When Baby Makes CHAOS

Caught off guard by all the changes? Here are ways to strengthen your partnership

"My wife is out all day at play groups, toddler gym, the park?anywhere but home. So when I come home from work, everything still needs to be done around the house!"

"He gets home from work at six and sits down in front of the television set. When I ask him to take the baby so I can have a break, he says he's had a rough day and needs to relax!"

Complaints such as these are typical of new parents. No matter how committed you and your spouse may be, after a while the dirty diapers, the endless loads of laundry and the 2 a.m. feedings can seem overwhelming. One parent may think he or she is shouldering the brunt of the responsibilities at home and become upset with the other for not doing his or her share.

All of this can catch new parents by surprise. "Couples rarely realize how much additional work a new baby brings, and how much the little one's presence will upset the existing division of labor," says Diane Glazer, Ph.D., a family counselor in Santa Monica, California.

Before becoming parents, you and your spouse may have worked out an even division of chores at home, run errands together, or worked side-by-side preparing meals or doing yard work. Now that you're parents, one of you needs to be available to the baby, leaving the other to do the same chores alone. It may take a lot longer to get housework done, if it gets done at all.

If both parents have jobs outside the home, there can be different views regarding how off-time should be spent. "After my wife and I get home from work each night and eat dinner, there's only a couple of hours left before we go to bed," says the father of an 8-month-old baby. "My wife spends that time cleaning and organizing things around the house. I would rather leave our house a little messier and use that time to relax or play with the baby. When I don't pitch in with the cleaning, my wife tells me I'm not doing my share of the chores."

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