You’re a few months (or years!) into parenthood and life has changed. BIG time! But as your partner calls to let you know they’re meeting friends for their regular Friday Night Drinks (because they’ve “worked hard all week”), you realise things haven’t changed nearly as much for your beloved as they have for you and you can’t help but want to scratch their eyes out. How do you cope with your partner still having an active social life when you’re stuck at home with bub? Should they give it up? Cut back? Or should you just call the babysitter and join them?
There’s a stage of adjustment to parenthood called Setting up Base Camp. It comes after the lustre of your expectations of parenthood have worn off and reality has started to set in - and before pre-baby habits can start to cause longer term post-baby problems. This stage involves negotiating agreements that support both you and your partner being prepared and happy to be in this for the long haul. Like things that keep you sane and not feeling frustrated or resentful, because let’s face it – parts of parenthood are stressful, and stress, on either parents’ part is not good for anyone in a family!
One big stress is new restrictions on the main caregiver’s time and freedom. It’s something most couples need to negotiate. Before you broach the subject with your partner, try to work out what’s going on underneath for both of you and what you need from each other.
Are you envious of your partner being able to “escape”? That may mean you need more time out. Truth is, you’re BOTH contributing to the success of your family and you BOTH deserve time out from your responsibilities, even if they’re different.
Is it that you don’t want to go out and you don’t really mind being able to do your own thing, but you’re feeling lonely at home? Is there a good friend you can invite over or an old one you can call?
Or is it simply that you just don’t think it’s fair? Do something completely self-indulgent in that time to balance things out.
You are both contributing to the success of your family and you both deserve time out from your responsibilities.
And wonder what’s going on for your partner. How are they coping with parenthood? Are they in denial about the changes? What other stress relief do they have? Are there other ways they can have time out/fun/relaxation that don’t stress you out more? It’s important for new dads, as well as new mums, to have time and opportunities to process and integrate all the normal but challenging parenthood changes. One thing you could do if you have a husband who doesn’t have dad-friends (but you do), is invite them over and let the boys share daddy-war stories in a more family-friendly way.
Just as time out is good for the mental and emotional health of you both, so is time out as a couple good for your whole family. Your baby will appreciate the good vibest that come from this. Nice time together also reduces frustration and resentment.
What many parents don’t realise is that life after baby isn’t so much about getting back to normal as it is about the two of you working together to create the new normal for your family. Call the babysitter.