A woman becoming a first time parent as she holds her pregnant belly while lying down.

How can you make the process of becoming first-time parents easier? What does it take to support your marriage after the addition of a child?

When becoming first-time parents, you should think about how you’re going to distribute household labor and how you can support both each other’s needs and the needs of a new child. Sometimes marriages decline when a new child is introduced due to a lack of investment in the marriage.

Read on for advice on how to navigate becoming parents in a way that is healthy for your family.

How to Navigate Becoming Parents

Several studies have indicated that marriage satisfaction often declines with the birth of a child due to increased stress and shifting dynamics within the partnership. Part of this challenge stems from the traditional and unequal distribution of labor at home. Women tend to take on more of the child-rearing duties and housework, even when they are working full-time jobs, leading to stress and potential resentment. This imbalance affects not only the relationship’s dynamic but also has practical implications for women’s careers and personal development. Therefore, when becoming first-time parents, it is important to carefully consider how you will distribute labor.

If you do decide to have a baby, men play a crucial role in supporting their partners during the transition to motherhood. During pregnancy, childbirth, and the early stages of infancy, your partner needs your support more than ever. The physical and emotional changes a woman undergoes during these phases are intense, and the presence of a supportive partner can greatly alleviate stress and anxiety. Your partner will need reassurance, comfort, and practical support. 

(Shortform note: In addition, couples shouldn’t neglect their relationship amidst the life-changing event of welcoming a new child. In And Baby Makes Three, the Gottmans stress the importance of continuing to invest in your romantic relationship, which can easily become sidelined with the arrival of a baby. The authors suggest expressing appreciation daily and carving out quality time, however short, to maintain an emotional connection. Lastly, they encourage couples to develop a strong support network that can provide critical relief, allowing couples to occasionally step back from parental duties to focus on each other and preserve the intimacy of their partnership.)

The type of support you offer will be different at every stage. During pregnancy, you can attend prenatal classes and doctor’s appointments. Help set up the nursery and make decisions about baby items. During this time, you can take on more household chores and responsibilities, such as cooking meals or doing laundry. After the baby arrives, there will be even more laundry to do. In addition, you can change diapers and take on some of the feedings, if you and your partner decide to introduce bottles. 

Postpartum Depression: When Practical Support Isn’t Enough

While providing practical support is crucial in the postpartum period, it often isn’t enough to combat postpartum depression (PPD), a serious mental health condition and a debilitating mood disorder that sometimes affects new mothers. PPD is characterized by severe emotional distress and a diminished capacity for coping with the demands of motherhood and daily life after giving birth.
Practical tasks like childcare and household chores, while helpful, don’t address the underlying emotional and psychological struggles of PPD. Symptoms of PPD include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness, and can manifest in physical symptoms and intense mood swings, and, in severe cases, thoughts of wanting to harm the baby or oneself.

According to the US Office on Women’s Health, it’s essential for partners to encourage open dialogue about mental well-being and to support the affected parent in seeking professional help. This may involve facilitating appointments with health care providers, exploring therapy options, or joining support groups. PPD is treatable with the right support and resources, and early intervention is key in supporting new mothers struggling with PPD.

By showing up and being supportive, you deepen the bond with your partner and also begin to establish your own relationship with your child. Fathers play an important role in children’s lives. While it’s common to feel jealous of the attention and time given to a new baby, focus on building your own relationship with your child

(Shortform note: According to The Fatherhood Project, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of children and families, actively involved fathers play a pivotal role in their children’s development. Children with involved fathers exhibit higher levels of cognitive competence, educational achievement, and career success. These children are also less prone to behavioral problems and criminal activity.)

Engaging in play is a key aspect of this bonding process. Not only does it provide an opportunity for physical stimulation, but it also fosters an environment for the child to explore. This active engagement can significantly contribute to the child’s developmental progress and helps build empathy. 

How to Play With Kids at Every Age

Engaging with children through play at every age is crucial for their development. It promotes learning, strengthens bonds, and helps children discover the world around them. Adjusting activities to match each developmental stage ensures that play remains both fun and beneficial.

For newborns (0 to 3 months), sensory exploration like listening to music and looking at high-contrast objects helps stimulate their developing senses. As your baby gets older(3-6 months), try introducing rattles, playing peek-a-boo, and making funny faces to encourage tactile and visual exploration. Older infants (6-12 months) enjoy object exploration and simple games, with toys of different textures and sounds being particularly engaging. 

For toddlers (1 to 3 years), physical and pretend play is key; building blocks and dressing up are great activities. With preschoolers (3-5 years), dive into imaginative play, cooperative games, arts, and crafts, which foster creativity and social skills. School-age children (5-12 years) progress to more complex games, puzzles, and team sports, which help in cognitive and physical development. 
Teenagers (13 years and up) prefer social interactions (often with their peers), competitive games, and pursuing personal interests like art or music. Cater to your teenagers’ need for independence and self-exploration. 
Becoming First-Time Parents: How to Support Your Family

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

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