Hello baby, hello crisis? “It takes couples five years to adjust to the role of parent”

Lack of sleep, screaming and little time – children can turn your life upside down. Social worker Sonja Sidoroff explained to us why this is quite a stress test, even for a stable relationship.

For many people, children are the icing on the cake of a partnership. You have found the person with whom you want to share the rest of your life – then only the child is missing to complete happiness. However, many couples who are becoming parents for the first time are unaware of the impact children have not only on everyday life but also on their own mental state.

Of course, most expectant parents are prepared to get little sleep at first, that they have to adapt to the baby’s rhythm and that their togetherness will fall by the wayside at first. But there is so much more to parenthood – and most of it is not that easy to prepare for.

The expert

Sonya Sidoroff is a social worker and specializes in the mental health of families, especially mothers. In an interview, she explains why many couples grow apart as soon as children are born. She also gives tips on how to recognize and deal with crises early on.

Hence the dissatisfaction

BRIGITTE: What problems often lead to a relationship crisis?

Sonja Sidoroff: In the early days, lack of sleep is a main reason for many parents being irritable. There are also feelings of being overwhelmed and insecure. It’s been said that it takes couples about five years to fully settle into their new role as parents. No wonder that some relationships break up before that. In stressful situations, everyone is usually closest to themselves and the willingness to compromise and understanding for the others is no longer quite as great as in times when everything is going smoothly.

But surely most parents are prepared for lack of sleep and the like?

Yes. The real reason why children herald such a huge change lies much deeper. Having a child brings to the surface the beliefs you have learned, often from childhood. And that is not an issue in a childbirth preparation course, nor in guidebooks for pregnant women, and generally not when exchanging ideas with other parents.

Every person we relate to holds up a mirror to us.

Through this mirroring effect, our own unprocessed topics emerge and we feel triggered by our counterpart. In everyday life, we can avoid people or situations that we don’t understand. We can change jobs or partners, end friendships… But the baby stays.

So the baby holds up a mirror to the parents. And they are forced to look inside. Do you have an example of this?

Some people can’t stand it when a baby cries. However, if you are a parent of this baby, you usually cannot leave the situation. If people can hardly stand screaming, it may well be that they had bad experiences as toddlers. They were allowed to scream, weren’t caught emotionally when they were feeling down. This feeling of helplessness burns deep into the subconscious and comes to the fore in such a situation. Everyone drags around unprocessed topics with them. So it may be that the baby triggers something completely different in you than in your partner.

Outdated role models and care work

Is the change greater for the mother because she feels she has to either give up her role as a mother or her job, or at least have to cut corners?

That may be the case. I do believe that more and more dads are now getting involved in family life than was perhaps the case a few decades ago. Nevertheless, it is true that mothers generally stay at home during parental leave, regardless of what professional status they had before and how equal the relationship was to date.

Not every woman is fulfilled solely by the role of mother.

Disputes in the partnership often arise from dissatisfaction or the feeling of little appreciation. This particularly affects the partner who gave up the job for the child – mostly the mother. Many would like to step on the gas again professionally. Then a solution should be found together with the:the partner:in.

One of the problems with care work is that it is not valued from the outside. When I, as a mother or father, decide to be there for my children, that goes without saying. I get neither money nor praise for it.

Exactly. Many mums who have given up their jobs to look after the children have the feeling that not much has changed in their dad’s life. He still does his job, has his social contacts and hobbies there and meets his boys at the weekend, while for most mums, life outside of their own four walls and without children comes to a virtual standstill, at least in the first twelve months. The feeling of envy towards the partner quickly sets in. ‘He still has his old life and I’m housebound.’ (Of course, this does not only apply to cis-gender relationships)

Strengthen relationships: You can do this

What can be helpful for couples when problems are looming?

Especially when the children are young, couples grow apart because they have stopped speaking to each other. Most people talked a lot in the early days of their relationship—romantic dates, hours of phone calls, and texting. For many, this is lost more and more over time and for parents it is pretty much close to zero. No wonder the partners feel lonely and unseen, which often leads to misunderstandings and accusations.

So the magic word is: talk

Sometimes it’s not so easy to get closer to each other again.

That’s correct. In order to build deeper conversations, everyday to-dos should definitely be left out. It’s about taking the other into your own emotional world.

And what about the physical contact that binds couples together in a certain way – the intimacy?

I’ve noticed over and over again that couples who have grown apart physically have already become estranged on an emotional level. However, family life can only work if it also works in the partnership. This must be maintained. Regular dates are a good option. In order to master everyday life as well as possible, it is important that the parents work together as a team. Unfortunately, it is often the case that many parents tend to be lone wolves.

Then the relationship can no longer be saved

Let’s assume there is a crisis. Both partners are considering a separation. How can you tell that a relationship is beyond saving?

A relationship can only be saved if the basis is right. This means that you have similar goals, values ​​and ideas about family life. If that is the case, then there is still a chance for the partnership. Best with external help. The participants themselves are usually not in a position to recognize the patterns that have repeatedly led to disputes and to find efficient solutions. As soon as the partners notice that the relationship is more of a burden than an enrichment and permanently negative feelings towards the partner arise, this can be a sign that a separation would be the more sensible way.

Sources used: Interview with Sonja Sidoroff


source site-58