Conversations I wish we had before we became parents

One of the biggest shocks for me when I became a parent was what a catastrophic impact it had on my relationship. I waited the obligatory time to get married, bought a house with my husband, felt we knew each other really well and then we had a baby and everything changed.

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Talking about relationships really is one of the last taboos in our society. It's OK to complain about your partner leaving their pants on the floor but we worry if we still fear discussing real issues in our relationships. Talking about our relationship can leave us feeling really vulnerable. Telling a friend you don’t like your partner anymore isn’t exactly a light conversation but the reality is it's how so many of us feel. When our partners are judged by others it can feel like we are being judged. So it can be easy to pretend things are OK and just rant about the surface-level stuff.

As someone who has been to couples therapy, I very much doubt we would have ever been able to have the conversations she facilitated, sleep-deprived with constant interruptions and all those extra hormones. Sadly at a time when we need each other the most, we feel our most disconnected and resentful. We need to be a team but very often it becomes a battle where both parties end up losing. Therapy can offer you a space to navigate your feelings without getting stuck in the same arguments. It can be the first time you feel like you having a conversation where they are just listening rather than waiting to respond.

I still wonder throughout my pregnancy journey why no one felt the need to mention that it was very likely we might hate each other for a bit once we became parents. I have asked since why no one wants to talk about it and the general consensus is, 'We didn't want to spoil things for you.' So I've decided to share all the conversations that could have saved so much heartache and stress if we had been more informed.

If you are pregnant or you are willing to make the time to talk, here are some conversations I feel all couples need to have:

  • What sort of relationship do you want your parents to have with your 
    children – how much time would you like them to spend together?
  • What holidays and events will be important to you both for your children to observe and be included in? What do you want celebrating birthdays and Christmas to look like for your children?
  • Talk about how having a child will change the way you live now.
  • Will you want to take time off work, if so how long? One or both of you? Would you only want to go back part-time – who will look after the children if you both work?
  • Talk about finances, how you will split things, and how you will support each other if one of you is spending more time doing unpaid work. 
  • Discuss roles when children come along who will be in charge of what jobs, how you will split bedtimes, night feeds etc.
  • Discuss how strict you want to be about dietary habits on our children – i.e. limit sweets, and processed foods, encourage vegetarianism, etc.
  • Talk about the discipline of the children, discuss how you were brought up around discipline and what you liked/respected or disliked from your parent's parenting that you do or do not want to repeat with your children's upbringing.
  • Talk about how much time each of you will spend with your children. Singularly and together.
  • Discuss how much time you will spend together prioritising your relationship and what support from family and friends you might have to be able to do this.
  • Discuss – when your children are older, will you limit access to technology? Phones/tablets/computers etc. Will the content be limited?

Now, I know it's hard to plan for how you are going to feel once you become parents, but I am certain there are things you don’t know about your partner and they don’t know about you which will make life so much harder if they take you by surprise.

We all come into relationships with our own wounds and the stress of becoming parents is very likely to highlight them. Often the things we use to regulate our emotions or bring us joy just don’t work when a small child comes along and good communication is the best way to support each other to navigate this season in your life.

A good relationship isn’t one where you agree all the time, it's one where you can have those difficult conversations, apologise when you mess up and find compromises that work for both of you. If you can get there by yourself, amazing, but if you need a bit of help there is no shame in seeing a counsellor. I really see my own therapist as another person I can add to the tool kit for when life gets overwhelming.

We all need support to manage life’s curve balls. The crazy thing is we feel more comfortable saying we reached for a bottle of wine or a bar of chocolate than picking up the phone and asking for support to talk about our feelings.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighton, BN42
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Written by Natasha Nyeke, MBACP, Couples, Fertility, Maternal mental health,Attachment
Brighton, BN42

Natasha Nyeke is Couples counsellor and Maternal mental health specialist

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