Focus on the Family

Becoming a Parent

by Carol Heffernan

The nursery is decorated, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, the hospital bag is packed – and you're eager to begin your new life with your newest family member!

While nothing can quite prepare you for those first weeks of parenthood, there are many practical ways to help ease the transition. After all, taking care of your baby will be a round-the-clock job, and the only way to learn is through observation, education and experience.

Between the feedings and diaper changes, the sleepless nights and unexplained crying spells (Yours or your baby's!), fatigue and stress can quickly take a toll. So before you're officially a parent, take some time to "baby proof" your life.

The birth of a baby is, without a doubt, miraculous. Still, this major life change can rattle relationships, emotions and finances. How will you safeguard your marriage against the inevitable distractions, frustrations and busyness? How can you minimize the financial hit while meeting your child's needs? How do you listen to copious amounts of advice without becoming overwhelmed?

Take heart: We're here to offer wisdom and encouragement that'll help you survive and thrive during those early days of parenthood.

Is Our Marriage Ready for a Baby?

Wow, I'm a mommy? He's a daddy? We think we know what the baby needs. But what about us?

by Carol Heffernan

Jay and Nancy Gueldner couldn't have been happier when they discovered their first baby was on the way. Both in their 30s, with solid careers and a happy marriage, the Gueldners were confident they could handle their new roles as parents.

"We knew an infant was an enormous responsibility, and we knew it would be a huge life change," Nancy says. "But we had no idea that one little baby could be so all-consuming."

When Robby arrived, it didn't take long for the Gueldners to notice the effect on their marriage.

"I'm sure we neglected each other," Nancy remembers. "We used to have all the time in the world to spend together and nurture our relationship, and then suddenly, the baby was the first priority."

It's no secret that most moms and dads are blindsided by the magnitude of this transition. Indeed, even the most unflappable person can become unhinged following the baby's birth. But what many couples fail to realize is that stress, sleep depravation and emotional exhaustion can seriously damage a marriage.

Studies show that more than half of all married couples experience a decline in marital satisfaction following the birth of a baby. 1Furthermore, most couples report having eight times more conflict in their marriages after the baby joins the family. 2Trouble is, finding time to cultivate your relationship with your spouse – without your little one wailing in the background – isn't always easy.

"So many people told us to leave our son with someone so we could connect as a couple," Nancy says. "But we didn't have family nearby at the time, and we didn't feel comfortable hiring a babysitter we hardly knew."

If a weekend getaway or even a romantic dinner for two isn't realistic, there are other do-able ways keep your marriage on solid footing.

Remember: Parenting your infant won't last forever. Surely most moms and dads with little ones have heard the well-intentioned advice, "They'll be grown and out of the house before you know it!"

While this may be true, it may not feel like it during those first few years. Nevertheless, you and your spouse will be with one another long after the kids are grown. So in the midst of 2 a.m. feedings and emergency visits to the pediatrician, keep in mind that this is only one stage in your long life together.

1Well-known psychologist Dr. John Gottman conducted a study with results revealing that more than half of all married couples experience a sharp decline in marital satisfaction following the birth of a baby.
2Studies performed by Dr. Jay Belsky and John Kelly show that martial conflict increases dramatically after a baby joins the family.

Practical Tips for Parents-To-Be

Seasoned parents have a wealth of "been-there-done-that" advice to offer. Read on for encouragement — a gift from them to you.

by Carol Heffernan

Expectant parents often spend months preparing for the arrival of their baby. There are parenting classes to attend, parenting books to read and plenty of steps to baby-proof the house. Then, as soon as the baby is born, there's a whirlwind of activity and unexpected change.

Many new parents underestimate the intense helplessness and stress that accompany this life stage. What's more, according to the American Psychiatric Association, some 85 percent of new mothers display symptoms of mood disturbance, ranging from the blues to postpartum depression. The good news is, most new moms and dads receive support from family and friends that's sure to help ease the transition. With that assistance often comes a deluge of parenting advice. Take a look at these suggestions designed to help your household run more smoothly during those irreplaceable days, months and years.

Debunking First-Time Parenting Myths

We're setting the records straight on several misconceptions about pregnancy and early parenthood.

by Carol Heffernan

As an expectant parent, one thing is certain: Relatives, acquaintances and even strangers will assail you with endless stories and advice about child rearing. Trouble is, it's a challenge to know what to believe since no two pregnancies, births or babies are alike. Still, it's all too easy for new parents to fall victim to parenting myths or misconceptions somewhere along the line.

Fortunately, children and parents learn together, and your parenting can change and develop as your child changes and develops. Consider these common parenting myths that'll help put you and your spouse at ease during those early days with baby.

Moms and Dads: Invest in each other and don't allow your marriage to flounder. Take the advice of Dr. James Dobson:

"To keep a marriage vibrant and healthy, you simply have to give it some attention. Water the plant, place it in the sunlight, and it will grow. If you put it in a cold dark corner, however, it is likely to die. With a little effort and creativity, you can keep the fireworks in your marriage."


Parenthood definitely changes a marriage—but those changes can be for the better.

1James Dobson, Ph.D., Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000, p. 305-334.

Preparing for Parenthood's Financial Squeeze

The cost of caring for a new baby is intimidating. But raising children doesn't have to be as expensive as you think.

by Carol Heffernan

If there's one topic that raises blood pressures of new and soon-to-be parents alike, it's the financial expense of raising a child.

Maybe you've stumbled across an article detailing the daunting costs of child rearing, from birth through college. Maybe you're concerned about making things work on a modest income. Maybe you're anxious about your lack of financial savvy—particularly when it comes to long-term planning.

There's no doubt about it, money is a huge stressor for most new parents. As Jacey Rury, mother of three points out, "There's probably never a 'perfect time' financially to have a baby. If we would've waited until we paid off this amount or saved that amount, we may never have had kids!"

Certainly there are some unavoidable expenses, but having a baby doesn't have to turn your budget upside down—as long as you resist the urge to buy that chic diaper bag or those teeny-tiny name brand shoes. Just remember: it is doable to provide for your little one without breaking the bank. Here are some money-saving suggestions to keep in mind.

Becoming a Parent

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