by Sarah Levoy, PsyD.
The usual suspects that tend to cause stress in a new family are: undefined roles and responsibilities, financial concerns, lack of work/life balance, conflicting parenting practices. Sometimes other issues that were manageable while just a couple such as religion, in-laws, etc. become more challenging after baby arrives.
So much of this stress can be minimized by spending a few months ahead of time talking through each other's expectations. It is also helpful to do some practical exercises to clarify these issues and create action plans to improve family organization and cohesion.
Examples of some helpful exercises are:
Sit down with your partner and brainstorm current household responsibilities and add predicted new ones once the baby arrives and decide who is most skilled or has a strength in which areas and divide them based on that rather than the traditional division of labor.
Create a family budget for the first year which includes all baby related expenses to get a realistic idea of the additional costs (the average cost per year is $12,000). First you must establish your current budget as a couple to know how much additional money you will need. If possible begin saving prior to baby’s arrival to relieve some financial pressure.
Create a pie chart indicating the percentage of time currently spent in the important areas of your life, such as work, couple, social, religious, health, hobbies, etc. Then do a second one including a baby to see exactly where you have to cut back in the other areas of your life in order to accommodate the extra time needed for baby care.
Begin to explore parenting philosophies around discipline, education, exposure to television/video games, culture, religion, etc. to identify early on where there may be conflict. Rate these issues by priority or conflict level and choose one at a time in order of importance to negotiate and write down your compromise.
Sarah Levoy, PsyD, has worked in the field of healthy child development and parenting for more than 15 years. Her path has taken many turns -- helping families of all cultures, backgrounds and life experiences, through private sectors, volunteer work and within the television industry. Dr. Levoy's focus and joy in helping future families improve their mental health, happiness, and quality of life resulted in the founding of The Prepared Mom, a practice dedicated to helping couples prepare for parenting their baby and caring for themselves as new parents.
Copyright © Sarah Levoy. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.