Royal fans are still buzzing from the news Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, welcomed their second child over the weekend, Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor.
The excitement got me thinking about the parents I see in my private practice.
If I had a nickel for every time a child walked in during a parent’s emotional moment in an online therapy session, I would have, well, enough to buy some of the commemorative royal memorabilia that is no doubt coming soon.
She’s here! Meghan, Harry welcome second child, named after Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana
Growing one’s family comes with obvious rewards but also introduces new challenges. While new parents can feel like they’re drowning in unsolicited parenting advice, my clients who are part of couple often express they have not received any advice about how to maintain their relationship during this transition.
Whether parents are welcoming a baby for the first time or growing their family by adding another child – like Harry and Meghan – there are undoubtedly challenges that come with the change. Below are the most common ones I hear about and tips for coping with each.
Expanding your family can feel bittersweet
The excitement of adding a new family member is frequently accompanied by grief over the loss of the necessary space to stay connected. Expanding one’s family can lead to shifts in priorities, lifestyle and intimacy. Amid the excitement, couples may also feel nostalgia for the spontaneity and quality time that was previously possible.
Tip: Try to sneak in some time together (even if only for 10 minutes) for an activity you did before becoming parents. Go for a walk or take a shower together.
New babies are exhausting
It can be difficult to be romantic, sentimental or even cordial when we’re exhausted. Just as our partner is the first person to receive a text when our child does something new or adorable, they are also likely on the receiving end of our less-then-pleasant spurts of frustration during this dynamic, and often sleep deprived, transition.
Tip 1: Practice thanking each other for surviving each day.
Tip 2: Get support (if available). It’s not necessary to face this phase alone and there is nothing wrong with asking family and friends (or hired help, if feasible) to be there for you.
Struggling with the born identity
When a child enters the picture, many parents feel that parenthood can subsume their entire identity. It may become more challenging for parents to carve out time to pursue their interests, find time for work, maintain friendships and, importantly, preserve a connection with their partner.
If we feel disconnected from former passions and pursuits, it can make us feel disconnected from who we are – or were. And, as a consequence of losing a sense of self outside of parenthood, our partner may find it more difficult to connect with us.
Tip: Take turns designating small periods of alone time so that each parent has moments of solitude. For example, take 15 minutes to drink a cup of tea alone.
‘Delighted’: Kate Middleton and Prince William congratulate Harry and Meghan on birth of Lilibet Diana
Parents often feel guilty
I frequently hear about the guilt parents feel when they cannot dedicate all of their time and attention to their children. But my clients also highlight the distress of failing to show up for everyone the way they used to – especially their partner. They note the difficulty of finding the time and energy to speak their partner’s desired love language.
(Photo: Getty Images)
And let’s not forget the pangs of guilt that come from wanting to take time for yourself.
Parents tend to feel selfish if they want to take time for themselves, and they often ignore their own needs as a result. By doing so, they inadvertently make it more difficult to connect with themselves and their significant other.
Tip 1: Remember that taking care of yourself also benefits one’s partner.
Tip 2: It’s important to be kind and gentle with yourself (and each other) while navigating this transition.
Tip 3: Try to set realistic expectations for yourself and your partner.
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