Dear Mr. Dad: Ever since the birth of our first baby nine months ago my husband and I don’t spend any time together anymore. How do we manage to get some quality alone time while still being good parents to our son?
A: Author Nora Ephron once said, “When you have a baby, you set off an explosion in your marriage. When the dust settles, your marriage is different from what it was. Not better, necessarily; not worse, necessarily; but different.”
No question about it, early first-time parenthood is fraught with challenges, and you’ve just discovered one of them. Welcome to the club!
As you’ve already figured out, that precious bundle of joy you love so much has turned your life upside down. And you now have to rearrange and reshuffle not just your furniture, but your entire lifestyle. The fun, spontaneous outings and those candlelit dinners are taking a backseat – at least for now – to around-the-clock feedings and diapering duty.
As you and your husband struggle with the physical and emotional pressures (plus the lack of sleep), you’re also coming to terms with your new roles: You’re not just a husband and wife anymore; now it’s mommy and a daddy, and that means a whole new set of expectations and challenges. Less time to nurture and enjoy your own relationship is one of them.
Of course, you’re not alone. In a recent national survey of 1,000 mothers of children age two and under conducted by the CVS Pharmacy for its PLAYSKOOL Baby Care line, 83 percent of time-crunched moms said they spend less time going out with their husbands/partners than before the baby’s arrival. They also said that is one activity they miss the most—even more than sleep!
Years ago, when several generations often lived under the same roof or at least in the same area, new parents had a built-in support network. There was always a grandparent, an aunt, or someone else who could babysit or lend a hand. That’s still true in many cultures, but in our mobile society where families often live hundreds of miles apart, it’s not always an option.
This doesn’t mean that you and your husband should ignore your own relationship until your son goes off to college. Taking the time for yourselves will not only strengthen your marriage but also create a loving environment for your child to grow up in. True, you might have to be creative in finding and scheduling that elusive “us” time, and, as the saying goes, you may have to plan to be spontaneous. But that’s what you’re going to have to do.
Start by finding several willing–and, of course, trustworthy—babysitters. Are there any relatives, or other new parents with whom you could swap babysitting services? Or consider hiring a teenager who took the American Red Cross babysitting course. Your local chapter likely has a list of names. And don’t be shy about checking references—this is your baby we’re talking about her.
(You may not feel comfortable leaving the baby with someone else, at least initially, but if you ever want to spend time with your spouse again, train yourself to do it anyway. Plus, it’s a good idea to get your son accustomed to occasionally being cared for by others.)
Once you’ve compiled a list of suitable babysitters, start planning regular dates with your husband. Anything you enjoyed doing pre-baby, except, maybe, skydiving or bungee jumping, is a good bet. The most important thing is to reignite the passion that brought you together in the first place. So try to go at least part of the evening without talking about the baby. At all.
Yes, you’ll have to juggle your dual roles with the agility of a circus performer, but the rewards – to your relationship and family – will be well worth it.