For many, the birth of a new baby often brings much joy, but also a sort of identity crisis that can feel difficult to make sense of and understand. We have lived our lives for twenty, thirty, or forty years; all the while developing and solidifying our identities as individuals and as couples. And then comes the birth and introduction of a new baby – which can radically uproot our semblance of prior identity. This change happening to us is not good or bad – it is part of life and in order for us to transition this season with success, like so many other things in life, we need to acknowledge it for what it is.
Who Are We Now?
One day I was not a Dad, and then the next day I was a Dad. This dramatic shift to my own reality impacted me as an individual as well as the relationship with my wife. One day it was just her and I, and the next day we were three. What a dramatic change!
Grieving the Losses of Becoming a Parent
Part of accepting our new identities as parents is grieving the losses we experience from our lives pre-baby. Here are some examples of losses that many people experience upon the arrival of their baby:
- Loss of connection from spouse
- Changing identity
- Limitations on free time
- Changing bodies (Moms)
- Different roles with spouse
- Changing relationships with extended family
Grieving certain losses does not mean I love my son less, or that I do not like being a parent. Not at all. To be completely honest, there is a part of me that loves my son immensely, and part of me that misses elements of my old life (pre-baby). I think this is the most honest thing any of us could really confess as parents. Becoming a parent is filled with many joys, but it’s also filled with many responsibilities, challenges, and losses.
Many couples find themselves in trouble after the arrival of a new baby. This happens because of a lack of genuine acknowledgment of losses and the failure to move into grieving of their new realities. Well intended friends and family continually comment on how “lucky you are”, or “how grateful you should be” for such a beautiful baby, but sometimes, maybe that’s just not how you feel – and that’s OK!!
The more we can become honest with each other about the ways our little ones have changed our lives and impacted even the smallest of losses, the more we are becoming self-aware and have become truthful with ourselves – which is our goal if we want to grow into healthy, thriving people.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask your partner:
- What has been the hardest part of your changing identity as a new parent? What have you liked?
- What have you come to accept about being a new parent? What losses are you grieving about being a parent?
- How has the introduction of your new baby changed your relationship with your partner?
Quentin Hafner, LMFT
**If you, or a Dad you know would like to meet with other like-minded Dad’s and Husbands in an extremely life-changing and powerful way, please shoot me an email! I am currently forming a new group therapy in my Mission Viejo office called “Better Dad’s and Better Husband’s.”
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