You’re finally home with your baby and this new, magical part of life begins. So, why do you suddenly feel a surprising amount of animosity every time your partner enters the room? Your train of thought immediately shifts tracks: Why is my partner so bright eyed and bushy tailed when I feel like the walking dead? Must be nice to not be covered in breastmilk stains and spit up. They’re still wearing the same sized jeans they were wearing nine months ago and I can’t even look at my jeans without wanting to burst into tears. Could they chew that granola bar any louder? Why would they tell their sister to come see the baby today? For crying out loud, why?
Find yourself thinking similar thoughts? You could be experiencing postpartum resentment and it’s not as uncommon as you might think.
- What is Postpartum Resentment?
- Why does postpartum resentment happen?
- How can you overcome resentment in your own relationships?
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What is Postpartum Resentment?
Postpartum resentment can be identified as feelings of anger, hostility, aggravation and, well, resentment for your significant other after giving birth, and it may be justified or unjustified. Not every mom experiences postpartum resentment. For those who do, you’re not alone. According to research, the first five years of parenting often coincides with a decrease in relationship satisfaction (Selini Institute). Many moms feel frustration toward their partner in that first period of new-parenthood.
Common Examples of Resentment for New Parents
- Perceived or actual lack of support
- Feeling that you’re making all of the sacrifices while your partner gets to just keep on keepin’ on
- Feeling that your own time isn’t valued by your partner
- Feeling like the workload and responsibilities are unbalanced
- The sense that your partner just doesn’t get it
- An inability to articulate your thoughts and feelings to your partner
- Continuous feelings of aggravation aimed at your partner
Why Does Postpartum Resentment Happen?
When we bring a new life into our world, everything changes and this can be overwhelming. We’re uncomfortable in our bodies both physically and self-consciously. We feel as if we’re being held captive by our baby’s volatile sleep schedule, our biology and hormones feel completely out of whack, we’re an emotional train-wreck, we’re trying to acclimate to having a baby in the home and on top of it all, we’re defining our roles as new parents. Additionally, we might be struggling with postpartum depression/anxiety and the possibility that your partner simply wasn’t prepared for the mess of new motherhood. Most of us weren’t prepared ourselves! This is a stressful time for romantic relationships.
You aren’t alone. Here you can hear one mom’s personal struggle and experiences with postpartum resentment.
How Can You Overcome Resentment in Your Relationships?
While postpartum resentment might be unavoidable for some, there are actions you can take to overcome this state of frustration and start appreciating your partner again.
8 Tips for Tackling Postpartum Resentment
- Talk, talk, talk! Communication is the key to any good relationship. Express your feelings in a non-confrontational way and have a discussion. If your partner did something that upset you, there’s a chance they don’t know why, so talk about it.
- Compassion. If you’ve birthed this little bundle of joy, you might be feeling entitled for your anger, but remember, your partner is going through some big changes too; this is happening to both of you, after all. And yes, while you might have done more of the grunt work, keep in mind that you’re both new at this and you’re both doing your best.
- Let it go. Look at what’s irked you. Is it worth it to get your feathers ruffled or is it something you can let go? Your grandma is coming to see the baby for the first time and your partner put him in the green overalls instead of the orange ones that you laid out. Let go of that. Grandma isn’t going to care what that baby has on, she just wants to enjoy her great-grandson.
- Look for the good. You might feel like your partner is doing everything wrong and there’s even a chance that they feel that way too. Look for the things that they’re doing right. Appreciate the way they hold that baby close to their chest for skin to skin contact, the way they rock her, the way they warm that breast milk pouch to the exact right temperature. Go a step further and let them know how good they’re doing. They’ll appreciate that you can identify and acknowledge the good things.
- Stop aiming for perfection. There is no such thing as perfect parenting. No. Such. Thing. And while we should always be trying our absolute best, this in no way means that we should be perfect or that we should expect our partner to be. Parenting is a lot of trial and error. It’s getting things wrong and learning how to make things right and not just in those first few years; it’s going to happen like this for the rest of your life so buckle in and get ready for the ride because perfection is not a destination on this journey.
- Compromise. Your partner wants to join some friends to watch some variety of sportsball game. Instead of grudgingly gritting your teeth and agreeing, only to hold it against them later, work out a plan to get something for yourself. Maybe they sit with the baby while you take a long bath and give yourself a facial or whatever it is you want to spend your time doing. Maybe your parenting styles don’t jive. Work out a way to encourage both styles so that each parent feels validated. Your compromise might even involve a schedule or a list of duties that can be split and assigned ahead of time. Identify where in your lives compromise can help and support one another.
- Make time for each other. That transition from couple to family can be daunting and many couples will struggle. Spending time together, without baby, can help remind you why you chose to bring a life into this world with this person; why your connection with your partner made you want to have a family with them in the first place. It allows you to be reminded of what you like about one another. Have your mom watch the baby while you go see a movie. Not comfortable leaving the baby yet? Have your mom watch the baby while you and your partner watch a movie in the living room. Steal away moments when the baby is sleeping. Take a nap together. Find some time for just the two of you.
- Get perspective. It isn’t going to be this way forever. You’ll feel normal in your body again, your hormones will return to normal, someday your baby will sleep through the night and this phase will be over before you know it. Some sinister part of you may actually miss it…eventually. Embrace the moment because you’ll find that once you become a parent, time flies by so you have to make the best of each phase of parenthood before it’s gone.
Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. But the rewards of both are worth it, otherwise nobody would choose to get involved in either of them. Resentment toward your partner can make you feel any number of negative emotions, but by navigating them with awareness, you can make it through this tough time. Keep in mind that you’re not alone and that your partner is here to share this experience with you. You’re a team.
It’s also important to remember that you’re not the only mom out there that’s overwhelmed, overtired and overcome with not-so-nice feelings toward their partner. A lot of the time as new moms, we tend to be harsh on ourselves. Keep in mind that there’s many moms out there right now experiencing the same thing you are. Overcoming postpartum resentment might not be easy, but it can be doable.
Meghann Bernard is the health and wellness specialist and psychology professor at her local college. She is a certified health and wellness coach, certified yoga instructor, holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in both educational and health psychology. She, her husband and their four beautiful, spunky children live on a third generation farm in a small rural town and spend as much time outdoors as they can. Their favorite destinations for camping and hiking are the Adirondack and Thousand Islands areas. Meg has been writing since she was a child and is currently working on her third novel. She also enjoys playing violin, guitar, gardening, and her oldest son just taught her how to skateboard. She feels that being a parent is the most important and rewarding part of her life and after birthing four babies, she knows a thing or two about mom-ing. Best advice from one mom to another: when you become a parent, time starts moving in fast-forward. Before you know it, they’ll be grown and flown so enjoy every bit of time you have with them. It all happens so fast.