The whirl of around-the-clock feedings, diaper changes and piles of dirty laundry is enough to stress any new parent out. But what about the pressure that those tiny babies put on their parents’ relationships?
Those bundles of joy bring so much happiness and love, but they also have a way of diverting new parents’ attention away from their partners so it can feel like it’s all baby, all the time. Life, as couples knew it, becomes transformed in an instant.
“As I am learning, things are never quite the same in a relationship once a baby arrives,” TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie said on the show Tuesday.
TODAY sat down with several couples who welcomed a child on Aug. 13, the same day that Guthrie and Mike Feldman had their daughter, Vale. The moms and dads revealed what it’s really like for couples when a baby arrives.
“It’s like a bomb goes off in your relationship,” said Shane Zarzycki, father of Paige.“It’s absolutely worth it. She’s amazing. But it does throw things into a little bit of chaos.”
His wife, Lauren, added: “We have turned and looked at each other and said, ‘Well, I miss you.’ You can’t sit down and watch your shows on TV.”
Another couple, Tim and Heather Foster, also shared their experience.
“Our relationship definitely was impacted,” Heather said. “Really, when you bring the baby home, it’s just baby, 24/7.”
“You’ve got to have date night,” Tim said. “You’ve got to still make an attempt to do that sort of thing or else you’ll go crazy.”
For Pierre Olega and his wife, Rosalyn, mealtime became a lost concept since they had Siena and Carissa. “A simple thing like eating a meal together, while the food’s hot, kind of went out the window,” he said.
But then there is the joy that parents feel toward their child, and each other.
“I always tell him I fell in love with him again after we had Siena, after we had our babies, because I got to see him in a different way,” Rosalyn said.
Having a baby can bring all kinds of stress into a relationship. The biggest challenge couples faced after becoming parents, according to a TODAY.com poll, is not having enough time. The runners up: A lack of romance and financial stress.
Relationship expert Tracy McMillan sat down with Guthrie on the show, and noted that a lack of free time is a common complaint. “Time is a big one,” she said.
And, as many new parents know, the extra stress of a baby can make things hard in a relationship.
“You don’t get new problems with a new baby,” McMillan said. “The baby puts pressure on areas where the relationship is already fragile.”
Those areas could be money, work or sex. “Our problems before, or issues before -- it gets worse after the baby comes, but temporarily,” she said.
Guthrie noted that parents hold widely different views on who should come first: your baby or partner?
McMillan though, said it shouldn’t be one or the other but rather two different relationships.
“It’s not about loving your baby more than your partner,” she said. “Your relationship feeds you so that you can nurture your baby. It’s very important to keep the relationship strong.”
Guthrie mentioned that “date night” is a common recommendation to help keep the flame alive, but realistically, it’s not always possible.
McMillan suggested not even a full date night, but rather “date moments.”
“Date moments are where you nurture the connection in the relationship,” she said. “So maybe you bring home a special dessert or you gather some leaves from the front yard and present it as a bouquet.
“It’s really about just staying in that warm, personal connection that got you the baby in the first place,” she said.
As Guthrie shared: “You have to consciously say, ‘Let’s remember how we used to be.’ There was a reason we clicked before.”
Guthrie said new parents need to manage their expectations and McMillan offered advice for when they feel overwhelmed. The old saying that parenting is the hardest thing you will do, she says, is true.
“When you get in those hard moments, you really need to look at each other and say, ‘Oh, this is what they were talking about,’” McMillan said. “There’s temptation to turn or blame each other, fight and you really want to say, ‘Keep your eye on the big picture.’”
“Your relationship has an opportunity to grow deeper as your child grows up,” she said, “so enjoy every minute.”
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her onTwitter.