Many married couples have adjustment issues in the initial days of marriage. And for the longest time, elders in the family tended to advise the couple to have a baby to “fix problems”. However, a new study suggests that while “having kids used to be the main purpose of matrimonial relationships earlier, children put a greater strain in romantic relationships than illness of partners”. The insight isn’t surprising. After all, being a parent isn’t easy. There are various adjustments and compromises that couples need to make before planning to have a child.
New phase, new challenges
From the time a baby is born and till he or she grows up, there are multiple challenges. Some may be physical, while others may be emotional or financial issues. “A newborn needs constant feeding, which means waking up several times at night. Even at work, you may be constantly worried about what the baby might be doing at home with your in-laws, sitter or your parents. You may also have to give up on your social life to be with your child,” says Vishnu Modi, a relationship expert.
There are other challenges too. Shyam Mithiya, a relationship counsellor, says, “Sleep deprivation can make you irritable, and you won’t be able to concentrate at work due to lack of energy. Constant strain could also affect your relationship with your partner.” Jealousy is another aspect that new parents have to deal with. “At times, the father of a newborn might feel jealous because he might feel that the baby is taking too much of his wife’s time. So, he needs to be told that this is just a temporary phase that will pass,” says Modi.
Then, there is the financial expenditure. Buying your baby’s clothes, diapers, milk, food and toys, or taking care of the medical expenses can put strain on your finances. “So, it’s best to start saving money way before you plan to have a kid,” adds Mithiya.
Talk it out
There are other issues to face as well. With nuclear families on the rise, at times, one parent might have to take a sabbatical from work to be with the child, since there is no one to look after the newborn. In such a scenario, a father, who is employed, may think that it’s his wife’s responsibility to stay at home, and look after the baby. On the other hand, the woman may feel that she is unfairly being asked to give up her career. This may cause friction in the relationship. Modi says, “It’s important that couples discuss these issues. Be honest and don’t be critical. Focus on the problems calmly, and don’t rake up past issues. Be straightforward and share your concerns with your partner.”
No sexual intimacy
Sex is a very important part of relationships, and may become an issue among couples after the woman gets pregnant. Some of the reasons could be that the couple is uncomfortable having sex while the woman is pregnant, or the mother-to-be might not be feeling well. Post the baby’s birth too; it might be a while before the couple gets intimate due to medical issues. “At such times, men feel left out emotionally and physically. They need to talk about their concerns with their partners, or prepare for such a situation before deciding to have a baby,” says Modi.
Having a baby changes your family composition drastically. You now have a new, member at home. It also comes with a number of challenges. It’s important to maintain a clear line of communication with your partner. Whether it is about having a baby, childcare or spending time with each other, talk regularly to sort out issues before they get any bigger.
How do you prepare to have a baby, emotionally and mentally?
1. If you haven’t discussed having a child with your partner, do it now. We tend to assume that everyone wants to have a child. However, this may not be the case
2. The decision to have children should remain between you and your partner. So, be respectful while listening to concerned family members and friends, but make your own decisions. Consider whether both of you have the resources, time and money to have a baby
3. Plan out parenting roles early on — who will stay at home, who will go to work, who will change diapers etc. It’s important to chalk out a plan
4. Gender roles in parenting have changed in recent years. Dads are more hands-on with their kids these days. Each couple functions differently, so figure out what works best for you
5. Attending parenting classes or meeting a family therapist is a good idea, if you’re planning to have a baby. Remember that one can never be 100% ready for parenthood. The key is to be aware as much as possible, and have plans and resources ready.
(By Praney Anand, relationship counsellor)