The health of a marriage and the mental health of the parents depend on working out a way to keep an identity separate from the children.
Doctors and marriage counselors hear it all the time, "I don't know who I am."
That's a sure sign you've got problems.
"It's always nice to know what you are getting into, and not just 'hey the baby is born, what do I do now'?" says Dr. Julie Taylor.
Taylor is an OB/GYN with St. Vincent's Health System.
She says she spends weeks with expectant parents discussing the many changes that come with a baby.
She encourages open communication. "I think talking about it beforehand with your partner or spouse to say, 'hey, these are my goals', 'these are my expectations' and realizing you're going to be exhausted. Taking time for yourself as a couple, but also as a mom and as a dad," Taylor explains.Taylor says, maintaining an identity is healthy for both parties involved. "Focusing on you and making sure that you're healthy. Because you have to have healthy moms and dads to have healthy babies," says Taylor.
Joan Leary is a marriage counselor. She says not having an identity or sense of normalcy can lead to resentment, which in turn can spell trouble for a couple's relationship.
"Part of my experience has been people who have a little bit older children, and I may hear someone say 'I've lost my identity', 'I've put my whole life into my children and my children's activities and I don't know who I am anymore," says Leary."My job as a therapist is to reframe that, talk with them about the pros and cons of where you are and where you want to be. To have the identity that you are looking for," Leary explains.Leary and Taylor agree having that time together as a couple is critical. "Taking time, even date night, letting the grandparents take over even just for a couple hours, go see a movie. Even if you sleep through the movie. Or go to dinner to be yourself, and get back to being the couple. Because that's what you were initially. Now you add the baby in, you have to still be that normal couple," says Taylor.