Your partner goes off for a run while you’re nursing the baby. He comes back- you’re nursing the baby. Your partner goes out for lunch with a friend while you’re nursing the baby. He comes home- you’re nursing the baby. You fume. Sound familiar?

A mama recently shared her frustration with me: “My partner has no strings attached and I’m attached to a newborn!”

Yes, it’s true. Even though she knows that it will pass and it’s short lived- this loss of freedom is really hard to take. And it’s super hard not to resent your partner. (We tend to hear a lot about how having a baby brings you and your partner closer together- but how come no one really talks about how hard having children is on your relationship? And it is VERY hard on your relationship.)

I was 30 when I had my first baby. It was a shock- especially after a decade of doing whatever-I-wanted-to-whenever-I-wanted-to. I was absolutely in love with my son and ecstatic to be a mother. But I seriously mourned my loss of freedom and independence. I missed my life before my baby was born.

Even outside of the hours spent breastfeeding, it seemed my baby needed me all the time. He was not the type of baby who would lay peacefully in his cradle gazing at a mobil. He was a carry-me-hold-me-nurse-me sort of guy. I could no longer go to the bathroom or take a shower whenever I wanted to. If I wanted to get my haircut, I had to get someone to watch the baby. I couldn’t even make a sandwich when I was hungry.

Before I had a baby- I prided myself on being extraordinarily capable. I was the one who did things for people not the other way around. There were moments of despair. It was so hard for me to be helpless. My new life was unrecognizable compared to my old.

As I mourned my loss of freedom, I looked at my partner la-la-la-ing all over the place. (Okay he wasn’t but that’s what it felt like.) I was so resentful of him and felt like he just didn’t get it at all. From my perspective, my life had changed so much and his hardly at all.

One day at postnatal yoga my teacher asked me “How Are You?” in that real way some people have.  I burst into tears, telling her how I was exhausted and my independence was gone and my marriage was surely in trouble!

My yoga teacher laughed and said “When my first born was a baby I woke up one day and thought- ‘How did this happen? I married an @%$!’ ”  She was still happily married (as am I) but she knew how hard having a baby can be on a relationship.  Just hearing that made me feel so much better.  We weren’t headed for inevitable divorce- having babies and little children can be very hard on your marriage.

So what can you do?

  • Understand that it’s normal for your relationship to change. And that can mean that things might feel pretty rocky for a while as you find your new rhythm. Talk about it. Try to focus on the things you like about your partner. if you find yourself noticing the negative things, try to consciously look for the positive. Remember why you are together in the first place.
  • Recognize that the lack of S-E-X right now can be hard on your relationship. I have often heard that men feel close to their partners when they are having sex, and women have sex when they are feeling close. This can create a real cycle of disconnection. Connecting physically- even non-sexually- is really hard when you are feeling all touched out. Acknowledge it and know that this is temporary. (Check out a great podcast on this topic- “The Longest Shortest Time: The Parents’ Guide To Doing It.”)
  • Recognize that this can be a hard time for your partner as well. Yes he or she still has freedom, but has lost a lot of access to YOU. And a partner who wants to be involved but baby only wants mama can feel really left out.
  • Ask for help. Ask for help from your partner. (Yes I know you shouldn’t have to ask for help. Just do it.) Say what you need. Accept the help that has probably been offered to you already by friends and family. Let your friend do the dishes so you don’t have to while the baby is asleep.
  • Let things slide. If you don’t have much support (or even if you do)- cut out everything that’s not absolutely necessary. Who cares if your bathroom is dirty or if you are eating mostly cereal? Now is not the time for high standards.
  • Know that it gets easier. WAY easier. The physical demands of early motherhood are rough. As your children get older, there are new and different challenges. But you regain your freedom and personal space slowly until one day you realize you miss those days when you and your small children were an island unto yourselves.
  • Be kind to yourself. Try to give yourself some extra self-care. I know it’s hard. Try to get outside every day. Try to go to bed early to take advantage of what’s often the longest baby sleep cycle. Recognize that you are doing the best you can! If you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of your baby.
  • Don’t sleep when the baby sleeps. A common piece of advice for new moms is: “Sleep when your baby sleeps.” Yes as new moms we are often exhausted. But use that precious nap time to do something for yourself. Do you draw? Love to write? Get stretchy with yoga? What do you do that’s just for you? It is so easy to lose yourself in the demands of new motherhood. When the baby is sleeping– and the house is quiet and you are alone– do something that reminds you of who you are.
  • Give yourself an attitude adjustment. Recognizing that you have choices is empowering. You are there for your baby because you WANT to be there. This might be the most important suggestion I can give you. (The mama who wrote to me practices Attachment Parenting. Her challenge is one that many mamas share but in my experience it can be particularly acute for AP mamas.) If you are AP, you are parenting in a deliberate way that can make the first few months or years more intensive. If you are breastfeeding on demand, your lack of freedom can be the trade off. Babies who co-sleep often wake to nurse more frequently. Wearing and holding your baby a lot can make you feel seriously touched out. (To be clear- I am not advocating that AP= martyrdom. AP is about being a responsive and intuitive parent, not a self-sacrificing one. We have to always put on our own oxygen masks first.) Own your choices and remember why you made them. You will feel almost instantly better.

Having a new baby can be one of the most joyful times in our lives. But it can also be frustrating, exhausting, and isolating. Know you are not alone in this. Almost all couples experience a strain on their relationships as they adjust to the changes in their lives. Almost all mamas mourn the loss of their pre-baby lives. Recognize these challenges, do what you can to mitigate them, and know that this too shall pass.

  1. susanti andriyani says:

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone

  2. Jillian says:

    The first ninety days are horribly hard.

  3. Kristina says:

    Thank you for writing this! I really like the part about NOT sleeping when the baby sleeps. Soooo true. You’re already so sleep deprived so why not remind yourself that you’re YOU… and not just a milk machine. Lol.

  4. Ellery says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  5. Milly says:

    I am seriously struggling with this situation at the moment. I haven’t been outside in over a week, I barely left the bedroom today and yet my husband has been shopping, done errands etc and I feel like my boob has been out the whole time. BUT I’m going to try these tips and see if I can turn things around.

    • Hang in there, Milly! I hope the tips helped and I hope you’re feeling better. These days feel so long! xx

  6. N says:

    Yes, thanks for writing this. It’s amazing how all of this come as a surprise of sorts, as no one really talks about this and most pregnancy/parenting books don’t focus much on emotions and relationships, when they are everything in this difficult phase.

    • Yes, you are so right! No one talks about it much. Maybe moms feel like they “shouldn’t” feel this way. Let’s change that! 🙂

  7. Sm says:

    This made me realize that I’m not the only one. My boyfriend works a lot and I don’t drive so things are so hard for me, I don’t have washing machine so I have to go out to do laundry and to do my grocery shopping. Covid is going on so it’s so hard for me to do everything. I am expected to cook and clean and shop and do everything and my boyfriend works and then goes out almost every weekend. We barely have a sexual relationship and I feel like I’m practically a single parent. I don’t get any help with the baby, I change all the bums, do all the bathing, exclusively breastfeed. I get no help other then a half hour here or there when he will monitor the baby while I do dishes or other chores. I even bath with baby I literally have no time for myself. I don’t know what to do anymore. I barely have enough time or energy to get myself ready everyday let alone get out and do things. I am an amazing mother but I am miserable in my relationship.

    • Sending hugs!! I’m glad it’s made you not feel so alone. I hope you can get some support from friends or family. I know it’s tough with COVID. xx

    • Ray says:

      Sm I wish we could talk. I read your comment crying because I feel exactly the same! My relationship is suffering big time. He’s always out and I’m always in. He stormed out just now as we argued about the fact there’s no sexual passion or pride to get ready nice anymore failing to realise I don’t get the chance to have a nice girly bath and shave and do my hair and makeup because we have a high needs baby. I’m so torn apart yet have to show up for my son.

      • So hard! sending hugs!
        I’d check out the book And Baby Makes Three by John Gottman.
        Hang in there!!
        It’s a hard adjustment for everyone

        • Sara says:

          Apparently not for these men in their lives. They seem perfectly happy going about like nothing much has changed. What terrible advice to just tell them to hang in there. That does nothing to address the problems in their relationships. This doesn’t sound like a case of the woman just having a hard time adjusting to a loss of freedom. And yes I dare say they will get through it, but it sounds like they will get through it alone, which is not the hallmark of a supportive relationship.

          Ladies, it sounds like your partners are not being supportive at all. They are 50% of your child’s parents and are not pulling their weight. You might as well be a single parent if you are not getting the support you should be getting from them, because at least then you would be able to justify the abandonment and solitude I imagine you feel. And if they are not careful this behaviour of theirs runs the risk of alienating you from them and irreparably damaging the trust you must have in a relationship. Support at a time when one of you is struggling is the back bone of all solid relationships. And here it is severely lacking for you. Women remember times like this.

          You deserve so much more from your partners but unfortunately no one can make them step up for you. And ultimately it’s up to you to decide if you can live with it. Try and seek out support from others if your partners won’t give it. You are not wrong in how you feel. It is very very unfair and selfish of them. I hear you, I really do.

          • Thanks for your thoughts. I am specifically writing here about the loss of freedom many mothers feel and how hard it is to adjust to that. In my experience a supportive partner can’t give you back that freedom!

          • Ali says:

            I actually appreciate this comment more than the read itself because it is true! I am not being negative by seeing my partner is being selfish and wanting to enjoy all his free time without bonding with our baby enough so I can also have mine! His actions do take part in my freedoms being lost. Yes my baby needs me, but I should be allowed to leave for 30 minutes to run an errand alone or to shower without him making me feel guilty for trying to shave my legs. And I know plenty of men who do help with their children so their wives can still do basic things for their sanity! And in a time of frustration, hearing or it’s normal this will pass is not the answer I feel should be given. But maybe try sharing how we can communicate they need to step it up and HELP!

  8. Sara says:

    A supportive partner most definitely can give you back at least some of your freedom. Outside of working hours they should be fully available to do their fair share of childcare. Then mum would be able to have time to herself, and would be able to leave the house for an hour or two and have some freedom. It’s only when you have selfish partners that there is no room for any time to yourself, because they take all the free time for and freedom for themselves.

  9. Kimberly Hagel says:

    I’m feeling frustrated right now with my husband. I do everything for our son. Buy all the clothes books toys groceries wipes. Plan the activities. I still have to work and take care of the house. My husband is always taking off to see his friends or just be alone. Our son is two and I still have to bathe with him most days to be able to get clean. He wants mom all the time because mom is the one who is with him. Yes he loves his dad but dad is gone a lot. I feel like if dad would take more initiative to be around then our son wouldn’t cry for
    Mom when I have to lea w him for things. We are potty training right now and when I say we I mean my son and I and it’s been hard on me. It takes a lot of attention and my husband decided he needed to take a trip this weekend. I am crying I’m so stressed out with work and he’s the one that needs to get away. I do t know what todo except pray about it. I do t even know why I’m commenting I guess I’m mad. I thought it would be different.

    • I hear you! This is so hard. I wish I had read the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky when my kids were little. Check it out. And hang in there- sending hugs!!

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