Carolyn Hax: First-time parents need to go all-in

May 5, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I'm about to have a baby and wondered if you had thoughts on some things my husband and I should discuss before the baby comes. We want to be on the same page about parenting before the chaos kicks in. Right now we are both clueless about what to discuss, neither of us having any baby/parenting experience.

IMPENDING PARENTHOOD

Talk about the fact that you are both, simultaneously and almost unrelentingly, going to be too stressed or just plain tired for whatever it is you need to do at the moment (feed baby, change baby, bathe baby, persuade baby to sleep, make funny faces at baby, clean up house after Hurricane Baby, etc.). And, there will be no "There! Done!" moment to propel you forward, because the next chore will pop right up at you like Pez. And it will be awhile before your baby can give back in its little baby ways, like coos and smiles.

And so, both of you will spend a lot of time wishing the other would just take up some of the slack, possibly even resenting each other for not seeing how badly you need help.

If you're doing this right, both of you will feel you're giving all you've got - and recognizing that in the moment might be the single best thing you can do for your baby and for your marriage. Think of it as a sports cliche: You both need to give 110 percent.

Not just that - you also need to notice and praise each other's 110.

Keep this in mind, too: Every moment, good and bad, does pass, so it's OK to focus during the worst ones just on staying afloat.

Re: Parenthood: I find a great way to frame the conversation is to discuss how you were raised, what you want to emulate, and what you never want to do to your kids. This highlighted differences between me and my husband quickly, so we were able to discuss some of our differences.

ANONYMOUS 2

Thank you - I stuck to the immediate challenges, but this is an intelligent start on the longer-term ones.

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