By Dr Sumayya Ebrahim, psychologist.
You and your partner may be in love and have the ideal relationship – and you may think that both of you will be on the same page when you have a baby. However, what if your partner differs from you on the host of issues parenting brings?
Parenthood might reveal sides to yourself and your partner that neither of you knew existed and while couples counselling is common before marriage, pre-baby counselling is less of a practice but no less important. Many couple’s relationships change, sometimes for the worse, after they bring pregnancy and children into the equation. Emotions and situations arise from this new context that may not have surfaced before. For example, you may find your partner tends to be paranoid as he worries about the safety of you and your child. Similarly, your partner may find you to be impatient because you can’t deal with your crying baby.
While pre-baby counselling may not prevent troubles down the line or guarantee of post-baby bliss, it will provide a safe space to have constructive conversations around the roles and expectations you have of one other after the birth of your baby, as well as prepare you for new family relationships. Some of the conversations you and your partner may want to have with a therapist before baby arrives include intimacy, discipline, gender roles, education and finances. However, no matter the outcome and as counter intuitive as it may be, your baby will not come with preconceived ideas of wanting perfect parents. All children want are “good enough” parents and sometimes “good enough” may be good enough.
Four good reasons for pre-baby counselling
Sex: Changes in sex life post baby, even if these are temporary.
Finances: Babies come at a financial cost and can affect your lifestyle trends. How will these added responsibilities fit into your financial outlook?
World view: Have you agreed on the core values you will imbue your child with? Do you want to be on the same page as your partner all the time, or is it okay to differ? If you agree to disagree, how will you implement this practically?
Roles and Responsibilities: Will you share equal child-rearing responsibilities? Or will you follow traditional gender roles in child rearing?
Lifestyle: Do you want to give your child everything you didn’t have even if it leads you into debt? Or are you content with providing your child with what you can within your means?
If you and your partner have begun the conception conversation, a counsellor can serve as an objective sounding board and provide you with tools to make your parenting journey a little easier.