Denise Evans, Clinical Counsellor

Surviving the Transition from Partners to Parents.

Posted by Administrator on May 16 2010

Being part of a couple has its own developmental arc: the formation of the relationship; settling into a working partnership; parenting (having children together; raising children; having adult children;) retirement years; and finally, bereavement or loss. Each transition into a new stage can be marked by stress as the couple adjusts to the role changes. One of the most difficult is when the couple has a child.

Prior to children, as a couple, you manage your schedules to make time for each other. You reconnect every evening to share the stories of your day. You take time separately for self care and recreation, but spend much of your leisure time together, playing together and connecting through that play. But when you have a baby, it can feel like leisure time disappears.

Usually the woman is still the one who becomes the primary caregiver. This is a huge role shift for her. Especially if she is breast feeding, she is on call 24/ 7. She feels completely responsible for the baby’s safety and well being. She moves from working in the adult world to someone who is isolated with her baby for much of her day—even if she is connected to support in her family and community. For many the isolation can be profound.

The change for the partner may not be as dramatic as he must continue to go to work each day, but there is still a major psychological shift. Even with EI benefits the partner who continues at work often feels the burden of moving from a 2 salary family to being solely responsible for financial security. Some even increase the number of hours spent at work to compensate.

It is fairly easy to understand how this situation might spiral into each person resenting the other’s role. She is expecting him to take on responsibility for the care of the baby so that she has some relief from the intensity of her involvement. He expects her to understand that he has to bring in more money now that she is making less and the bills are increasing. Both blame the other for not understanding how hard each is working. A time that you expect to be magical—the sharing of joy in welcoming and raising your baby—can become a time that stresses your partnership to the breaking point.

However, remembering how you built your connection to each other while forming your relationship, enables you to use those skills to reconnect. Make time to be alone together every day even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. Then listen to each other and share thoughts and feelings, including resentment, frustration and joy. Working to stay connected as partners everyday, will help you make it through to a time when caring for your child is less time intensive. You may also have a new appreciation for your partner when you survive the transition from partners to parents, together. 


Last changed: May 16 2010 at 7:20 PM

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