Dear Will & Kate,
Royal or not, babies change lives.. wonderfully, unexpectedly and beyond recognition.. but the best bit is that you are not alone as suddenly you are part of a club with other mums and dads who don’t have a handbook either. Here are a few thoughts from a fellow parent and relationship coach to help you in the early days.
Apart from the obvious challenges of the new responsibility, the disrupted nights and lack of sleep, the nappies, mounds of washing (OK, you might just have this one covered..) and exhaustion, parents talk about how hard it is to have time for themselves and their relationship and how things have changed with their partner.
So what helps you get through the early days together?
Keep talking to each other – Perhaps a little obvious, but in the exhaustion and shock of life together changing so suddenly, its easy to say less and focus on the practicalities, from talk of feeds and nappies to sleeps. Yet behind the routines, the very sense of who you are will be shifting as you become a mummy and daddy, and all that you expect of yourself and your partner in these new roles. Take time to share your expectations, discuss the differences between you, how reality compares, what you hope for and how you want to share parenting together. It is the unsaid or misheard that easily causes tension, so listen to each other, knowing you will find a joint way even if you see things differently.
Clarify your roles & value the mother and baby bond – we are naturally very different as men and women, so its not surprising that our parenting roles are usually different too. As a mother carries and gives birth to their baby, and is usually the main carer, a baby naturally forms their first attachment to their mother. This attachment ideally creates a positive psychological foundation for the rest of a child’s life, so alongside feeding and taking care of a baby, valuing and supporting this bond is the main business of parenting in the early years. I purposefully use the word business to stress how important this is and that it takes work. I find it helps new dads, who can easily feel excluded and unsure of their role in these early months and years, to know what their job is and the difference they can make in supporting the mother and baby unit. Will, if you are wondering what this might look like, it could be going out to buy emergency baby kit, bringing over a box of tissues and giving hugs (especially on hormonal day3), changing nappies, noticing when Kate needs a rest and needs you to be in charge, to keeping visitors at bay to give Kate time to gaze into your baby’s eyes. The key is to know she will gaze into yours in a whole new way too, and that there will be lots of time for you to get to know your baby too.
Trust your instincts – There is nothing like a parent’s intuition, whatever some books say about ‘x’ or ‘y’ being the answer or the way. Use books or advice that feel in line with your thinking. Trust yourselves to know what is best for your baby, even if you have to challenge tradition or Her Majesty the Queen (with respect ma’am), which I appreciate might be doubly hard given your royal responsibilities. We all feel unsure or lost at times as parents, but in that not knowing we find our way, and also whom best to ask for support and help. I truly hope that the media respects your privacy.
‘Good enough’ parenting – Finally, remember there is no perfect parent, so be gentle with yourself and each other when you don’t achieve the ideals in your head, and try to relax and pat yourselves on the back as you repeat the mantra “We’re good enough parents”.
I wish you every happiness as you get to know your baby and enjoy the richness such a small bundle will bring to your relationship,