Recovering Your Sleep
We had been married almost four years when three simple words, “It’s a boy!” changed our lives. While I embraced my new role as a first-time dad, there were some cgallenges that came along with the new responsibilities.And those were mainly in the realm of our marriage.
Overnight, it seemed our date nights, romance and talk-time were history—at least that’s how I felt at the time.
As new parents, we were overwhelmed, exhausted, and insecure. We kept waiting for life to return to “normal,” but it just never did.
After two more kids, life began to really spin out of control. In the midst of the chaos, our ultimate romantic fantasy was eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I’m not kidding.
A strong desire for sleep, not romance, is what David and Claudia Arp recalled about the time surrounding their first baby. The Arps are counselors who have written about having a good marriage—which, they contend, is possible — in spite of having a new baby. Truth is, our experiences were universal. Most new parents feel like they’ve been blindsided by their baby. Maybe that’s you?
David and Claudia Arp have boiled down their advice for new parents into several healthy habits. Here are a few of their suggestions for the sleep-deprived couple who love being new parents but are in need of some helpful perspectives:
1. Be deliberate in sharing responsibilities: Every family is different, but it’s important to make sure one parent, usually the mother, is not the new baby’s sole caretaker. If she is bearing the brunt of it, a wise man offers to shop, cook, and clean around the house. Teamwork!
2. Develop healthy sleep habits: Without proper rest, all parents, including the new mom and dad, grow edgy and irritable. They don’t think clearly. Try to establish a routine that will allow each parent to get some uninterrupted rest. Granted the first few weeks will be tough, but things should eventually even out. (A practical tip here: trade turns using Mack’s “Pillow Soft” silicone earplugs. They take a bit of getting used to, but when you wake up in the morning refreshed because the baby didn’t wake you, you’ll soon enough become a believer. After weeks of recovering her precious sleep, Dena convinced me to “take a turn” and I’ve never looked back. At least one of us got some sleep!).
3. Find time for each other: One of my biggest mistakes was assuming I was done with dating my wife. Ironically, there is probably no better time to be deliberate about dating your spouse than after a new baby arrives. Plan ahead. Get a babysitter, even if it’s for an hour’s walk around the neighborhood.
I’m grateful to the Arps for their wisdom, and hope you’ve gotten a tip or two to help in the early days of being a new dad or mom.