When I was 8 months pregnant with my first child, I made a declaration to my husband that after our baby was born, I was hitting the gym and getting back into shape. At that point, I didn’t know how or when it was going to happen, I just knew I was declaring war on the baby vessel that was taking over my body, and I was determined to feel like myself again. Being the wonderfully supportive man that my husband is, he silently stared at me, and eventually said, “OK, whatever you want.” Little did I know that this simple 10-second exchange was planting the seeds for our own casual “baby pre-nup agreement.”
Fast forward 15 years later and I’m running my own parent coaching practice based on the philosophy that the happiness of mothers is central to family life. When moms advocate for their own needs, they can parent more effectively and their children thrive. A happy mommy equals a happy family.
The key to implementing this philosophy is communication, and the best time to start communicating with your partner is before the baby arrives.
Expectant parents need to step away from the baby gear merry-go-round, and focus on one of the most important conversations of their lives—what life will look like after kids and what their expectations are of each other.
This sanity-saving conversation, my friends, is called a baby pre-nup agreement. Best of all? There are no lawyers needed! If you want to implement one with your own partner, here are my top five topics to cover during your convo:
1. The Hospital Etiquette
Remember, this is your moment, mom! You brought your family into the world so you should get to determine how things will go down in the hospital—before, during and after giving birth. Firstly, discuss with your partner who you want in the delivery room. If it’s your partner, do you want them to watch the action down below or is this off-limits?
Determine in advance who will be the hospital gatekeeper. You need a “bad guy” to professionally usher visitors in and out of the room, and an agreed etiquette on how long they should stay. I recommend a maximum of 60 minutes per visit, finished off with a simple “Thank you for taking the time to visit us, but we are tired.”
2. Night Duty
The next challenge that needs to be discussed in advance is night duty. Babies need to be cared for by both mom and dad equally. It doesn’t matter if a parent is staying home or on maternity leave, your baby was created by both of you, and deserves to be tended to by both of you.
It’s important to agree on a system of care in advance as you will both be sleep-deprived and incapable of rational decision making once the baby arrives. For example, one parent feeds, while the other burps and diapers. Or, one parent takes the first feeding of the evening, which allows the other parent to sleep, and then you switch roles.
3. Talk About the In-Laws
Extended families can cause strife in even the most harmonious relationship. Talk with your partner about family dynamics now. Make sure you and your partner are both on the same page with regards to grandparents and how much of an active role you want them to play in your baby’s upbringing. Grandparents will always want to take control of the situation, so you will need to establish boundaries. Present a strong united front from the get-go!
4. Housework & Errands
Your teeny baby will cause havoc on your normal household routine. You will quickly realize that you have barely any time to keep your home clean and organized. Those super brief stops you could make at the grocery store will now be a full circus event with baby in tow. So it’s very important to divide and conquer! This will save time, energy and arguments.
Establish a roster. For example, one parent does a full grocery shop one day a week in the morning while baby is napping in his car seat. The other parent can stay at home and do the housework. Remember, mornings are a great time to get out and about with babies as they are at their calmest. Once the baby is older and more alert, grocery shopping becomes a fun bonding trip to look forward to.
5. The Non-Negotiable
Before we become parents, we are individuals with our own lives. However, this can quickly erode after the baby is born. As part of your baby pre-nup agreement, you need to sit down together and discuss what core aspects of your life you simply cannot give up. I call this the “Non-Negotiables.” This involves self-awareness and advocating for your own needs. You must sit down with your calendar and chart out who is getting their ME time and when. Your baby has two parents and both of you deserve to have your personal needs met to be the best version of yourself for the family.
A baby pre-nup is all about having a conversation about specific expectations and needs before your baby arrives. It empowers you to avoid the sleep-deprived blame-game that so many couples slide into once the baby is earth-side. Think about your wants and needs—and start talking!
Eirene Heidelberger is a nationally-renowned parenting expert, author and founder of GIT Mom (Get It Together, Mom!). Through GIT Mom’s seven-step method, Eirene empowers mothers and mothers-to-be by teaching a “mom-first” parenting approach. Additionally, her first book will come out later this fall.
As a mom of three boys, Eirene has experienced the same overwhelm and anxiety most mothers first feel with their children. Her firsthand experiences inspired her to create GIT Mom, which has been embraced by hundreds of moms around the world. Eirene is a mom motivator, parenting champion and an all-around expert.