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Does the Husband-Wife Relationship Change After the Baby?

Author Armin Brott
Submitted 02-06-2008

Q: Since becoming
a father my wife and I haven’t been able to spend as much time with our friends as we used to. Some
of them seem to understand that we’re new parents and our time is limited, but others don’t. They
think we should be able to go out as a couple and socialize just as much as we did before we had a
child. Is there anything we can do to keep our friendships alive?

A: Considering how
small and helpless babies are, it’s really amazing that they can have such a powerful impact on the
lives of the adults around them. Simply by being born, your baby has already transformed you and
your partner from a “couple” into “parents” and your parents and in-laws into, gasp, “grandparents.” Even more amazing is the impact that babies have on the pre-existing relationships
between the adults in their lives. Babies can bring a couple together, for example, or they can
create a lot of stress (or at least magnify it). They can reunite families and mend old wounds or
they can open new ones. They can even change the nature of your friendships.

Here are a few ways
this might play out:

  • You and your partner aren’t going to be nearly as available for
    last-minute movies or double-dates and you might not be quite as happy to have friends drop by
    unannounced. And if, by some miracle, you do end up with a little down time, you’re probably going
    to want to spend it sleeping or hanging out with your partner. As a result, some of your friends
    might feel a little neglected.

  • Your new, less-spontaneous lifestyle may affect your
    relationships with your single male friends most of all. Having a new baby probably means fewer
    all-night poker games. Your buddies may stop calling you because they think you’re too busy or not
    interested in hanging out with them anymore. Or you might stop calling them because seeing their
    relatively care-free and obligation-free lives may make you jealous.

  • You and your partner
    might find yourselves more interested (or at least more interested than you were before) in spending
    time with people–especially couples–your own age. You might find that you don’t have quite as
    much in common anymore with your single or childless friends and they might start feeling the same
    way too.

  • Some of your friends who have children who are older than yours might start getting
    on your nerves by insisting on telling you every single thing they think you’re doing wrong as a
    parent.

  • Some of your friends may be disdainful or unsupportive of your taking an active,
    involved role in your baby’s life, falling back on the old stereotype that men should leave the
    parenting stuff up to their wives or that putting your family first could have a negative impact on
    your career.

As your kids get older their impact on your friendships will continue to
grow.

  • For the first little while, your baby will play with whomever you introduce her
    to; her first friends are most likely going to be your friends’ kids. But as she gets older and
    starts showing interest in other children and making friends of her own, this will change: you’ll
    start socializing with the parents of her friends. This will probably widen your circle of friends
    and may even make some of your adult relationships last longer than they would have because the kids
    like playing together.

  • Your relationships with new and old friends may be subtly–or not so
    subtly–affected by competition. Let’s face it: we all want our children to be the biggest,
    smartest, fastest, cutest, and funniest and it’s only natural (especially for guys) to get a little
    competitive.

Here are some things you can do to smooth out the bumps in your changing
friendships:

  • Get a calendar and learn how to use it. Work out a schedule with your
    partner so that the two of you can get some time to yourselves–as a couple and, if you can, as an
    individual–even if it’s only for an hour or two at a stretch.

  • Watch what you say. No
    matter how much people without kids pretend, there’s a limit to how much they really want to hear
    about all the exciting things (to you anyway) that your baby can do or how many times she filled her
    diaper today.

  • Learn to accept change. It may seem harsh, but the fact is that you may lose
    some friends (and they’ll lose you) now that you’re a parent. But you’ll gain plenty of new ones
    in the process.

  • Don’t listen to everything everyone else tells you. Whatever they know
    about taking care of children they learned on the job. And that’s how you’re going to learn
    too.

  • Don’t give in to pressure. Sure, it’s socially acceptable to leave all the childcare
    to your partner but it’s a lot more rewarding to jump in and do it yourself. Eventually your
    friends (if they’re really friends) will come around and some of them might even end up asking you
    for some pointers.

  • Watch the competition. If your friend’s baby crawls, walks, talks,
    sings, says “da-da,” or gets a modeling contract or an early-admissions preschool acceptance
    letter before your baby does, you may find yourself more than a little envious. But you know that
    your baby is the best one in the world. Go ahead and let them delude themselves into thinking that
    theirs is. Why burst their bubble?

A great dad himself, Armin speaks not only as a specialist in parenting, but as a parent himself. He has written several books including The Expectant Father and Fathering Your Toddler.

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