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Prepare Your Relationship for Baby

The newborn you will bring home may seem angelic, but beware: He has the power to turn you and your husband into resentment-filled, sleep-deprived, sexless zombies. We spoke to Stacie Cockrell, coauthor of Babyproofing Your Marriage, to help you understand and avoid the relationship pitfalls that a new baby can bring.

Clash of the Grannies
“Before you have a baby, in-laws are typically on the sidelines of a relationship,” says Cockrell, but baby’s arrival triggers a new dynamic. Grandparents want to have an influence on their grandchildren. They want them to adopt their family traditions, their values and their interests.

“The issue becomes turf infringement when a mother-in-law or father-in-law steps over the line,” says Cockrell. “Often, grandmothers compete for alpha-grandma status: who gets to see the baby first, who’s in the delivery room, who gets to be called ‘Grandma.’”

“You can’t tell your in-law that there’s no juice and cookies after 6,” says Cockrell, because it may take years to repair that relationship. “It’s up to your spouse to run interference for his parents.” Couples need to devise a family management plan: who’s going to be there for Christmas, who’s going to be there in the delivery room. If you have a spouse who doesn’t take action and takes a backseat, you can have a mother-in-law or a father-in-law running the show. This sets the stage for huge tension in the relationship. You have to put your spouse and your kids first, and then consider the in-laws.

Cockrell advises couples to “understand boundaries: In-laws will comply if you have a united front. If you don’t, that’s when you’re going to have tension. It’s really how you handle it -- that’s how you set the tone for how the grandparents will behave.”

What can you do to prepare your marriage before baby even comes?
Men bond with baby on a different timetable than women. For moms, it starts in pregnancy, and for men, it’s usually later, so tensions can start brewing even before baby comes. Cockrell offers these tips to avert postbaby relationship havoc:

• Realize that your lifestyle is going to change. Understand and talk about the fact that you’re going to have less time for yourselves once baby arrives. Plan on giving each other breaks so you both have a chance to recharge.
• Talk about your sex life. When baby comes, sleep will be the only thing going on between the sheets. Mom is hardwired to have nothing but baby on her mind for the first few months, but the same is not true for dad. To avoid hurt feelings and resentment, understand that the underlying reason for this is biological and know that it’s temporary.
• Create a budget. Devise a budget for baby and stick to it. During pregnancy, mom’s nesting instinct can go into turbo-drive and her determination to get baby the perfect crib and a killer wardrobe can add up. Reducing financial worries will help keep dad’s “provider panic” at bay.
• Hire a housecleaner. If you can afford it, hire someone to clean your house for the first three months after baby’s arrival. This will eliminate some of the stress and scorekeeping that can be corrosive for the relationship of many new parents.
• Get a babysitter. Spending time away from baby is critical to staying connected as a couple. Line up a sitter now who can come one evening a week (or every other week) so you can enjoy a date night together.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Do People Actually Have Sex After Babies?

Revving Up Your Sex Life After Baby

Top 6 Things Moms Wish Dads Knew

-- Kelly Alfieri

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