Dr Adrian Wang of Dr Adrian Wang Psychiatric & Counselling Care at Gleneagles Medical Centre says, “There is definitely a period of adjustment for everyone, both as individuals and as a couple, when a baby arrives. You’ve gotten used to life as a twosome and then, suddenly, there’s another human being in your relationship. “Your baby’s arrival changes your relationship dynamics. Besides adjusting to sharing each other, pre-existing issues can unexpectedly surface at times like this, such as friction with your in-laws or career problems, Dr Wang warns. If you want to avoid those new-parent relationship pitfalls, take note of the most common red-flag issues — and find out how you can fix them.
1 See it from his point of view
It’s 7pm. You’re halfway through “the colic dance” with your wailing baby when your husband pops his head around the door and asks whether you remembered to buy his coffee. So, World War III erupts. But, while it’s important to get your gripes off your chest, try not to do it in the heat of the moment. Dr Wang advises, “Always make it your aim to avoid an argument there and then, and try to see it from his point of view — it may have been just an innocent question to him. “Any chats you have will be more effective when you’re in a more positive frame of mind, so wait until you’re calm, and not distracted by your baby, before sitting your man down to sort out your differences.
2 Get your hubby to care for baby
“It was the constant football nights and accepting unnecessary business trips that did it for me,” says Jessica Lim, 34, a mother of one. “George was 5 months old and my life revolved around him completely, whereas my husband David was still meeting his buddies for regular beer nights and travelling frequently. He was really behaving like a single guy!” Linda Connell, a counsellor, says it’s not uncommon for a new dad to pretend that he’s living his old life because he’s feeling awkward and incompetent. He also assumes that you’re better at looking after your baby than he is. Another good way of getting your man to take on — and enjoy — his new responsibilities as a dad is to get him to take over caring for the baby for a set time after he has a short rest on returning home from work. He’ll then have to learn on the job, just like you had to.
3 Agree to split the work
“Before our baby arrived, Jack and I did roughly half each of the household chores,” says Denise Quek, 32. “However, once I went on maternity leave, Jack seemed to expect me to become Mrs Housewife Extraordinaire, even though most of my time was spent coping with our newborn daughter!”
The couple eventually worked out a timetable for chores, which both agreed to stick to. “Once he had specific areas that he was completely responsible for — like the kitchen —Jack took the chores more seriously and did his share of work,” Quek says.
They did the right thing, notes Dr Wang. “Men are creatures of habit,” he explains. Instead of fuming that “he should know” how busy you are, it’s more effective to sit down together and write out a list of who does what and when, then stick it up on the fridge. This way, you can discuss exactly what expectations each has of the other, while ensuring that both of you contribute equally to the family. Dr Wang also points out that fatherhood and housekeeping do not come naturally to most men, especially if they have been raised in traditional households. So, be frank if you need help.
4 Talk calmly, don’t judge
Shortly after her baby arrived, Mandy Tan, 27, realised that post-birth hormones and fatigue impacted her ability to constructively discuss differences with her husband, Sean. “By the time our child, Helen, was 6 weeks old, within 20 minutes of asking him to clear the table, we’d be screaming about something I did four years ago,” she sighs. “We’ve lost the ability to talk properly and our quarrels are quickly becoming nasty, drawn-out dramas.”
Try to be brief and specific about what has upset or angered you. If you take a minute to think about how to describe the problem in a clear, non-judgemental way, it’s possible to have a productive discussion, rather than a hurtful argument.
5 Share with other mums
It’s easy to pour out your troubles to your friends but be wary of those who only agree with you, but offer no constructive advice, Dr Wang cautions. Instead, look for fellow mums who have gone through similar experiences, so that they can help solve your problem. Also, be aware of why you are turning to your friends in the first place.