Managing happiness as parents and partners

As much as you think you can, parenthood is not something you can ever fully prepare for. But becoming a new parent doesn’t mean you or your spouse have changed; you both just need to get used to seeing each other as parents.

Michael (not his real name) is in a flux. Since his son was born 6 months ago, he finds himself not being able to meet the expectations of his wife. In between work stress, managing the home and being a father to his child, Michael has been chided by his wife for “doing things wrong”, “making things worse” and not putting enough effort into being a husband and a father.

In the climax of one of their "discussions", as Michael was trying to explain the pressures he was facing, his wife retorted, "You've been unhappy? Well then, how do you think that makes me feel?"

Michael never imagined starting a family would be this hard.

But then, neither did his wife.

People don’t change overnight (or in this case, over 6 months). Michael is still the same man his wife married. His wife, too, hasn’t changed. But circumstances have changed, and with it, expectations. Both Michael and his wife are trying the best that they can to bring up their child, but in the process they are finding it difficult to deal with each other.

As newly minted parents (or parents-to-be), you need to be mentally prepared for the changes that will occur when your child comes into the world. No one parent can confidently say they were fully prepared for parenthood, and even the best parenting websites sometimes cannot give you the answer you need. Indeed, there is no way to predict what your child will be like before he or she is born. In reality, there is only one person you can count on for help and advice, and he or she has to be the last person you should ever take for granted: your partner.

Learn with your partner, and allow your partner to learn with you

As new parents, you are embarking on a steep learning curve. Parenting is very much trial and error; sometimes, you will get it right on the first try, but more often than not you need to learn from your mistakes, or your partner’s. But for a lack of a clear-cut solution, you still have to try.

Agree to disagree if faced with a seemingly unresolvable conflict, and allow your partner to experience outcomes as you will experience them in your own parenting endeavours. It really is the best way to learn as a parent, as well as to better understand about your partner’s ways.

Trust your partner

We are all unique individuals with our own experiences, ideals and character - the same traits that attracted us to our loved one in the first place. And experience will tell you parenting approaches will differ from person to person. You’ve seen the differences when dealing with your own parents or your in-laws; you also need to accept it will be different when it comes to you and your partner.

You also need to remember that your partner loves and cares for your child as much as you do, and though opinions may differ, neither of you will want any harm to come to your child. Trust in your partner as he or she will trust you to take care of your baby; it is,after all, the key to ensuring a well-rounded development for your child.

Give yourselves time

Parenting is very much a management game: routines need to be established, roles need to be delegated, money needs to be earned and spent. In the career of a lifetime, plans will inevitably change according to your child’s needs, and it takes a lot of time for you or your partner to learn to do things right.

So take the time to learn how to be a parent, and allow your partner the time to breathe as well. Your child was brought into this world to teach both you and your partner about living life by giving life, so let your child be your guide. And despite how unpredictable parenthood can be, you can be assured of this one thing: as time goes on, it will get easier.

Stay happy

Michael's wife made a point that eludes many families who are trying fervently to get along. How would you expect your partner to be happy when you're not? Remember your wedding vows: to have and to hold, for better or for worse, through good times and bad, in sickness and in health, till death do you part.

Remember that your partner made that same promise to you.

You're in this together, partners in crime, for the long haul. And to be the partner you promised to be, you need to be happy with your partner, and with yourself, so your family can be happy for you, with you, and for themselves.