5 Topics All Expecting Couples Must Discuss Before Baby Arrives
Once the excitement of finding out that they’re pregnant or about to become parents has dissipated, most couples get to work at figuring out what needs to be taken care of over the following months before the baby arrives.
There are some universally touchy topics that couples often sweep aside for fear of creating any upset during what is typically a happy time in the lives of parents to be. Consider, however, that now may be the best time to talk through them. If you wait until you’re juggling all of your new parental responsibilities, you may regret that you waited.
1. Division of labour. You and your partner may want to figure out which of you will take on the primary parenting responsibilities. Perhaps one of you will take more time off work than the other, or if you’re both self-employed, maybe you’ll determine a creative schedule that works for all of you. Challenges can arise when one parent is working more hours away from home and then expects to do less around the house once they’re at home. This typically creates conflict because the parent who has been with the baby all day often wants a break when her partner arrives home. Although it may be hard to iron everything out before baby arrives, it may be worthwhile to at least discuss each of your basic beliefs about division of chores when one partner is working away from home more than the other.
2. Involvement of others. Depending on how attached each of you is to your own and one another’s extended family members (siblings, parents, etc.), you may agree or not about the extent of involvement you’d like them to have in your lives–especially after you become parents. Some couples agree to a sibling or a parent being in the delivery room, for example, whereas others prefer not. This is best discussed in advance.
Also, if one or both of you would like to return to work at some point in time, you might want to look a little further into the future and consider whose care you might entrust your child to. One of you might only want to have your child in the care of his or her grandparents, while the other might be more inclined to have grandparents less involved and rather hire a nanny or send your child to daycare outside of your home. This can be quite a heated, emotional discussion. In order to make it less so, it may be a good idea for each of you to share your ideas with the other in a logical manner and to be given the opportunity to explain why you are leaning one way or the other.
3. To circumcise or not? Of course this only needs to be discussed if you know the sex of your baby. Some people choose circumcision for religious reasons and others because they believe that it allows for better hygiene. Yet others consider it barbaric. If you have strong beliefs either way, share them now and try to resolve the issue before your baby arrives.
4. Religious and cultural upbringing. If you share the same religious and cultural backgrounds, then this may not be as much of an issue. However, if you are from different backgrounds, then it’s important to discuss which path or paths you will follow and model for your child. Even though you may not think that this matters with a newborn, many decisions that may be rooted in your religion are relevant right away–for example, to baptise or not. Again, if you wait until your child is born in the hopes that everything will just work itself out, you may regret it.
5. Social contact. Some new parents feel quite strongly about keeping their infants away from most people for the first few weeks of his or her life. A parent may worry about her baby being exposed to too many germs and may feel strongly about not having others kiss or touch the baby. Other parents can’t wait to show off their new baby to the world. These issues should be discussed in advance to avoid conflict and disappointment after the baby arrives. Views around social contact often change after the first baby since a second or third child is typically exposed much quicker as a result of having to tag along with an older sibling who is involved with outside activities or who is bringing germs home.
The bottom line is that listening to and understanding one another and then talking through what are often difficult topics is really important for expecting couples. Make time before the baby comes to do so–you’ll be glad you did.
Sara Dimerman is a Toronto psychologist who has provided counselling to individuals, couples, families and parents for more than 25 years. She has written four books and is a columnist for various North American and international media outlets. Sara is a regular guest on radio and television shows and is frequently interviewed for newspaper and magazine articles. Sara is married and has two daughters. Contact her on Twitter.