Turns out that having a baby doesn’t make you happy. Recent research shows that first-time parents are more unhappy during the first year of having a child than from divorce or losing a job. Yikes!
Parenthood is certainly a challenge for both moms and dads. But the good news is that if you can get past the first year and the adjustments required overall, life happiness is higher for those with children.
So how can you survive the first-year dip?
Three areas you need to focus on:
Sleep deprivation for any reason can lead quickly to depression. A fussy baby who needs to feed every few hours is going to prove a challenge to your sleeping patterns.
Best advice: Sleep whenever the baby sleeps. You’ll be tempted to use nap time as an opportunity to get caught up on chores – but don’t do it! SLEEP and share the jobs!
If you pump your breast milk, your partner can take turns getting up in the night. Single parents can ask a friend to come help out for a night or two when needed. Also, make a serious sleep-training plan and get support from a sleep doula if needed.
All babies have the capacity to sleep long stretches through the night at about four to six months of age if taught.
Having children will amplify the difficulties in your relationship with your partner. While it is inevitable to have some conflict, we can drift if we don’t make the couple-ship a priority.
Best Advice: Be sure to put energy into your romance. Schedule date nights, kiss a lot and if you don’t have energy for intimacy in the evening, why not have sex midday? You want to produce that bonding hormone oxytocin that keeps you feeling connected.
Unhappiness in the first year of parenthood is often associated with a feeling of loss of control over one’s life. Having a constantly dependent baby can overwhelm many.
Best Advice: Find childcare. It’s always hard to get a babysitter, so maybe it's grandma and grandpa, a childcare swap with a friend or hiring a student down the block. The bigger challenge is your willingness to let someone else care for your baby and actually step away! If you can get over that hurdle early in your parenting life, the more likely you are to actually resume other activities that will nourish your social connections, hobbies and interests outside of parenthood.