The nine months leading up to the birth of your first baby are filled with excitement, anticipation, and for many, immense anxiety (hell, you'll experience these feelings with all of your pregnancies). There's so much to prepare for, worry about, and acquire (babies need a ton of stuff!) before your bundle of joy makes an appearance. And after he or she is welcomed into the world, your life becomes consumed by this new little person. All of your time and energy is put towards caring for, thinking about, and just loving your new baby. During the first few months (and maybe even years), many people will fail to put in the work needed to keep their relationship with their spouse afloat. It won't be intentional, just a unconscious (and totally normal) response to adding a new, helpless, attention-draining person to your family. Unfortunately, this will create a good amount of conflict between you and your partner.
Not sure what to discuss? Below are 11 topics to bring up in those short nine months before your world is turned upside down (don't worry- it's not that bad) so that you can make your post-baby life a hell of a lot easier (believe me, you're going to need all of the help you can get). In addition, I split the topics up into "serious" things and "fun" things so you're not talking about such heavy subjects all of the time. I've also given you a few resources for each topic. Choose a topic, read the articles separately, and then come together to share your thoughts on the subject. You could spend anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks discussing each talking point. However you decide to do it, having these conversations will help you and your partner avoid some of the typical post-baby conflict.
Here are some serious things:
- Childcare. What are your thoughts on childcare? Do you want to have one parent stay home or will both of you work? If you take the stay-at-home route, who will fulfill that role and for how long (some families will return to dual-income households after all children have started kindergarten)? If you decide to both work, do you want an in-home nanny, a family member, a daycare in an individual's home, or a childcare center caring for your child? How are you going to pay for childcare? Conversation Resources: Click HERE and HERE to read articles that compare the typical childcare options.
- Nursing. Do you want to breast feed? If yes and everything works out (many women have a lot of trouble in this area- including me with our twins), how long do you want to nurse (a few weeks, months, or years)? When do you think you'll start introducing bottles (either of breast milk or formula) so that your significant other can also feed the baby? Conversation Resources: Check out these articles (HERE and HERE) about the pros and cons of breast feeding.
- Chores. How do you want to divvy up the daily chores that come with having a newborn? For instance, I nurse our newborn boy as much as possible (he gets a bottle of breast milk about once a day) and so if Hus and I are together, Hus will change our newborn's diaper and burp him when I'm done nursing him. This helps us balance the workload in that area. You should also re-evaluate the regular daily household chores. If you're nursing, you will be unavailable a lot during the day, so your significant other may have to pick up more of your chores during the first few months so that you both don't loose your sanity due to a messy house. Talk about your household chores and all of the new chores you anticipate having with a new baby and discuss how you plan to divide them. Conversation Resources: Take a look at these articles (HERE and HERE) about post-baby chores and how to divide them.
- Discipline. What are your thoughts on discipline? Do you believe in spanking, time-out, logical reasoning, or some kind of combination? How old do you think discipline can or should begin? I can't tell you how many couples I know who argue about this. One parent thinks the other one is too tough, while the other parent thinks his/her spouse is too lenient. Being on the same team with discipline is one of the best things you can do for your child. Talk about how you plan to deal with certain behavioral problems and try to come to a consensus about things. For example, Hus and I try to clearly state the rules about different situations before any rules are broken so that our twins are clear about what they should be doing. We also use time-out and logical reasoning when our kids break the rules (which seems like several hundred times a day). Talk about it now and then remember to continuously talk about discipline as your children get older. And try your hardest to avoid criticizing how your partner disciplines your children (especially in front of said children). If you have a problem with what your partner is doing, have a private discussion with them later, when you're both calm. Keeping the lines of communication open here is very important. Conversation Resources: Click HERE for more information on discipline.
- Adjusting. How do you plan to cope with the major adjustment you will need to make when baby arrives? Having a new baby changes everything. Your routine, date nights, and conversation topics will all change. Probably the most difficult things to deal with are the lack of sleep, intimacy, and free time you and your mate will experience. While you can't do much to avoid these things, recognizing that they will happen is half the battle. Talk about how you plan deal with sleeping. Maybe only one of you is going to wake up in the night (this will likely be the case if you are exclusively breast feeding), or maybe you're going to switch back and forth every other night, or maybe you're going to split the night in half (Hus and I did this with our twins- he took care of them before 2am and I took care of them after 2am), or maybe you're both going to wake up through out the night and split up the duties at each feeding/changing (for instance, one of you might feed baby while the other might change baby's diaper). As for intimacy, you're going to have to work really hard at this one. Continue to talk to one another after baby arrives (this may seem obvious, but I can't tell you how easy it is to forget to talk to each other; especially when all that you want to do is be with your new precious baby). Express your love and appreciation to your spouse on a daily basis. And compliment your partner when he or she does anything worthy of praise. When it comes to a lack of physical intimacy, it might not be such a bad time to start scheduling sex (after the first six weeks of course). You both will feel so over-worked and over-tired in those first few months that sex will be one of the last things on your mind and/or your partner's mind. And, sex is important! Don't let your sex life be a casualty of having a baby. Conversation Resources: Click HERE and HERE to read articles about adjusting to becoming new parents and HERE to read more about adjusting to motherhood the first, second, and third time around. Also, HERE is a post I wrote about scheduling sex and HERE is a post I wrote about the importance of an active and satisfying sex life.
And here are a few fun things:
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- Dating. Dating is going to be different when you have a baby, but it's very important that you make time for one another. With a new baby around, it is difficult (and expensive!) to get away. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to have date nights at home. You could watch a movie, get dressed up for a candle-lit dinner, dance in your living room, have another couple over for a double-date, or share fondue. Talk about three new date nights you could have. What can you do at home? How can you make an at-home date night special? How often would you like to commit to at-home date nights (one a week, bi-monthly, or monthly)? Conversation Resources: Check out a few stay-at-home date ideas HERE, HERE, and HERE.
- Names. Figuring out what you're going to name your little peanut is probably one of the more fun things to do- at least it is for us! I absolutely love talking about names with Hus (even when we're not pregnant!). Make a list of names you each like (first and middle) and compare. Do you want to have family names? Do you want all of your children to have similar names (either by first letter or sound)? You also need to talk about if you're going to share your names choices with family and friends. The benefit of doing this is that you don't have to keep it a secret (it's hard!), but the downside is that everyone has an opinion and you may not want to hear them. Conversation Resources: HERE's a link to my all-time favorite baby-naming website (the NameVoyager and NameMapper sections are awesome). HERE's another fun site- one of my friends actually named her daughter the third option she was given! I just love everything about these two sites.
- Old traditions. Think back your childhood (and have your partner do the same). What was a family tradition or fun activity you did as a child that you want to do with your own child? Why did you like doing this as a kid? Would you like to do this activity monthly, yearly, or something else? Reminiscing about happy memories from your childhood is a great way to grow closer as a couple and it's fun to talk about fun things in your future together. And, family traditions help children feel included and loved, which is always a good thing. Conversation Resources: I don't really have any resources here. Just think back over your past and have fun sharing with your spouse.
- New traditions. As I already noted, family traditions are great. And while passing down traditions from generation to generation is good, starting your own makes your nuclear family special. Talk about creating a new tradition for your new little family. Think of something that you or your partner did not do as children. For instance, Hus and I started a Christmas Tree tradition with our kids where each year, the kiddos get to pick the color of the tree the following year. Then after Christmas, we all go shopping in the clearance racks for the following year's color(s). We put all of the stuff in a box and then wait until the following year to decorate the tree. It's fun because our tree looks a little different each year and who doesn't love shopping in the clearance aisle! Conversation Resources: Click HERE, HERE, and HERE to read about how to create family traditions.
- Love Lists. I've written several posts about the importance of writing spousal love letters or love lists (see HERE and HERE). This time, I want you to make a list about why you think your partner will be a good parent. Just write down ten reasons. And share these reasons with your spouse sometime in the final weeks of your pregnancy (maybe on your last date night before baby). Conversation Resources: See my past posts HERE and HERE about this topic.
- Promise Lists. Make a promise list (similar to wedding vows) of things you will try your hardest to do and not do when baby arrives. For instance, "I promise to ask for help before I become overwhelmed and agitated" or "I promise to make requests instead of demands." Read them to each other prior to baby's arrival and return to them several times after baby is born. You might even want to hang them on a wall in your house so that you can both remember your promises to each other. Conversation Resources: Read this great article about pre-conception vows.
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