Before sperm ever meets egg, you and your partner have some thinking to do. You should discuss your goals and expectations of parenthood and your children. You also should think about the kind of parent you want to be, the strengths you bring to the equation and whether you’re truly ready to put another human being’s needs before your own. Here are a few questions to ask yourselves.
- Do we want/need to be parents to have a full and vital life as adults together?
- What does parenthood mean to us?
- Do we have what it takes to be great parents?
- How would we define our roles as Mom and Dad?
- What do you expect of me?
- How do we want to operate as a parenting team?
Many people launch headlong into parenthood without asking these key questions. They just assume things will work out when the baby arrives — but then they run into problems such as:
- What do you mean you want me to give up golf because it takes me away from home for five hours while you and the baby are left alone?
- What do you mean we can’t still go out every week because we can’t afford a babysitter and the baby needs us?
- What do you mean you don’t want to spank the baby when she’s “bad”?
When those romantic fantasies of parenthood don’t play out, sometimes couples don’t even know how to begin communicating about the disillusionment and unexpected demands. They often wonder, “Why didn’t I see this before?” The answer is twofold: a) They never asked about or discussed ideas and expectations; and b) they were blinded by fantasies and assumptions.
How to cope
- Stop blaming your partner. Forgive each other for not knowing enough to discuss things earlier.
- Discuss your childhoods, how each of you were raised, what you want from each other as a co-parent, what confuses you as a parent, what are you unsure of, what frightens you, what excites you, and what you want to do differently than your parents. Talk about your expectations for family life and what you need from each other. What kind of parenting philosophy do you want to adopt?
- Listen to each other. Respect what the other is saying. You don’t need to be right, or best, and you want to share ideas and figure out a parenting philosophy that works for all three of you.
- Admit there are not enough hours in a day to get all your needs and wants met. See how you two can meet your needs and those of your baby, while understanding and accepting that “wants” may have to wait.
- Nurture each other and give each other important attention so your union stays alive as your baby thrives.
- Have fun together.
- Enjoy the challenging, sometimes frightening and wonderful journey as parents, and remember to learn together with your child.
- Consider the questions together, even though you don’t have all the answers. Take time-outs when you’re upset to calm down and figure out rationally how you want to react. Know there aren’t any rulebooks to follow; you’ll learn as you go — and if you have a partner who is willing to learn with you, you won’t feel so alone.
- Life is easier for both of you when you take care of your baby’s needs and your baby is happy. When your baby is upset or doing something you don’t like or understand, be a partner with your spouse and figure it out together.
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