Becoming a Parent

Couples who are first-time parents face a huge reorganization of their lives and relationships. The lifestyle they may have created over a period of years now has to make room for another person with very different requirements. Dissatisfaction may be fostered by an idealized image of what their new family should be like.

The idealized image may rob them of joy, particularly if their baby is born with a serious illness or other problems. Couples also face expectations that their partner should be a particular way. Additionally, the effects on their relationship of stress, less time, less sleep, and for some, isolation, all take a toll. For same-sex couples there may be more freedom to define roles or a pull into heterosexual models.

Many find it helpful to talk with their partners about expectations, particularly to discover together if they reflect the culture or personal preferences. Finding ways to avoid comparing themselves with other new parents or their memories of their own childhood can help couples have room to discover what is really important to them.

Does some of this sound familiar to you? Here are some questions that you can ask yourself and your partner that others have found helpful.


  • Trying to keep the culture’s idealized image of parenthood out of the picture, what is most important to each of you in raising your child?
  • What do you or could you and your partner each do to contribute to that?
  • What do you know about yourself and your partner that makes you confident that you cold keep these priorities?
  • What do you hope to protect and nurture in your relationship with each other?
  • How have you been able to do that or how can you imagine doing that?
  • What have you appreciated already in your partner’s parenting that you might not have predicted?

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