Transition into parenthood and challenges for relationships.

For most of us, the journey toward becoming parents is an exciting one. From making the decision as a couple that it's time, trying to fall pregnant, the elation (and all other sorts of feelings!) associated with being pregnant, to the life-altering experience of bringing a new life into the world and being responsible for caring for a little one.

No matter how eagerly anticipated though, no-one can really prepare us for the huge changes that becoming parents means for our sense of ourselves, and for our relationship with our partner.

Some of the challenges that new parents often struggle with may include:-

* How can I blend the demands of being a parent with other things that are also really important to me (these may include hobbies, social connections, work)? This question may also include - How do I still get my needs met without sacrificing my child's needs? 

* I miss my partner! It used to be that we were able to give all our attention to each other, but now all of her love goes to the baby! It's hard to talk to her about this - after all, the baby does need all of her focus right now.

* What sort of parent do I want to be? (Do I want to parent exactly as my parents did? What do I want to do the same/differently?). Working through this question can create tension with our own parents, but also between partners, where there may be strongly held and opposing views.

* How do we want our 'parenting team' to look like? (Who does what, how do we negotiate roles?) 

These are important questions to work through. The successful resolution of these issues is a normal part of making the transition from being a couple to being a family. 

Some things that can get in the way of achieving this may include:-

* one or both partners feel they have not had enough time to establish themselves as a couple before starting a family. This may cause resentment directed either at the baby or at the other partner.

* one or both partners feel they have not had enough time to form a sense of who they are as a person (hopes, dreams, aspirations) separate to having an identity as a partner and a parent. This can result in that person seeming not to 'carry their weight' as a parent, and to insist that life goes on just as it did before the baby came (for example, still going out till very late on a weekend with friends and needing to sleep it off the next day, meaning they are not available to share the parenting load).

* difficult-to-resolve differences in views about parenting roles (e.g. one person may want to divide parenting roles into 'provider' and 'carer', the other may want to have a more even division of both parenting and money-earning responsibilities). This becomes more complicated when extended family 'weighs in' to the debate!

While many of us work through these challenges without outside help (after all, they are normal 'developmental challenges' that form part of the family life-cycle) counselling can help to clarify exactly what the challenges are, and to provide useful perspectives that can guide a way through to successful resolution.

A successful completion of this transition doesn't guarantee trouble-free parenting and relationships, of course! However, it should mean that you are both feeling satisfied that:-

* each of you are able to articulate who you want to be as a partner, a person with her/his own dreams and aspirations for the future, and as a parent.

* each of you feel supported by the other as a partner, a person and a parent.

* You both know what sort of parents you aspire to be, and are comfortable with the different resources and persectives each of you bring to your parenting roles.

* You have an agreement about 'who does what' as parents and partners, and are confident that when this doesn't feel good, you're able to talk about it and tweak your agreement accordingly.

* You are able to identify when you may need more support, and feel confident you can ask for it (from extended family, friends or professionals). After all, it takes a village to raise a child!



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