each Other
Speaking of communicating your fears, it’s also important to be able to lean on each other when you need to. While many of us try to put on a façade of strength, it’s true in the vulnerable moments that our relationships deepen. Allowing him to see your vulnerabilities, your fears, your physical limitations doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you have the strength to share the harder parts of life and connect with someone because of them.
But resiliency is the true mark of a strong relationship, and of strong people in general.
You may have already gone through difficult patches of life together or individually, or this may be the first time. There will be a time in the first year of life (scratch that – many times) where you will need to lean on your partner. Whether it’s from physical recovery, emotional recovery, or just a rough patch, learning this skill now will pay dividends in the future. Practice leaning on each other now, and practice lifting your partner up in spirits while things haven't become too overwhelming, and there’s a greater chance you’ll be able to continue to do it as you progress in this crazy path called life.
12 Come Up With A Plan
Will you be sharing middle of the night feedings, or will mom take it on because she’s breastfeeding? If she does take it on, what can dad do to make things easier (like handling the burping and diapers at night, or taking the 4 am onwards shifts)? Will you both do all household chores, or will each parent take certain ones (mom does laundry, dad does bath time)? Will you each plan to take any time off for yourself, and if so what does that look like? One afternoon a week? One full day a month? What about travel plans?
We all agree that there’s a lot of work that goes into raising kids, and as many parenting books that line the shelves, there’s no true guidebook to show you what to do. Even if there were, it would be slightly different for each person.
Trying to figure these things out in the midst of sleep deprivation is not the best idea, but luckily Mother Nature schedules in 9 months of preparation time.
Taking the time to sit down and discuss the hardest questions can help prepare you for what’s to come. Best of all, it ensures that you don’t have wildly different expectations. If dad expects a solid 8 hours of sleep to prepare for the office the next morning, and mom expects splitting nighttime wakings equally, you’ll both be in for a rude surprise once the baby comes home. Talk in advance, and figure out a balance that works for you.
11 Discuss Parenting Styles
Think that you two are dialed into each other's emotions? That you connect on every level and see the world the same way? Get ready for this one mama. Even the most compatible of couples are bound to have been brought up at least slightly different, and because of this, they are likely to have different opinions on parenting. From disciplining styles, to meal times, education, even where to live, some surprises may come out when you start talking about the best way to raise children.
Here’s a shocker – there is no singular best way to parent.
Whatever your opinion of best is, there are millions of other parents out there, around the world, who may have another best way of doing something. The best advice here is to keep an open mind. Sure there’s a way you’re more accustomed to, or that you’ve read is most effective. But at the very least, train yourself to listen to your partner’s ideas, and ensure you don’t immediately shoot them down. Take them into consideration, and try to incorporate a fair number into the plan. Finding this middle ground will treat you well in life.
10 Learn How To Communicate Without The Electronics On
Honestly, is there a more important skill to have? Nobody said that marriage was easy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful bright moments, but it also means you’re going to need excellent communication skills to thrive in it. How do you handle a scenario where you feel your partner isn’t doing his share? What do you do if you’re starting to feel down, and you can’t explain why? What about if you get called out for not helping out as much as he thinks you should be doing? These, and hundreds of other, topics can require you to have difficult conversations.
Think through these topics, in advance, on ways you want to communicate with each other.
What type of role - in these types of conversations - do you want to take? How can you bring things up that will elicit a positive or understanding reaction? What will you do to ensure you, as a couple, are stronger after a difficult conversation? Again, in the heat of the moment, these things can be difficult to remember. If you haven’t thought about it in advance and figured out some strategies to bring your best self, it’s going to be next to impossible to do so in the middle of an argument.
There are tons of books out there on developing great communication strategies that can benefit not just your marriage, but also every relationship that you have. Picking up an audiobook to listen to on your commute may not be a bad idea!
9 Discuss Family Involvement
Does the sound of your mother coming to live with you, for the first few months, bring immediate relief to the fears you have about bringing a new baby home? What about your in-laws coming to stay for a few months? Remember that no matter how great of a relationship you have with your close family, they’re still an in-law to your partner. You may both love the idea of relatives coming to stay, or you may both wish for a little privacy to bond as a new family, but discussing this in advance is key.
Understanding your partner's wishes is the first step to coming to an agreed upon plan.
If he really wants you to try it yourselves, what about adding in a one-month clause, to reevaluate some extra support? Or what if you go visit your parents solo with the baby for a few days if he has to stay and work? You may feel different when immersed in the familiar environment than you would have thought. Be creative, and think through the various different options available to you. And, at the very least, be grateful that you have options!
8 Learn How to be There for Each Other When in Pain
We all know that motherhood is not a painless affair. Aside from the excruciating pain that we go through in labor, pregnancy in itself is difficult. From the hip pain to the back pain, sore feet, heartburn, itchy belly, and all the other aches and pains that come along with it, it's not easy.
However, having a partner who can be there for you when you’re feeling less than your best is important.
Pain won’t only come during pregnancy. You’ll be in pain after giving birth, and the recovery may take a while. Not only that, consider how many times you’ll be ill, or need to rely on your partner throughout your life. If your partner can truly step up and be there for you when you’re at your worst, it can give you a sense of appreciation, relief, and love. And it’s not just your partner stepping it up for you-you'll have to step it up just as much. Practice being there for each other when you’re not feeling well. It’s during those times that you’ll appreciate each other the most, and that is a bonding skill that will take you through your lives together.
7 Discuss A Financial Plan
Childcare in our country is nothing to scoff at. While some areas have cost regulations, they’re not necessarily the easiest to get into. Current estimates for how much it costs to raise a child, not including University, runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That money will not magically pop out of the air.
You need to plan for it.
Topics like clothing, diapers, formula, food, and childcare are important to discuss before the baby arrives. Pulling together an overall budget, considering housing, transportation, food, savings, children’s costs, travel, etc. can help limit surprises in general. This can be even more important after baby arrives. Costs start to rack up in pregnancy. When you start racking up all the baby costs (crib, car seat, stroller, clothing, etc.) it can easily run you into the thousands. Once the baby enters the childcare system, those costs will skyrocket, and take up a significant portion of your income.
Based on your overall family budget, it is best for parents to decide, in advance, how much each of you will cover, and who will cover what. Having a regular family budget meeting, whether it’s monthly or quarterly, can be beneficial to you as a couple, not just during the early parenthood days, but through your life as a whole.
6 Embrace The Emotional Connection
Pregnancy and childbirth can do a number on your emotions. Hormones, essential to building this new life, take a front row seat and bring a plethora of emotions to the forefront. Your husband may be wondering where the calm, cool, collected woman he once knew has gone. Crying multiple times a week at nothing more than a sappy commercial is not uncommon for pregnant women. Learning how to support each other through these ups and downs will set the stage to come for the future.
Think women are the only ones who go through this? Think again.
The sleep deprivation of early parenthood, combined with the love and fear you have for protecting these sweet, delicate children can take its toll on men as well. Letting him feel these feelings and stepping up to the plate can show him that vulnerability is safe and that you’re there for him, no matter what. That’s a pretty important thing for partners to know. Understanding that you will be there for each other, no matter how messy it gets, can strengthen the bond between the two of you.
Remember, it’s not just new parenting role that will cause you to be emotional. Over the next 30+ years of your life, there will be curveballs and hard times. Embracing these skills now will help set you up for future success.
5 Get Into An Exercise Routine Together
Experts agree that one of the best things you can do for yourself, not just in pregnancy, but in life in general, is to exercise. Specifically, in pregnancy, it can help with excessive weight gain, cardiovascular health, and lessening aches and pains. While you may need to tailor your exercise routine slightly (avoiding things like excessive heat, lifting heavy weights, etc.), there are lots of activities you can do to help maintain good health during pregnancy for both mom and baby. That said, exercise isn’t natural or easy to motivate yourself, but doing them together gives the additional push you will need. That’s where having an accountability partner comes into play.
Having your partner join you in this process can help motivate you to get your behind in gear.
If you know your partner is going to lace up his sneakers every Tuesday and Thursday after work, you’ll likely be far less tempted to want to chill on the couch. Whether it’s hitting a treadmill, going to a yoga class, or even a brisk walk through the park, getting your blood pumping will bring a number of benefits to you and baby. And getting into this habit early will only mean good things for the future. Bringing in a habit of exercise to your family benefits each one of you, including your future children. Exercise and walking can also be a surprisingly good time to bring up difficult conversations, with its physical movement, vitamin D and pumping blood.
4 Learn How To Let Things Go
This can be one of the most important skills to learn in life. It’s not the same as letting someone walk over you. It’s being able to pick your battles, understand you don’t need to win every argument, and giving some love to your partner.
Here’s a shocker: you and your partner are not going to agree on everything when it comes to parenthood. You’re bound to have some differing views on parenthood, and that’s completely normal. But with that, you are going to have to learn that your way is not always the right way.
In some cases, your partner will be right about things more than you are. That can be hard to contemplate, but it’s true.
Not only that, in the sleep-deprived months that come after the baby arrives, you will both do things that get on each other’s nerves. You have two options: hold onto things and let them fester, or to simply let them go. It is not an easy skill to acquire, and you may need to get creative as to how to develop it. For example, you may find a good night’s sleep can allow you to see things in a new light. Maybe scheduling a girls night helps, or maybe it’s just getting out of the house for 30 minutes for a walk or trip to the store by yourself. Finding these outlets now, while things aren’t as stressful, sets the stage for both appreciation and perspective for later disputes.
3 Talk About Your Life Goals
Do you want to be city dwellers forever? Do you see yourself needing a lawn for kids to run around on? Has a part of you always considered staying home with kids, or does the thought of giving up your career make you cringe?
These are critical conversations that you may not have necessarily had yet.
In the early stages of relationships and marriage, you may feel as though you’ve discussed everything. But when it comes to children entering your life, there are usually additional conversations that should be had. Not only that but often times your opinions on things change when they become real. Maybe you always did value your career, but after connecting with your little one, you’re starting to think about things in a new light.
These are important conversations to have with your spouse, and on a regular basis at that. As both you and your priorities change after having kids, being open and honest about the things that matter to you, and where you’d like to end up, will set you up for success as a couple.
2 Discuss What To Do At Certain Breaking Points
At some point, you’ll get there. You’ll get to a point where things seem so much more difficult than they did before, and you’ll be struggling as a couple. No marriage and no long-term relationship is immune to it. Thinking that this breaking point will never come will just set you up for disappointment when it does arrive.
Having a child doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily encounter challenging times sooner, but there’s no doubt that it can bring its own unique challenges.
The best thing you can do? Talk about this in advance. In can be awkward, scary, and depressing to discuss, but talking about what you’ll do in moments of struggle will mean you’re bringing your best selves during your hardest times. It’s in those times that you’re most likely to react poorly. So preparing for these times, and having strategies to lean on, will ensure that you don’t do or say something that you’ll end up regretting.
Again, remember that there are ups and downs in life, especially in relationships. Neither phase lasts forever, and through the years you’ll go through both. Being able to weather the storms is a learned skill. By doing so, you get to see the sun break through on the other side.
1 Cuddle Like There's No Tomorrow
Life isn’t always easy, mama. It can push you to your breaking points, then pull you back again. At the end of the day, just remember that you guys are going through this together. Taking time out of the craziness of life to connect with each other doesn’t just feel good. It’s vital.
Being able to find moments of intimacy strengthen a relationship.
Little times where it’s just the two of you, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Small times where you can just lay with each other, be with each other, and block out the rest of the world. Maintaining intimacy will be more difficult when kids come – there’s no doubt about that. Some kids seem to have a built-in radar of when parents put their feet up and come running.
That said, don’t ever stop trying. Find those moments you can steal away together. A quick cuddle on the couch to connect with the screens off can sometimes be more intimate than hours in the bedroom. Be there for each other. Even when it gets hard, keep trying. Even when you’re not sure where things are going to go, keep going. Life isn't always going to be easy - but it will be worth it.