Family Matters: Arrival of the firstborn

A new column: Expert Shimrit Nothman gives her unique advice on how to resolve family conflicts.

Couple arguing (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Couple arguing
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
In this new column, conflict resolution expert Shimrit Nothman will give her advice on a number of issues dealing with conflicts that may arise between family members. In this first column she tackles the issues that parents of a new baby may face. 
This is the moment they've all been waiting for; the arrival of a new-born baby. After numerous tests, nausea replaced by back pain and confusing visits to the baby shops, it’s now time for first-time mum and dad to leave the hospital with their newborn and start a new life as a family together.
An outsider not yet blessed with a baby could be fooled by the parents’ big smiles as they walk along the hospital corridors heading towards their car, but little do they know what awaits them when they get home.
The simple reality is that a new baby brings many happy moments as well as many new chores and responsibilities. New mum and dad are now forced to embrace new roles: some are physically difficult for them (say, breastfeeding) and some that are new and challenging (changing a diaper).
The new mum and dad also slowly begin to realize that the newborn doesn’t appreciate a good sleep through the night and therefore struggle to keep their concentration and sanity throughout the day.
What can be done to resolve conflicts between new mum and dad?
The first step would be to not wait until the birth to start discussing the shift of responsibilities around the house. Sit down together and discuss the new roles each partner can take, perhaps after hearing about the challenges from family and friends with small children.
It might also be a good idea to browse the Internet for advice given in "new parents" forums or to read articles written by experts in this field. 
While that’s a good start, the conversation doesn’t end there, since when the new baby arrives the couple find themselves facing situations they didn’t expect which require them to make some adjustments to their original plans – so flexibility is important.
During such conversations the partners should not forget that they are both tired and so they may experience difficulties to sympathize with “the other side.” Perhaps it may be more beneficial to discuss what’s bothering them the most and then focus on finding a suitable solution to that specific problem, rather than discussing everything at once, since throwing everything on the table may well just result in more arguing and less beneficial outcomes.
Many new parents are afraid to ask for help, thinking that like everyone else they can "handle it." The reality is, however, that most new parents receive help from their family and friends with preparing food, cleaning, shopping and other activities that could be a struggle for the first few weeks and maybe even months after the baby is born. Receiving some help around the house during this time might ease the burden and allow for a temporary relief in the tensions between partners, which in turn will allow them to focus on resolving other issues they are now faced with.
Both new mum and dad should remember that now more than ever they both might want to feel loved, supported and needed, therefore they need to work on building their partnership to meet those needs. With all the time both parents are devoting to the new addition they have less time for one another and it’s very easy to let the days pass by without saying a kind word to your partner or spending some quality time as a couple. The couple should make time just for themselves, preferably out of the house, even if it means getting a babysitter for an hour and going out for a jog or for a cup of coffee.
Shimrit Nothman has a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution and believes that like charity, conflict resolution begins at home. If you have any questions for Shimrit, please use the comments section below or email her at [email protected].
This column is brought to you as general information only and should not be a replacement for professional advice.