The transition from two to three...or four...or five, is one of the most challenging and profound transitions of our lives. We're literally changing our family system with the addition. Everything in our lives shifts because of it, and even though so much of that is beautiful and exciting, it also provokes fear and doubt. It's a major overhaul that has us redefining every role, relationship, and priority in our lives.
Soon enough our minds are consumed with questions, concerns, fears, doubts, and a whole lot of stuff we convince ourselves to keep to ourselves. One of the biggest fears we face is the loss of the couple and the loss of the self.
How will our relationship change? Will we ever have time for each other? Will we just come to resent one other? How will we carve out time for just us? Will we ever have sex? Will my partner still be attracted to me? Will I ever have time just for myself? What parts of myself will go on the back burner, and will I ever get them back? Can I work...can I want to work...am I bad mother because I do?
The list goes on and on.
Truth is, the fears and concerns are real. You'll be sleep deprived, sex will move to the bottom of your priority list, you'll doubt your ability as a mother, your sensuality can redirect to your baby instead of your partner, and you won't have time to do all of the things you love to do. Things will undoubtedly become challenging, but it doesn't have to destroy you or your relationship.
So what do we do?
We talk. We talk openly, and we dig into our vulnerability. We share all of our fears with each other, and we create a space to be deliberate in hearing one another all the way through. This means carving out time every week to talk about concerns and fears at every point in the process.
Sometimes new fears will appear, and sometimes you'll just keep processing the same ones over and over again. You see, we're never actually expecting the concerns and fears to just disappear.
It's not that we want or even need it to be a simple transition, it's that we want to trust that we'll be able to do it together...and that it won't break us.
What we're really looking for is security. It's trusting that even though this might be one of the hardest things we ever go through, we'll keep turning towards each other to get through it.
Here are some ideas to help through the transition:
1. Talk... and then talk some more.
I know it's not always easy to open up and share fears, but that's exactly what you need to do. You'll feel closer with one another when you sit in that space together. You'll realize that you share a lot of the same concerns, and that can help join the two of you. You start to remember that you're a team, and that your fears are not ridiculous.
2. Ask for help.
Sometimes people can step away from asking for help. Often times we want to feel like we can do it on our own. We worry that if we ask for help it means we're not equipped. We fear how others will see us, and try to avoid being judged or criticized by them.
Truth is, it takes a village. There's strength in asking for help. We're not supposed to know how to do it all, and asking for help is better than avoiding fears and internalizing it. At the end of the day, we need help whether we ask for it or not. Have the courage to own it and honor it.
3. Prioritize alone time.
Make sure you carve out alone time...just for yourself. All others keep out. You are not a bad mother for stepping away for an hour or two. In fact, you're sending a strong and healthy message that taking care of yourself is necessary in order to be the best version of yourself as a mother. If your 'alone' is depleted, your other roles will be impacted too.
4. Plan together time.
You need to make sure that the couple has time for itself also. There can be a lot of guilt around carving out this time, but it's critical to plan out and prioritize each other every week. You can do small things every week, and then plan a date night every month. Schedule this in advance and put it on your calendars. We're more likely to honor the time when it's planned, and it also gives us something to be excited about.
We still want to look forward to doing things together, even if your calendar says “walk around the block 5 times together." It really doesn't matter what it is, it just matters that it's something. Oh, and no baby talk! This time is for adults only. Leave the distractions at home. No cell phones. We need uninterrupted time together.
Remember, you are now carrying the 'self,' 'couple' and 'family' identity around with you. Each part needs to be nurtured in order for the other parts to function at their best.
So anytime you think you don't have time for yourself or your partner, remember that you need to create that time so that you can show up as your best self in every other area of your life.