A hidden reason relationships can change after babies, and what we can do about it.

Most mothers would agree that after having their first baby, many of their relationships changed. This can sometimes come as a shock. Not only is their relationship with their partner, if they have one, affected, but many other ones as well.

When you think about looking after a baby or small child, it makes sense in some ways that existing relationships might start to look different. The time and energy required for childrearing can leave the most energetic of us feeling exhausted, and it makes sense that our little people comfortably sit at the top of the priorities list for some time, meaning the opportunities to invest in friendships and familial relationships become smaller and less frequent.

But when we consider it only in these terms, it can be easy for this to become yet another cause of mum guilt to rear its disappointing head. It emphasises yet one more thing that a mother is ‘failing’ to do.

But remember that relationships are, by their very nature, a two-way street. And what many do not ever consider, is the ways in which we are all socialised to view mothers. I think that this can have a very real impact on how mothers’ relationships change. We are taught, often implicitly, to assume that mothers want to be lost in their relationship with their babies and children. We are told that to do so is what ‘good’ mothers do. And so when our loved one, looking after her new baby, fails to answer a text with her previous speed, or postpones plans to have a much needed nap, we assume that she no longer wants the same level of closeness we previously enjoyed. This sets a precedent which can be hard to reverse.

Added to this are the ways in which we as a society have forgotten to care for new mothers and families, and the difficulties of raising children in single family homes. New parents quickly are expected to fend for themselves, causing stress within couples and little spare capacity. Rather than being surrounded and cared for by the wider community they develop skills in self-sufficiency. Conversely, others may have well-meaning family members willing to come and help, but they may insist on supplying unsolicited advice or doing things in ways which don’t fit with parents’ chosen approach.

This can lead to patterns of behaviour which persist long beyond the newborn stage and which result in resentment and frustrations on all sides. It doesn’t help that these all-encompassing periods recur in times of transition, such as return to work, changing jobs, children starting school, to name a few.

What is the answer? As with so many relationship woes – talk about it! You may well be at a stage where you are so fully immersed in caring for your child or children that you have little time to nurture other relationships. If you can, explain this to your loved ones, and acknowledge that it won’t always be like this. If you feel able to, share some ways in which they can help you during this intense time. They may be delighted to be asked, and you may find things a little less intense with their support.

If, however, you’ve moved beyond a stage where your child needs you as much as they did at the start, this might be a good time to reach out and reconnect. Remember those assumptions that so many people make about mothers? Your friends and family may be expecting you to be too busy, as you once were, and allowing those beliefs to influence their own attempts to makes plans with you. Contacting them and renewing your connection will likely provide everyone with welcome support.

If you have found it hard to navigate relationships since the start of motherhood and would like to explore the resulting impact with an objective listener who can help you formulate a plan for next steps, why not get in touch?

This article was written by Tricia King, Matrescence Coach with Careering Into Motherhood. Tricia works with mothers who want to explore their shifting identities and feel fulfilled and confident in all aspects of life. You can contact Tricia via her profile page or at her website www.triciaking.co.uk.