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Parenting - some relationship-saving hacks

PUBLISHED: 17:09 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:09 05 April 2018

Sally White. Picture: Denise Bradley

Sally White. Picture: Denise Bradley

Denise Bradley

A Norfolk mum-of-two brings witty words of advice and warning from the family front line

You know you hear about couples who had a baby to help save their relationship or make them closer? I reckon that’s an urban myth. It has got to be nonsense because everyone knows that raising children with someone is a horrendous seesaw of indescribable love and visceral hatred. A partner can say: “Shall I make you a cup of tea?” and: “Don’t forget I’m home late tonight,” in the same breath and you can lurch from love to lust for blood.

It’s totally normal and healthy and exhausting.

For me, the lowest days were the early days. When one of you is at home with a wailing newborn and the other is back at work. Or when you’re both at home in those first few days and you’re both bewildered and exhausted and recalculating your body and relationship. Here are some of the best bits of advice my husband and I were given to help us survive those early days.

Lockdown.

A friend recommended a no visitors rule for the first few days after the birth. It worked for us. We came home from the hospital and got into bed and stayed there. We only opened the door to the midwife. We spent a week coming to terms with our new dynamics - eating toast, watching telly, staring at our baby. It was a calm and blissful start. Controversial with the grandparents, but it worked for us.

Ask about each other’s day.

Not only is it basic manners, it also suggests an interest in the other person. If you’re the one who’s back at work, ask how your partner’s day has been. They may burst in to tears, they may say they’ve watched Netflix for eight hours straight, they may say they’ve spent the day in a café eating cake. Most likely? They’re going to have felt panic, fear, joy, pain, exhaustion and guilt every minute on the minute since you left after breakfast. Whatever. Let them talk it through and make them feel listened to. If you’re the one at home, try not to let: “You’re back late,” be the first thing you say. No doubt, your partner has slogged through a day feeling knackered, guilty, jealous, fearful and dazed. Ask them. And listen.

Don’t criticise.

Just before I got married, a friend of mine said: “Let them do things their way or they’re going to stop doing it.” She was talking about emptying the dishwasher or frying eggs or arranging the fridge but it extends to parenting. You’ve got to let your partner find their own way. If they ask, tell them. If they don’t, keep schtum. We all know the feeling of “FINE! DO IT YOURSELF THEN!” whenever we are given a ‘suggestion’ about how to do something. Back off and let them do it their way.

Say sorry and thank you.

And: “Sorry, but…” doesn’t count. Say sorry, and thank you, even if you don’t think you should have to.

Don’t compete

No one ever wins the I’m More Tired contest. No one ever wins the My Day Was Worse contest. When the other one says they’re tired, give them a hug or offer to put the kettle on.

Invest in each other

A weekend away isn’t always an option (although we spent four nights in Budapest when our first born was six months old and it saved us, but nearly broke my mum who was babysitting). But accept offers of help and take your beloved out for lunch. Or time a pint at the local with the baby’s nap in the buggy. Or walk along the beach with the baby in the sling. Skip Bounce and Boogie and have a snog on the sofa with your beloved/tolerated instead.

Kindness

Always, always kindness.

Come over to my blog and read all about my marital bliss and perfect relationship (AS IF!) at wifeofawigwearer.com or come and see smoochy snaps of me and my DH as we walk along beaches at sunset on Insta at @wifeofawigwearer.

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