Help each other to perform well as parents
One of the best things you can give your child is a positive relationship between you as parents. And if you’re on your own, involving other people is a good idea for both you and your baby.
Get a babysitter every so often. A couple of hours together in a cafe, in the countryside or in the bedroom can work wonders. Involve other people. Create a network of people you like being with.
Two become three, and you become something more than a couple. You become parents together. You become a family. If you have several children, the flock will grow with a completely new and unique little human. A person you will set your mark on, and who will set its mark on you. A good relationship as a couple is one of the best things you can give your child.
Becoming a parent is one of life’s greatest events. Having a child is also one of life’s greatest changes. And changes often cause stress, even if they’re wanted. When we analyse couples with problems, it often turns out that their difficulties arose around the time they had a child. When we become parents, we have many expectations which we’re not always clear about or discuss. Put your expectations into words, and talk with each other about them.
Love and bonding are just as important for us humans as food and warmth. Everyone needs a safe haven. And it’s the job of the parents to create such a haven for their child. You’re where it belongs. Since you’re the ones the infant identifies with, there’s nobody it learns more from. And the child learns much more from the way you treat each other than from the way you try to bring it up. A good relationship as a couple is one of the best things you can give your child.
We can also say that you are your baby’s most important brain-builder. Its brain develops by forming connections between the cells. During the early years of life, the brain makes 250 000 new connections every hour. When an infant gets stressed, it produces the stress hormone cortisol. Everyone can cope with a little stress, but a lot of cortisol over a long period is toxic to the brain and counters its ability to make connections. Your baby notices if you argue and yell at each other, or if you’re calm. The greater the harmony and security, the better for your child’s development.
You can do a lot as a couple to preserve your relationship while your child is a newborn baby and an infant. Some advice is provided below.
- Parenthood isn’t a competition to be the best, or about doing just as much of the same thing. It’s the world’s most important teamwork, where each of you contributes your personal resources. It’s good for the person who’s given birth and is breastfeeding, for example, if the other one does the shopping or the cleaning. Do the work gladly, and show gratitude for each other’s contribution.
- Giving each other the opportunity to sleep is a basic loving gift. If we don’t get enough sleep, we develop a more negative view of the world and become more quarrelsome. Take it in turns to sleep and to be awake.
- Many women find that their newborn baby gives them more than enough body contact. As the partner who hasn’t given birth, you should try to appreciate this. Relieve the mother in carrying and lulling the baby. As the mother, you should appreciate that your partner could miss the physical contact between you. If you don’t have the energy for sex, you should still cuddle and caress each other.
- Don’t panic if your baby cries. Infants can’t speak, and cry to communicate their feelings and needs. You should jointly try to find out what the baby is trying to tell you, and respect each other’s interpretations.
- Don’t tread warily around the baby. Play music even if it’s sleeping, have sex even if it’s lying in the cradle alongside. Let the housework wait. You don’t need a sterile home even if you’ve had a child. All that does is create stress and allergies.
- Life can’t continue exactly as it did when you’ve had a child, but it shouldn’t be put on hold either. Talk about what you want to spend time doing, and what’s not so important.
- Include the baby in your life together. Take it with you on outings and visits. As the child grows, involve it in clearing up and cooking. Listen to the infant when it talks, and see that it also learns to wait its turn and listen to you.
- Get a babysitter every so often. A couple of hours together in a cafe, in the countryside or in the bedroom can work wonders.
- Let aunts, uncles and grandparents get to know your baby in their own way. Overorganising and excessively rigid rules are the recipe for losing the help you’ll need.
- Make friends with couples who have children of the same age. You’ll then be able to support each other, spend time together while the kids are playing and take it in turns to look after each other’s children.
- Infancy will be over one day, so put your mobile phone away and relish the moments. A newborn baby sleeping in your arms. A one-year-old taking its first steps. A two-year-old who wants another story. Two small hands gripping the hands of its trusted adults and walking between the most important people in its life. You swing your child into the air, and it laughs. Almost everything else in life can wait, but this is now. And for the child, this is the foundation on which it’ll stand for the rest of its life.
Parenthood isn’t a competition to be the best, or about doing just as much of the same thing. It’s the world’s most important teamwork. Show gratitude for each other’s contribution – then you can help each other to perform better.
Teksten er skrevet av parterapeut og relasjonspedagog Bjørk Matheasdatter.