Words of wisdom for parents: Don’t neglect each other

You just had your first baby, and whether you’re mom or dad, your emotions might swing uncontrollably.

New constraints on your time, energy and finances might take its toll even as you feel elated and blessed.

Did I mention the unrelenting exhaustion?

To say the least, your focus probably isn’t on your relationship with your partner. But it should be.

I gave birth to my son, Jackson, three months premature, and he spent 87 days in York Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before being released Jan. 23.

His father, Jonathan, and I had already been through so many ups and downs that Jax’s release was a major swing up.

Finally, we were the ones caring for our child.

It’s easy — natural, even — to create a bubble around your new family, to feel protected in it even as many uncertainties remain. Eventually, though, the bubble disappears, and you gradually try to return to a routine similar to the one you maintained in your pre-baby lives.

A priceless nugget of advice I got from a NICU nurse just before Jax’s discharge has stayed with me: The baby is coming into your lives, not the other way around. Remember who you are.

By extension, remember who your partner is, and who you are to each other.

Jon and I are two working parents with many interests outside of our paying jobs. And we have a strong connection forged and fortified through hardships we’ve endured together.

But we also laugh and play while doing the most mundane things. I hope you get excited enough about a collaborative dinner effort to sing about your food. We do in my house.

Time never seems more scarce than when I realize it’s been a week since Jon and I asked about what’s going on at work, or that a bill is late because neither of us had a chance to check in with the other about who would pay it.

Three months after Jax came home, and I was starting to not recognize us anymore.

I crave time to read in bed, and beg Jon to pull out his guitar once in a while. We both miss taking the poor, pent-up dog for a walk on the Rail Trail.

Sometimes I find myself scrubbing bottles and feeling guilty for wondering if Jon’s parents can watch Jax Saturday night — after having already watched him three days during the week — so we can go have a beer and see Jurassic Park 3D.

Guilty because I lean on Jax’s grandparents and am away from him enough as it is while working.

Then I resent the bottles, the scrubbing and the fact that we can’t even really afford beer and movies at the moment …

And then Jax cries for a bottle and I can’t go outside and interrupt Jon’s mowing to tell him how I feel.

Cue more guilt and resentment. In the end, missing Jon makes me a worse parent.

I offer these tips as “best practices,” for what they’re worth (hey, I’ve only been a parent for six months):

  • Practice gratefulness. We have this “rule” now, in my house, to say thank you for something the other has done at least once a day. It’s hard to resent the bottle-scrubbing when it’s followed by, “Thanks for taking care of that, honey,” and a hug.

  • Reenvision date night. OK, so we can’t go to the movies or the Rail Trail (yet). But we can grab the monitor and walk around our property and gardens with the dog while Jax naps before dinner. We can cuddle him on the couch — he’s a great cuddler — and browse the Netflix queue. We can make dinner together (and, of course, sing about it). We can make time where there is none.

  • Let each other recharge. Jon needs to spend adequate time outside to feel energized and productive. I need time to write or I feel lost. Make a concerted effort to hang out together, but respect each other’s alone time.

  • Be frank about your needs with babysitters. Whether grandparents or a trusted friend’s recommendation, it’s easier to come out and ask for what you need than to beat around the bush. Give notice if you’re even considering changing a plan, or if you feel yourself needing an unscheduled break. Tell caregivers you intend to be forthright and ask them to be, too. No one has time to guess or contend with more resentment or slighted feelings.

  • Don’t nickel-and-dime about the workload. Just don’t do it.

    Remember, you and your partner — not your baby — started your family. Time may be scarce, but hopefully love isn’t.

    Stacia Fleegal is a multiplatform journalist in the features department. Email her at
    sfleegal@ydr.com, follow her on Twitter @shapeshifter43 or read more from her at www.yorkblog.com/versify.

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    1 Response

    1. Tabby says:

      Love this!!! You guys rock and will be continue to be awesome parents!!! I understanding the grandparents and babysitting thing, it’s so hard and a lot of people don’t understand that part. Love reading your writings :-)

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