It's no secret that new babies bring with them a mixed bag of emotions for parents. Along with the love, joy, and wonder you'll feel at bringing new life into the world, you and your spouse will surely experience fear, anxiety, and panic—not to mention utter exhaustion. But jealousy? Though you may think that's one feeling you can skip on the emotional roulette wheel of parenthood, it's important not to count it out.
Believe it or not, it's not uncommon for a new mommy to find that her husband is jealous of the baby. Sometimes a spouse feels neglected when the little one comes, which often leads to guilt for feeling envious in the first place. Over time, these feelings cause stress and tension between couples, paving the way for larger relationship problems. Even though many parents don't foresee this hurdle, it's important to know why the green eyed monster pays a visit—and how to prevent future drop-ins. Working on a solid partnership between you and your spouse not only strengthens your bond as a couple, but makes you better parents in the process.
Why Jealousy Happens
Once you're home from the hospital, the time you'll spend with your hubby drastically decreases: between work, lack of sleep and dirty diapers, date nights go out the window. This is an especially difficult adjustment for first-time parents, who may be used to having nights and weekends free for one-on-one time.
A new baby can also be all-consuming emotionally, which means that even when you do spend time together, your focus is on the baby instead of one another. Additionally, new parents may suffer from postpartum depression—while it's more common for mamas to suffer, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that up to 10 percent of new dads feel baby blues. These stressors can lead to tired, fragmented conversation in which neither of you feel like any real exchange occurred. Over time, this lack of communication can breed feelings of jealousy and insecurity between couples, especially when paired with the sleep-deprivation that inevitably comes with an infant.
Fortunately, taming the green-eyed monster is definitely doable. The most effective way is to guard against jealousy at every juncture, and work to overcome it both before and after your bundle of joy has arrived.
- Put it on the table. When considering a new addition to the family, honestly assess your romantic relationship. Go over your goals, and be realistic about how a child will change those. For example, if your spouse has always wanted to backpack Europe together, bring up how difficult that would be with a baby. If you realize you need to tackle more "couple" dreams, your best bet may be to hold off on trying to get pregnant.
- Do the math. Babies are expensive; are you financially prepped? Jealousy and resentment are often fueled by partners working long hours, without time to spend with your baby or as a couple. If holding off until you have more money isn't an option, consider solutions like daycare, working part-time or creating a home-based business.
- Adjust expectations. Prepare your spouse for the impending bundle of joy; tell him that while you'll be busy caring for junior, you won't have as much time to devote to his needs. Since you'll both be less available once the baby arrives, try to anticipate stressors that might lead to jealousy. For example, if you're feeling insecure about your appearance and intimacy after nine months of pregnancy, 'fess up! Drop clues about how he can make you feel beautiful once baby has arrived, including flowers, massages or a simple affirmation each day.
- Date night. Make a game plan to carve out couple time together. A pre-planned weekly date works well, since you'll both be more likely to stick to a set schdedule. If grandparents agree to babysit on Thursdays, you'll have a night to indulge in "adult" time. This can be anything from a movie rental and wine to a fancy dinner on the town—the important thing is that you spend one-on-one time together.
- Stay on track. With an infant, it's tempting to spend every second with her and shut out the rest of the world. However, "couple's time" is essential for your sanity and your relationship. Stick to the game plan you created earlier, no matter how tough, and call in reinforcements when you feel overwhelmed. Leaving your baby will no doubt be anxiety-inducing, but it's a positive idea to let your sister watch her while you two nab some much-needed catch-up time.
- Encourage involvement. The best way for your spouse to diminish jealousy is to build an independent relationship with his tiny tot. Let him take charge of baby dinners, baths, and bedtime stories to make sure that both of you are bonding with your baby separately. If he's still feeling left out, encourage him to talk to you about his feelings, and reach out to other dads he knows who may have had similar experiences.
In the mêlée of preparation for a new baby, it's easy to overlook the one person whom it's most important to prepare: your spouse. Don't let a little jealousy discourage you—it's more common than you think and a temporary setback. Take heed of this advice, and soon you'll both be enjoying your little one—and each other—together.