When a couple start the journey of creating life and entering into the sacred realm of being parents, many things happen. On the surface, people can get caught up in the dizzy party of trying for a baby and then the excitement of getting two lines on the tester.
Once the initial shock has worn off, the reality of becoming a parent kicks in. Things to buy: car seats, buggies, nappies, cots, the list is endless. We busy ourselves in creating nurseries, adjusting to the emerging life growing within, as we alter the things around us to accommodate the change about to be born.
But what is happening within us? I’m not talking about the physical pregnancy, but the psychological and emotional changes that brew within the subterranean bubbling brook, deep within us. Men and women both start to make changes consciously & subconsciously, I refer to these changes as new roles. We go from playing certain roles that we know and are familiar with, such as worker, husband, friend; to finding a new role awaiting us, the role of the parent: Mum & Dad. We know these roles from our previous encounters with our parents, and whatever these relationships were like and how we look back on them, in some ways determines how we enter the role.
Being mindful of you own relationship with your parents is something to consider when becoming a parent. Taking the good parts into your new role and identifying what was difficult will enable you to play the role your way. Learning to break parenting patterns is crucial to avoid role conflict within yourself. It is also a time to reflect on your own understanding of what being a Mum or Dad means to you. Create a list of values you think the role requires or you would like to bring to the part.
This is a great time to define how you want to be as a parent. It’s a good idea to start open communication with your partner on their values, ideas, expectations and fears that come up about being a parent. Do you agree with each other? How were you both parented? Are there huge differences in the way you were both brought up? These discussions can be helpful as you create a narrative between the two of you, which gives you both a clear idea of what you expect, hold and understand about each other’s past and future in the role of parents.
This way you avoid stress and conflict as you start creating a intimate narrative between the two of you, which can only promote a stronger bond, one that you will need when the role is tested in more demanding times that a newborn (and beyond) brings to a couple.
In summary, my advice is:
Know your own story of how you were raised.
Have a dialogue with you partner about their family history and stories
Discuss what fears and expectations do you both have
Discuss what values you want to bring to the role of being a parent.
Discuss what’s important to you and what you disagree with
Keep talking about your feelings between the two of you as the baby arrives, during the first few months and beyond.
Be aware of your own feelings and changes as the role is expanded.
If things get brought up that concern you, don’t bottle it up, keep talking, and if you find it hard to open up to your partner, seek professional help to work through emotions you struggle with.