couple having a conversation with each other in a counselors office

By Dr Sumayya Ebrahim, psychologist.

You and your partner may be in love and have a seemingly perfect relationship – and you may assume that both of you will be on the same page when you have a baby. But, what if you differ on some of the fundamental issues that parenting brings?

How does life change when you have a baby? 

Parenthood might reveal sides of yourself and your partner that neither of you knew existed and while couples counselling is common before marriage, pre-baby counselling is less common, but no less important. Many couples find their relationship changes, sometimes for the worse, after they bring pregnancy and children into the equation.

Emotions and situations arise 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 find it difficult to deal with your crying baby.

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While pre-baby counselling may not prevent troubles from cropping up down the line or guarantee you’ll enjoy post-baby bliss, it will provide a safe space for you and your partner 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 those around 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” is good enough.

The conversations to need with your partner before you start a family

Finances: Babies come at a huge financial cost and will affect and alter your current lifestyle. We all want to give our children everything we didn’t have, but at what expense? Are you willing to go into debt to provide your offspring with the very best? How important is private schooling to you? Are you willing to splurge on extra after-school activities? How will all these added responsibilities fit into your financial outlook? Will one of you stay home with the baby or will you be a two-income household?

World view: Have you agreed on the core values you will raise your child with? Will you expose your child to religion? Do you want to project a united front as parents or is it okay for the two of your to differ in your approach? If you agree to disagree, how will you implement this practically? How will you approach discipline? Will grandparents be heavily involved or will they take more of a back-seat role?

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Roles and Responsibilities: Will you share equal child-rearing responsibilities? How will you split the various household tasks like cooking dinner and doing the grocery shopping? Who will get up at night to feed the baby, or will you take it in turns?

Sex and relationships: You should expect some changes in your relationship – including your sex life – post baby, even if these are only temporary. What systems will you put in place to make sure you don’t lose your connection in those frenetic first weeks and months?

Lifestyle: Will one of you be staying home to look after the baby? If not, what will you do about childcare? Have you considered how a child will affect your social life? What will be your next step if you’re struggling to conceive? Are you open to adoption or IVF? Are you prepared to co-sleep with your infant? Talk through what you imagine a typical day with your new family will look like to make sure your ‘visions’ of family life align.

Reflect: Now’s the perfect time to look back at your own childhoods. What went well – and didn’t – in your own early years? Are there parental behaviours you want, or don’t want, to repeat with your own children? What are your greatest fears, and how will they impact your parenting style?

If you and your partner have started talking about having children, a counsellor can serve as an objective sounding board and provide you with the tools necessary to make your parenting journey a little easier.

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