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Fear & Expecting in NYC

Fear & Expecting in NYC by Eric Rosenblum, LMFT, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

Lots of couples seek therapy when they start planning for a family. It makes sense: the prospect of having a child brings up new and long-standing issues in couples.  

When working with family planning clients, the most common thing that comes up is a reckoning with the imbalance, in heterosexual relationships, between the burdens placed on an expectant mother and those placed on an expectant father. In addition to the physical burden the expectant mother takes on, there are also often greater societal expectations: from having to readjust one’s relationship to alcohol to, sometimes, an expectation of working less once the baby comes. The expectant mother is also the one with all the doctor’s visits. To state the obvious: pregnancy has a bigger impact on the mother than it does on the father.

How can a couple reconcile this? Does it help when the non-pregnant partner takes up a greater portion of domestic chores to try to make up the difference? Should the non-pregnant partner start giving the pregnant or hoping-to-be-pregnant partner nightly back and foot massages?

The short answer is: yeah, probably. But that still might not bridge the gap. Figuring out how to bridge the gap is one way that couples therapy can be quite helpful. It’s useful for both partners to share how they’re feeling in a way that no one feels blamed or maligned. Couples therapy gives both partners the chance to express how they feel and to ask for what they need, before and after the baby comes.

Some of what comes up for expectant couples feels specific to living in New York City. Couples often aren’t sure whether they should stay in the city to raise their kids, or if they should move to the suburbs or back to their hometowns. Choosing where to give birth seems harder in New York than it does in other places—there are so many options. There’s also the expense of raising a child in NYC. It’s not cheap! Couples who are struggling to get by in the first place often can’t quite fathom how they’re going to afford it, no matter how much they love living here. These are all items that couples may find it helpful to hash out in therapy.

One challenge that I’ve seen come up for couples is answering the question of who will sacrifice more professionally when the child comes. The partner who makes less money—be they male, female, or non-binary—is often terrified that they’ll become the default primary care giver, in charge of cooking, cleaning, picking up, and dropping off. They fear that their professional dreams and ambitions will dry up, vanish, disappear forever.

Couples therapy can be extremely helpful in sorting through these concerns.

One final reason that expecting or hopeful couples come to see me is because they want to work on some aspect of their relationship that they find troubling before the baby arrives. Some want to improve their ability to resolve conflict, for example, and others want to nurture a healthier sex life.

I have not yet touched on the challenges of infertility and IVF treatment. I see a lot of clients facing those challenges, but I will save that for another post.

I love working with expecting families in part because I love being a parent myself. I’m in the process of raising two young kids in New York City and it’s been a challenging but joyous experience. I love brainstorming with couples how they can best make it work and helping them to express their fears, needs, and desires.

              

 

About the author

Eric Rosenblum, LMFT

Therapist, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

I work with clients who are seeking to deepen the intimacy in their relationships, feel more connected and confident in themselves, and create meaning in their lives.

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