Parenting Together – Your Baby, Your Way!
I talk about gender equality and gender neutral parenting a lot on my blog and social media. It’s something my husband and I feel very strongly about and it all starts at home. I get a lot of questions on Karan being a very hands on dad and how he manages everything end to end with Karma when I’m traveling without any additional help. Well, the logic is simple – he’s a parent too. Parenting is the job of both parents. If it was just the mother’s job, it would be called ‘mothering’! 😉
Karma is now four years old but we have both managed her responsibilities equally from the start. Today, I want to explain how and why should new parents take that conscious step and manage their babies together from birth. Hence, I am re-writing one of my first blog posts where I talk about our decision as first time parents to parent as a team.
When I was pregnant, we decided not to have our parents over to help once Karma was born and do everything ourselves. We lived in Singapore then and many people were very surprised by our decision since it’s quite unheard of back home. We were told again and again that we are making a mistake and have no idea what’s gonna hit us!
Surprisingly, all our friends who did manage their new borns on their own told us it’s not as bad as others say. I’m sensing a pattern. Do you? 😉
In hindsight – it was the best decision we made! Yes, it was physically exhausting. But mentally, it was easier and stress free (barring a few extra-colicky nights). We learned to rely on our instincts, trust each other and had zero interference. We did it together and enjoyed the ups and downs of Karma’s first few months to the max.
So here are 10 reasons why I recommend managing your baby TOGETHER from the beginning:
1. Father’s Involvement:
Karan had two weeks worth of leave left so he took that after Karma’s birth and he took another two weeks of work from home. He would cook my meals, watch Karma during the day and bring her to me for feeds. For the first 10 days, he did majority of the housework too till I recovered. I would give her massages and he would give her baths. When she cried, only one of us would calm her down (instead of a bunch of people fussing which we think makes it worse). She knew her dad as well as she knew me from the start. Fathers don’t get to do much when the mother or mother-in-law is there and when they leave, most of the work falls on the mother alone.
Lets get real for a second – parenting has been known to distance couples as well. It does take a toll on the relationship. It makes the mother fierce and the father ignored. But doing it together as a team actually helped. It made us feel like we were in this together. Neither of us felt left out or ignored. We also bonded with her very well. If one of us is out the whole day, she is happy with the other one. It’s a good thing if your baby can stay with her father all day and not miss you. Like I said, you both are the parents!
3. Less Cranky Baby:
I am not a medical expert so this is purely based on my friends’ and my experience (and some research). Everywhere I read, it says that everything is stimulation for a new born baby – even just looking at people. So when there are too many people managing the baby, it leads to over stimulation, less sleep and hence, a cranky baby. Not to mention, it is important for a baby to bond well with both parents and for the parents to understand their baby who can only communicate through crying. This process is easier and smoother with just a primary and secondary caregiver who should ideally be the parents.
It is easier to form a routine that will last for a few months when it’s just you and the hubby – primary caretaker and secondary caretaker. Research indicates that even a newborn baby recognises the voice and scent of its mother. So when the baby has one primary caretaker a.k.a. the mother, it latches on to her schedule sooner and falls into better sleeping patterns faster as well. When there are 2-3 primary caretakers, the baby doesn’t get a chance to latch on to single person or a single routine that will stick.
5. Less Guilt:
No offence to anyone, but guilt and self-doubt are a new mother’s best friends and hovering around telling me how to do my job or actually doing my job might make me grateful on the surface but subconsciously makes me feel useless inside. As much as grandparents have the right intentions (which they do!) and want to help, they also add stress and run interference. They might not want to but it happens. There is a lot less guilt and a lot more confidence when it’s just you, hubby and the baby. Take long distance advice, do your research, talk to your doctor, decide what works for you and don’t blame yourself.
6. The Fart Smiles:
Yes! That’s a weird subheading, but keep reading! 😉 When you have grandparents staying over, you only get to see a cranky-crying-hungry-baby being handed to you for feeding. Or when it’s lesson time like bath or massage and your baby is probably crying through that as well. You don’t get to just sit around and stare at your baby in wonder. Chances are you will miss the first loud fart and the genuine smile after it or the first sign of recognition or those adorable yawns etc – all things funny and cute which make this initial tough time much easier.
7. Crying and screaming:
Not talking about the baby here! This one is for the mother. Baby blues hit everyone for the first two weeks and the only way to deal with it is to let it out. There is too much pressure on new moms to be perfect mothers who are happy and grateful all the time. Lets face it – no mom is happy and grateful all the time and they should be allowed to talk about it. Sometimes, you just wanna cry or yell. You can’t scream profanities at your mother or mother-in-law but you can at your husband! :p
8. It Gets Easier:
You can feel the pressure getting easier as you learn from your mistakes, like how to reduce the number of diaper accidents per week. 😉 You become better at understanding your baby and gain confidence. Baby management, even with the hormonal-crying-fits and lack-of-sleep-frustration, actually gets easier. And as it gets easier, you get happier and more confident. It’s a cycle! However, when the parents are helping, it hits you suddenly once they leave and becomes quite overwhelming in one go. The hands-on learning curve is crucial for both of you!
9. It’s YOUR Baby:
I’m not saying don’t get help if you need it. You absolutely should if you want to. It’s important for grandparents to bond with their grandchild. But that’s different from delegating complete parenting responsibilities (something most new fathers tend to do). Also, parenting together gives you more freedom to manage your baby your way. So if there is something that you want to do based on your research or doctors, don’t be afraid to speak up. It is your baby and your instinct matters most. Don’t worry about taking a stand. Let them know why and how you are planning to do things. Keep them involved but maintain your independence. Everyone will not just get over it, they will eventually be proud of you. You’re the parents and you know best!
10. It’s called PARENTING!
I’m gonna end with what I started with. You two are the parents. The work revolving around the baby belongs to both of you. A mother cannot and should not have to do it alone. She’s already done the brunt of it by carrying the baby for 9 months, dealing with all kinds of symptoms, putting on kilos and kilos and then delivering the baby. And the solution to lending her a helping hand is not passing on the work to the grandmothers. It’s parenting together!