You’re a few months into parenthood and life has changed. Big time. But as your partner calls to let you know he’s meeting his mates for their regular Friday Night Drinks (because he’s “worked hard all week”), you realise things haven’t changed nearly as much for him as they have for you. So, how do you cope with your partner still having an active social life when you’re stuck at home with bub? Should he give it up? Cut back? Or should you just call the babysitter and join him?
Your new ‘social’ life
There’s a period of adjustment to parenthood that I call Setting up Base Camp. It comes after your expectations of parenthood have worn off and reality has started to set in. It comes before pre-baby habits start to cause longer term post-baby problems. This stage involves negotiating agreements that support both of you being in this for the long haul, things that keep you sane and happy and not feeling frustrated or resentful, because let’s face it – parts of parenthood are stressful and stress, on either mum’s or dad’s part is not good for your family!
One stress is new restrictions on the primary caregiver’s time and freedom. It’s something most couples need to negotiate. Before you broach the subject with your partner, try to work out what’s going on underneath for both of you and what you need from each other.
Feelings of jealousy
Are you envious of him being able to ‘escape’? That may mean you need more time out. You are both contributing to the success of your family and you both deserve time out from your responsibilities. Is it that you don’t want to go out and you don’t really mind being able to do your own thing, but you feel lonely at home? Is there a good friend you can invite over or an old one you can call? Or is it simply that you just don’t think it’s fair? Do something self-indulgent in that time to balance things out.
Try to imagine what’s going on for your partner. How is he coping with fatherhood? Is he in denial about the changes? What other stress relief does he have? Are there other ways he can have time out/fun/relaxation that don’t stress you out more? It’s important for new dads, as well as new mums, to have time and opportunities to process the parenthood changes. If he doesn’t have dad-friends, but you do, perhaps you can invite them over and let the boys share daddy-war stories in a more family-friendly way.
Remember you’re a couple
Just as time out is good for the mental and emotional health of you both, so is time out as a couple good for your whole family. This also reduces frustration and resentment. What many parents don’t realise is that life after baby isn’t so much about getting back to normal as it is about the two of you working together to create the new normal for your family. And sometimes you just have to call the babysitter.