Mum of three, Claire Lynch, shares her experience of being a new parent with her wife and her tips for families with two mums.
Working as a team
Life with a newborn is an exciting and challenging time for all new parents. Coping with the early days (and nights) can be extra tough if you’re struggling to balance who does what.
Research has described the phenomenon of maternal gatekeeping (The conversation. 2015), which can cause dads or non-birth mothers to be discouraged from sharing equal responsibility for the baby. Some non-birth mothers describe feeling left out of the special bond, particularly if their partner is breastfeeding. Solidarity can make all the difference on a sleepless night so put the kettle on, fire up a box-set, and snuggle up together.
All hands on deck
Catching up on the physical bond can be especially important for a mum who hasn’t given birth. Tiny babies enjoy being held skin-to-skin and are soothed by the heartbeats of both mums.
If you’ve gone back to work, bath time can be a lovely evening ritual. It allows you to spend some special time with your baby and give your partner time to rest at the end of the day.
While you’re trying to support your partner in the physical recovery from birth, don’t forget that you’re both emotionally adapting to your new roles. Becoming parents can put huge pressure on a relationship. Take offers of help from friends and family that allow you to spend some time together or to catch up on sleep.
Time alone might be closer to a takeaway in front of the TV and baby monitor rather than a wild night out for a while. But it all counts in finding time to be a couple.
Value of shared parental leave
When our twin daughters were six months old, my partner went back to work and I started a period of shared parental leave. Many same-sex couples find that they are freed up from ‘traditional’ roles and are able to shape family life around a more equal division of labour.
For me, starting six months of parental leave presented some unique challenges. Should I simply slot into my partner’s place at the baby yoga class and try to fit in with her new friends? Or should I find my own activities and networks? Everyone will make their own decisions on this.
An important part of shared parental leave for me was also that it marked the start of weaning. It gave me an opportunity to really share in a major stage of our babies’ development.
Shared parental leave isn’t a practical option for all couples but do consider ways in which you can both spend time with your new baby. For us, splitting the leave meant we both experienced the highs and lows of the first year.
We both survived the challenging days when leaving the house seemed impossible. We both enjoyed joyful moments of first smiles or first steps. By the end of the first year, we both felt that we had really learnt how to be parents and could hardly even remember what life was like before we were a family.
Claire Lynch is a writer and academic. She lives near Windsor with her wife Bethan and their three daughters. This article is part of series she has written about her experiences as a same-sex parent for NCT. Her book Small: On motherhoods, telling the story of her motherhood journey, is out on 24 June 2021, published by Brazen_Octopus books. If you'd like to share your story, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography by And then she clicked
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Read the free guide from Stonewall ‘Pregnant Pause: A guide for lesbians on how to get pregnant’ covering all aspects of pregnancy and childbirth from conception to starting school.
Read more about the parenting issues facing same-sex parents on the website, Pink Parents
Visit We Are Family Magazine, a community resource and platform for social change, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in a family context through positive representation, advice and support.
The conversation (2015). As gatekeepers, moms hold keys to shared parenting duties. Accessed here: https://theconversation.com/as-gatekeepers-moms-hold-keys-to-shared-parenting-duties-42029