It’s an exciting/scary/awesome/stressful/(fill in the blank) time when baby’s on the way. And after baby comes along a lot more is going to change—including your relationship. While you can’t really imagine what it’s like to be a parent until you actually become one, you and your partner can do a few things before baby gets here (and once he or she arrives) to make the shift as seamless as possible. Here, been-there, done-that moms and dads share their best tips for keeping your relationship with each other—as well as with baby—in tip-top shape.
Make time for the hobbies you love.
My husband and I first met when we started playing music together in a band, and it became a major thread in our relationship. Our social life totally revolved around practicing, playing and going to shows together. But when our first baby was born, all of that went out the window for many months. Finally we realized how much we were missing it and that connection, so we committed to playing after our little guy went to bed every Saturday night—just for fun. It really brought us back to ‘us’ and what bonded us in the first place. Remember the unique-to-you things that knit your hearts and lives together in the first place, and make a little space for that on the regular to keep those stitches tight, because they're truly the base on which the rest of your lives and your family together are built.” —Carin, Boulder, CO
You will be tired—but you’ll get through it.
“Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on even the best relationship. Post a sign that reads ‘Our Sleep Deprivation WILL End’ on your bedroom wall just to remember that this weird period between the two of you will end at some point, and you’ll get back to a place where both of you feel fully sane again. Let the little things go for a while (like a sparkling-clean household). Go easy on each other. And on your long list of baby items to buy, don’t forget to add a fancy coffeemaker that will make you blissfully happy every time you use it together.” —Anna, New York City
Let other people put baby to sleep.
“Right from the start we let other people put our kids to bed and do our bedtime routine. We wanted to make sure we could leave them with a babysitter or grandma without us having to be the ones to put them down. It gave us back some freedom to go out and be together. One of our favorite things was treating ourselves to a babysitter around 4 p.m., then we'd see an afternoon movie and have an early dinner and be home with everyone bathed and in bed! It was a real treat to miss the bath and bedtime routine occasionally and still be in bed by 9 p.m.” —Jill, Greenwich, CT
“Your daily routines are going to need to change, and you’ll need to embrace that. Naptimes and feedings will come first; your traditional Saturday morning run to the grocery store might now be an afternoon thing or a Sunday trip. So loosen your grip on how and when you used to do things. The more rigid you are about your life, the more stressed you’ll get—and that will lead to unnecessary arguments.” —Larry, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Check in with a therapist.
“We went to a few therapy sessions to check in about things before baby came. It helped us clear up some issues, open communication and talk about some of the fears we had about becoming parents. Of course not everyone needs therapy, but I think it is crucial to communicate your needs to your partner. Being a parent is the hardest job, and as a result, it’s hard on couples. A therapist can offer people the tools or guidance to help stay afloat if you feel like you’re sinking.” —McKenzie, Santa Cruz, CA
Take baby with you.
“We made sure early on to not only keep our date nights but also have ‘family date nights’—basically going out as a family on a Saturday night, with all the special-occasion feeling of a typical romantic date night. It helped us keep our connection with each other as well as build one with baby. Our son, who is now 6, loves it.”
—Melanie, Springfield, NJ
Secure baby’s future.
“After Emma arrived, both my wife and I became a lot more fearful of dying. We thought, ‘How would only one of us be able to manage raising Emma alone?’ With life insurance in place, either of us would have more financial means to fund day care, babysitters and, eventually, college. We got life insurance policies after Emma was born, but I think the earlier you do it, the better. Then you can both sleep soundly at night (so long as baby cooperates!) knowing that you’ll have the financial means to raise your child if something happens to one of you.” —Orton, Charlotte, NC
Enjoy your last moments together as a twosome.
“Go to a movie, go for brunch, hang out with your friends, have a lazy Saturday where you binge-watch a television show or read the newspaper cover to cover. You will not have long stretches of free time—especially together—for a while after baby arrives, so take advantage of it now.” —Jennifer, Atlanta
Don't lose what you had as a couple.
“When baby comes, you may be too exhausted to focus on your relationship, both physically and emotionally. However, you have to continue to nurture that relationship with your partner just as you are nurturing your new baby. For me, that meant telling my husband how much I appreciate him and going out for date nights where we talk about things other than our daughter's latest milestone. If you don't lose what you had as a couple—mutual respect, unconditional love, trust, emotional availability—then your family unit will only grow stronger as your child grows to see how you and your partner interact. If you continue to maintain strong unity as a couple, then you are less likely to resent each other through the hard times of raising a baby, and more likely to work things out together.” —Dana, Indianapolis
Talk about your game plan—and focus more on gratitude.
“Discuss, as honestly as you can, what each of your expectations will be once you're a trio instead of a duo. It's hard to fathom what life will be like before baby arrives, but try to go down your normal daily to-dos and discuss who's going to grocery shop, walk the dog and do the laundry. When one person starts to feel overworked and overwhelmed, things get really tense much quicker. Also, remember to say thank you. Recognizing the thoughtful or kind things your partner does for you and the new baby will go a long way. Those first few weeks and months feel like you're fumbling through. It always helps to hear a little dose of gratitude.” —Sarah, Norwalk, CT
Lean on your family.
“When you get married it’s more about you and your spouse, but when you have a child, you bring everyone back in. I’m a mom of four, with our fifth child on the way, and I work full-time. My parents help a lot—they cook dinner for us every night and they’re coparenting with us. My view: It takes an army to raise a family. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if your family is making themselves available.” —Christine, Phoenix