A new baby can place a real strain on a relationship, especially if the father already has other children. Mothers may find themselves jealous, and worried that their partner is comparing them with his ex. Fathers may find that their children from previous relationships are afraid that their parents will not “love them as much” as the new baby.
This can lead to a difficult situation in a step family as everyone tries to deal with the emotions that arise from a new addition to the family. Couples having a new baby together will find a very special bond forming between them, but it’s important not to exclude any existing children.
Who Tells The Ex?
Once the news has settled fathers might try to dodge the bullet here and let the children inform the ex-partners, but the fact is that exes should tell exes. The father should speak with his ex-partner, even if the relationship between the two is sour, as the partner’s child is about to have a sibling, and keeping this information from them is bound to cause its own emotional problems.
Biological Parents Should Tell Their Own Children
If the father’s children are old enough to understand, the biological father should raise the subject with them gently. If you’re even thinking of having a child, it’s a good idea to keep the kids informed so they can get used to the idea without being overwhelmed with it. They are likely to have some questions and they should be encouraged.
Grandparents can be a blessing here; because they are one step removed from each parent, they can provide an excellent environment to bring kids together in. Kids might feel like their grandparents are a safer option to talk to because of this separation and feel more confident talking about their mixed feelings with them as opposed to the parents.
Grandparents can also provide their experience and invaluable help when the baby arrives, and will no doubt be keen to spend time with their new grandchild.
Be Aware Of Previous Baby Experience
Some women could find their partners experiences of birth threatening, and fathers should be careful to make sure the mother feels secure and supported during pregnancy.
Expecting mothers may worry that their partner’s experience of the fatherhood process could lead to him subconsciously drawing a comparison between the mother and his previous partner.
The new mother may struggle to feel in control of a process which her partner knows more about than she does. Be aware that what might be intended as reassuring or helpful advice by the father can be taken as patronising or overly-critical. In short, both parents will need to be aware of their previous experience, and tread carefully.
Some Common Issues
For a father, there are many potential issues. The mother will understandably be anxious about the birth, and may expect 100% of the fathers attention, which could leave the old family and other commitments feeling put out.
His children may also be feeling betrayed, angry and withdrawn by the news that they’ll soon have a new sibling. Some children could feel they are losing their role in the family, or that they may be displaced by the new arrival.
The ex-partner could feel betrayed, and may react by becoming withdrawn, stricter access arrangements, or monetary demands.
The father himself could find himself drawn to this new family, and pulling back from his responsibilities with his original family because it seems like an easier long term option.
What’s key here is to be supportive. Your existing children are going to be anxious and have their own worries, while the mother will be apprehensive about bringing a new life into the world. During this time you could find most people you know giving you unsolicited advice on the birth process, but in the end the best thing to do is to focus on looking after your family and meeting their needs, while also looking after yourself mentally and physically.
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Lisa Shettles is a baby blogger and passionate about helping parents in that first step of parenthood and strengthing realtioships with baby advice.