Greenwood Health Kick
Couples ‘Teething’ Into Parenthood: Tips for the Transition
Writer / Alicia Wettrick
Nothing can be more stressful on the health of a marriage than transitioning to parenthood. For example, right now, I am listening to my kids fighting upstairs while my husband is fending for himself. He’s OK. I’m busy. Then I hear “Alicia, can you give me some help here!?” … sigh.
Children bring endearment, fulfillment and a sense of purpose to a marriage, but they also can bring lots of conflict as well. In fact, sociology studies found 90 percent of couples reported decreased marital satisfaction when transitioning to parenthood. Furthermore, marital issues are ranked at its highest during the child’s first year.
Don’t fret! This is temporary! Studies also showed marital satisfaction goes up as the child gets older. In fact, the rate of satisfaction returns to the previous (before baby) level.
Happy Marriage, Happy Baby
There’s hope amidst the spit-up and diapers. Couples who have a solid relationship before going into parenthood have less conflict and cope better when issues rattle the marriage.
Knowledge of these problems is the key; this is important because studies show a happy marriage leads to a happy baby. The following is a list of common conflicts and research-supported solutions.
What Issues Rattle a Marriage?
Studies identified four top issues of conflict:
1. Sleep deprivation
2. Imbalance workload – Women do 75 percent of childcare/housework. (Ramp it up, guys!)
3. Social isolation
4. Depression – Occurs in 10 to 20 percent of mothers and one-tenth to one-quarter of fathers.
The Right Formula Can Help
Reachers identified three top strategic ingredients for couples to implement:
1. Awareness – Couples need to be aware of the common issues.
2. Exercise empathy – Research shows a little empathy goes a long way.
3. Devise a Game Plan – For example, to help avoid feeling socially isolated, have a social outing or date night once a week.
From “Brain Rules for Baby” by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist. This book is a must read!
Local Marriage Author and Blogger Gives Advice
Lori D. Lowe, Indianapolis resident, is a marriage researcher, writer, blogger and author of “First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope and Inspiration for Your Marriage.” She is committed to providing marriage advice supported by research. I contacted Lori for marital advice for new parents, and she eloquently responded:
“To help prepare for the transition from married couple to parents, first be ready for a wide range of emotions. My husband and I were surprised at the blissful feelings we felt upon becoming new parents. Everyone warned us of the work and exhaustion, but there are often feelings of overwhelming joy. On the other hand, friends have shared experiences with postpartum depression, so be aware that changing hormones can bring mood changes.
“Prepare your marriage for this transition by discussing the lifestyle you want to live with your children. In what faith will you raise them? What church will your family attend? Are sports and the arts important for them to participate in, or will you try to keep a less hectic schedule where kids can explore and learn on their own? Will one parent stay home, and if so, how will your finances be affected? Discuss these topics while you have the time and energy. Make a financial plan, so that money stresses do not overwhelm you.
“Don’t think you can split the workload for home and childcare 50/50. While it’s great to say both partners will contribute equally, the truth is that when one partner is exhausted, the other one may have to give 100 percent. If you have family and friends who are willing to help on occasion, use that time to reconnect as a couple.
“Prioritize your marriage. A strong marriage is one of the best gifts you can give your children.
“It’s an amazing blessing to transition from a marriage to a family with children. Remember you are part of a team. Work together to encourage one another. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Instead of complaining to others about your spouse, focus on what they are doing right. Research shows that focusing on gratitude and expressing it to your spouse will enrich your marriage.”
For more research-based marriage tips, visit Lori D. Lowe’s blog at marriagegems.com.
So while caring for your new bundle of joy, don’t forget about your biggest baby … your husband (I’m kidding). Remember, “Happy Marriage Leads to Happy Baby.” Happy Mother’s Day!