And now we are three…

According to Google there is a baby born every 2 minutes in Australia – and according to Elly Taylor, author of new book “Becoming Us: the essential relationships guide for parents” for prospective and new parents, that is one couple every two minutes being plunged into the chaos of new parenting and stress on their relationship. Admittedly Taylor is writing from the perspective of a relationship counsellor, so she sees all the couples who are having problems, not the ones who are sailing (or staggering) through sleep deprivation, sore nipples, house in turmoil and the joys of having a new little bundle.

In her book Taylor explores how the early romantic intimacy of a relationship can get lost under the burden of parenting, but she argues that this time of disruption can result in a positive outcome whereby both the individuals experience a time of personal growth, and the relationship can grow in depth and maturity.

This is an interesting challenge – is she saying that when new parents are facing one of the most challenging times in their relationship as they deal with all that a new baby brings, not just practically, but also the emotional and psychological trials of new parenthood, that we have to add a burden of needing to think about how we can grow personally at this time?

Taylor talks of the different developmental stages in a relationship, moving from the close “romantic” phase, to a more differentiated stage where couples resume more of the individuality. This is essentially followed by a stage of conflict as couples learn to realistically encompass their personal difference within the relationship. More ease returns as the couple enter the each partner “rapprochement” phase, where each person is competent and well defined; vulnerability re-emerges, and there is alternation between intimacy and independence. The final stage, reached in mature relationships is “mutual interdependence”, where each individual is well adjusted, personally satisfied, but works for a deep and meaningful bond with their partner which is based on desire, not need.

Couples I have seen who have got into the most strife in early parenthood are those are either still in the “romantic” phase or have not negotiated successfully the conflict phase. Occasionally, there are couples who married and became parents without having truly entered the romantic phase – these are those who choose to marry for a variety of reasons, but are not wildly in love and fail to move from being two individuals who share living space into a committed relationship.

Taylor’s emphasis on the opportunity, and in essence, necessity, of personal and relationship growth at this crucial juncture in a marriage is a positive message. She describes three ingredients to successfully negotiating this turbulent time:

• Being prepared: expecting this to be a time of growth, realising that feeling uncertain in many areas of your life and relationship is normal at this time. Get informed about the different ways that you and your partner may react to parenthood. Each will busy in individual ways, she may be preparing the nursery and he will tend to pick up financial responsibility, at least temporarily, and get busy at work.  You can be consumed by separate but connected responsibilities.

• Be prepared for some sense of separation as you both negotiate moving to the next stage of your relationship.

• Allow yourself and your partner to be a learner and not place excessive expectations on yourself or them. Neither you or they can be perfect parents straight away.

• Learn, or practice those you already know, good communication skills including conflict resolution.  Keep talking with your partner about your difficulties with what is happening without blaming them for the problems.

After the months of expectant preparations, the joy of baby showers and painting the nursery, actually coming home with a tiny, defenceless baby that you are both responsible for and feel relatively unprepared, feeling stripped bare of your usual sense of competence in life, can be greatly unsettling. And yes, a time when you will be propelled into growing into new people, not just as husband and wife, but as wife and husband who are also mother and father. 

 

Feature Photo: Herkle

Nicky Lock, BSc(hons) Grad Dip EFT PACFA reg., Senior Counsellor and Clinical Consultant, and a lecturer and author of counselling courses.

Comments (4)

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  • Stephen Davis
    February 17, 12 - 12:30pm
    Parenting takes an enormous amount of effort from both parties, there is a lot of work to be done if children are to be raised up to be good law abiding Christians who can be an asset to their community. I know that my wife and I made a lot of changes to our lifestyle but I did not see these changes as sacrifices because the cause is a great one and the joy of seeing them grow up into responsible adults is incalculable. It involves a delicate combination of love and discipline, the ability to take them in your arms and tell them you love them and the ability to take your hand to their backsides when you have warned them about naughty behaviour.
  • Nicky Lock
    February 17, 12 - 4:26pm
    Hi Stephen,
    Parenting does indeed take
    a delicate combination of love and discipline,
    but I can't agree with your comment that seems to imply that discipline involves smacking. Tony Willis wrote a good post "Spare the Rod" on this in Feb 11 when he wrote
    From our mistakes, we would strongly recommend you make a conscious decision that smacking not be an option in the discipline of your children.

    He goes on to talk about broadening what one views as discipline to include a whole raft of actions. I think you will find the vast majority of parents and parenting experts would agree with him.
  • Stephen Davis
    February 18, 12 - 5:52pm
    Thanks Nicky, I strongly disagree with your implication that smacking is not a part of discipline. I am not advocating smacking the first time a child does something wrong, my policy when my kids were small were two warnings and then if they did not do what they were told then they got a smack on their backsides and that always, almost without exception, did the trick. No reasonable person would WANT to smack their kids but there is no reason why it should not be used as a last resort. If you can get your kids to do what they are told without smacking them then good for you, why do you think that most parents tell their kids first? Because they would rather that the child did what he/she was asked to do first time around. I think that a lot of people in the church are falling for the advice of these so called experts who are quite happy to condemn an aspect of parental control but when kids are unruly and out of control because they have had either no discipline or some syrupy program dreamed up by some expert, these people are nowhere to be seen and often it is the parents who have to pick up the pieces. I think these advocates who are calling for a ban on smacking are very dangerous people despite their good intentions and my advice to you and anyone else who thinks like you, would be to be very careful about what to adopt in the way of recomendations from these sources!
  • Russell Powell
    February 24, 12 - 12:45pm
    Well put, Nicky!