New parents: new roles and routines

Providing constant care for a new baby will inevitably affect parents’ lives and independence. It may also impact on individuals’ sense of identity - despite how positively parenthood is viewed and anticipated, there will always be some sense of loss when old routines are lost and new routines are not yet established

Balancing act

When a new baby arrives, parents will experience a number of changes to their roles and routine. Both parents are likely to find they have to make sacrifices for their new arrival, such as giving up hobbies, sports or time with their friends; something which may seem to be more of a problem for new dads[1]. Some mothers may also feel their sacrifice is even greater if they step out of the workplace on maternity leave or put their career on hold to take care of their child[2].

Slipping into gender roles

Divisions of labour are one of the key areas of change and, often, opposite-sex couples fall into more traditional gender roles[3], [4]. For many couples, there is now a greater expectation of more equality in the division of labour in childcare and household responsibilities. However, despite best intentions, couples often fall into more traditional gender roles after they become parents[5]. New parenthood also brings with it less time to spend with one’s partner. Adjusting routines to incorporate changes in household labour, altered sleep routines and, when the baby grows, finding a work-life balance reduces couples’ quality time.

The transition period – perspective and community

Research suggests that parents’ outlook and attitudes towards the transition can help or hinder them during this time. It is the “inner strength” of both parents (e.g., sense of self, attitude toward life, and emotional well-being) that mediates the transition experience[6]. The quality of the relationship, in the form of communication patterns and roles and the relationship between each parent and the child is of importance. Other key relationships—such as the quality of the relationship between and with the grandparents and the relationship with the outside world in the form of work, friends, and child care—can either become sources of stress or support[7]. Family members and friends can act as sources of stress or support during the transition to parenthood. New parents should focus on the quality of the relationships around them, and aim to draw on the most positive and supportive people in their lives.

Talk to each other

Maintaining open and positive communication as a couple can help partners to understand where each other are coming from. This appears to be a source of support for many new parents, and can help them maintain focus and avoid conflict.

Mutual understanding and support between the partners is seen as an important part of good communication within the couple. This is essential for the well-being of the new parents; strain on the relationship may lead to poor communication, locked positions, and conflicts[8]. Communicating feelings about the new roles and responsibilities can help partners understand what each other are going through, and may act as a source of strength for new couples to draw on as they adjust to their new roles.

Feel the need to talk this through further?

You could start by talking to us on our online forum where you will find over 29,000 dads engaging, encouraging and talking through issues and concerns. You’ll probably come across someone who has been in your shoes – but a little further on in the journey to be able to offer you some support.

Further reading:

YOUR RELATIONSHIP WHEN YOU HAVE A BABY

EFFECTS OF A NEW BABY ON A RELATIONSHIP

NEW PARENTS: SLEEP DEPRIVATION

References

[1] Houlston, C., Coleman, L., Milford, L., Platts, N., and Mansfield, P. (2013) Sleep, sex and sacrifice: The transition to parenthood, a testing time for relationships? OnePlusOne: London.
[2] Houlston, C., Coleman, L. and Mitcheson, J. (2013) Changes for the couple relationship during the transition to parenthood: Risk and protective factors. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, 1, 18-22.
[3] Katz-Wise, S. L., Priess, H. A., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). Gender-role attitudes and behavior across the transition to parenthood. Developmental psychology46(1), 18.
[4] Kluwer, E. S., Heesink, J. A., & Vliert, E. (2002). The division of labor across the transition to parenthood: A justice perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family64(4), 930-943.
[5] Houlston, C., Coleman, L. and Mitcheson, J. (2013) Changes for the couple relationship during the transition to parenthood: Risk and protective factors. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education, 1, 18-22.
[6] Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (1999). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
[7] Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (1999). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
[8] Ahlborg, T., & Strandmark, M. (2001). The baby was the focus of attention–first‐time parents’ experiences of their intimate relationship. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences15(4), 318-325.

 

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Guest Friday, 21 July 2017

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