We all know tempers can get frayed as new parents. Here we look at ten typical hot topics and how to manage them.
You’d be surprised about the variety of things parents can find to argue about. Here we list the top ten we hear about from parents we speak to, time and time again. Plus advice on how best to deal with them. Some may sound familiar…
1. ‘I’ve had less sleep than you have’
Worst competition ever. Try to put aside unhelpful feelings of resentment and focus your energies on working together to share the burden.
2. ‘You’re just at home all day, I have to work’
Plenty of partners have thought it; some have even dared to say it. With a new baby, you’re both facing huge new pressures on your time. Research shows that divvying up household chores while respecting each other’s responsibilities makes for better, happier parents (Kluwer and Johnson, 2010).
3. ‘Let them be, they’ll be fine’
When to wrap them in cotton wool and when to allow them to take risks – it’s a daily tightrope all new parents walk. If you’re disagreeing on something, try to put yourself in your partner’s position before leaping to judgements.
4. ‘It would be better if we did sleep training/co-sleeping/controlled crying’
You won’t be the first couple to disagree about this, and you certainly won’t be last. Have a look at our article on the pros and cons of different sleep methods and decide what’s going to be best for the whole family. And it goes without saying, it’s best to have this conversation at a neutral time rather in the middle of the night when baby is crying…
5. ‘I thought you were watching them’
Blaming each other isn’t going to get you anywhere. Couples who support each other are less likely to have better parenting experiences (Burgess, 2011; Chong and Mickelson, 2016).
6. ‘We haven’t had sex for months’
7. ‘You shouldn’t let your mother mollycoddle her like that’
8. ‘You put what on the credit card?’
More to pay for and quite possibly less to pay for it with. Managing your new family budget together is a great way to build trust and commitment (Relate, 2018a).
9. ‘Why are you feeding her that rubbish?’
The topic of baby weaning and feeding is almost as sensitive as sleeping. Rather than wading in, try taking time to decide collectively on your approach.
10. ‘Back late again? That’s the second time this week.’
New parenthood is a team effort. Glancing at the door waiting for your other half to walk through it (so you can share the bedtime load) is a common scenario. Keep each other informed of your movements and timings.
So how do we resolve these spats, and prevent them from recurring?
Having a baby means so many new potential flare-ups. And, of course, you’ve both had very, very little sleep. So don’t be too hard on yourself, or your partner, as you’re bound to argue a bit. Sometimes, it can even be healthy (Relate, 2018b).
Try to deal with conflict constructively. You could start with identifying the problem, then talking it over (Relate, 2018b).
With emotions running high, new parents often find it hard to resolve disagreements happily (Houts et al, 2008). They’re less likely to discuss problems (Glade, 2005), which means arguments are often left to fester (Kluwer and Johnson, 2010). So talk it out, and break the silence.
This page was last reviewed in December 2018.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our 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.
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.
This article from Relate looks at the reasons couples argue after having a baby.
Brotherson SE. (2007) From partners to parents: couples and the transition to parenthood. IJCE 22(2):7-12.
Burgess A. (2011) Fathers roles in perinatal mental health: causes, interactions and effects. Available at: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/Burgess%20Fathers%20roles%20in%20perinatal%20mental%20health%20%2824-9%29_1.pdf [Accessed 1st November 2018].
Chong A, Mickelson KD. (2016) Perceived fairness and relationship satisfaction during the transition to Parenthood. Journal of Family Issues. 37(1):3-28.
Glade AC, Bean RA, Vira R. (2005) A prime time for marital/relational intervention: a review of the transition to parenthood literature with treatment recommendations. The American Journal of Family Therapy. 33:319-336.
Houts RM, Barnett-Walker KC, Paley B, Cox MJ. (2008) Patterns of couple interaction during the transition to parenthood. Personal Relationships. 15:103-122.
Kluwer ES, Johnson MD. (2007) Conflict frequency and relationship quality across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family. 69:1089-1106.
Relate. (2018a). Top 4 reasons couples argue after having a baby. Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-family-life-and-parenting/new-parents/top-4-reasons-couples-argue-after-having-baby [Accessed 1st December 2018].
Relate. (2018b). I can’t seem to stop arguing with my partner. What can we do? Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships/arguing-and-conflict/i-cant-seem-stop-arguing-my-partner-what-can-we-do [Accessed 1st December 2018].