TikTok's 'Marriage After Baby' Trend Is An Eye-Opening Look At Parenthood

TikTok is often blamed for worsening social polarization, but it can really open our eyes to untold things in life. Aside from recreation-focused content, you'll find many trends that bring awareness to everyday-life pain points we rarely talk about. The "marriage after baby" trend is one of them. 

"When it's taken you 2.5 years since pregnancy to feel like yourself. Your marriage is starting to thrive again and your husband and you are finally spending time together and learning to prioritize your marriage," TikTok user @hannahstayshome, for instance, shares in her video. "And now you want another child but want to start all over again and are scared to go back to anything rather than 'normal'." Many TikTokers stated in their comments that they also had the same problem. One user commented, "It makes me feel so much better seeing that other people go through this and it wasn't just 'us'." 

Regardless of where you stand on this, the trend begs the question of whether parenthood can affect marriage. Actually, the answer to this question isn't whether parenthood can change a relationship but whether the changes are for better or worse. No matter what the state of a relationship used to be, parenthood can cause monumental changes to it. For many couples, parenthood can turn out to be as sprightly as dropping an iron on their foot. Here are some ways a romantic relationship changes after the arrival of the little ones.

There's reduction in marital satisfaction

As it turns out, parenthood can put many couples in a funk. Researchers from The Gottman Institute found that 67% of parents experienced a significant decrease in relationship satisfaction in the first three years of the baby's life. A study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology also claims that the first year of transition to parenthood can cause a steep decline in marital satisfaction. According to the study, the factors that contribute to this drop in happiness include a lack of post-partum communication and responsiveness, the wide gulf between being child-free and being parents, childcare-related stress, and the overwhelming pressure of multi-tasking. Post-partum exhaustion makes marital conflicts more common, causing a marriage to go from heart-eyes to outrage.

Also, it's not uncommon for couples to experience unfulfillment in their lovemaking post-baby. "It's completely normal for both women and men's libido to hit a rock-bottom low during the first six to nine months following the birth of your baby," says ob-gyn Sheryl Ross (via WebMD). From a physiological standpoint, women usually experience a steep decline in estrogen — the hormone that makes people feel lusty — after giving birth. For this reason, many new moms lack interest in having sexual relations for up to a year post-partum, which can lead to their spouses feeling neglected and fed up. Although physical intimacy is not everything in a marriage, lack of it can make a relationship rocky and ultimately lead to a breakup.

Communication is reduced to mechanical obligation

There are definitely changes in the way a couple communicates after having kids, especially for first-time parents. Flirty texts and affectionate late-night chats are replaced with habitual conversations revolving around the tedious details of family life, from child-rearing philosophies to house mortgages. After childbirth, a mother usually has to curtail her social activities to take care of the baby and do more domestic duties, while the father takes on the added burden of financial responsibility. The common scenario in every perinatal family is that the stay-at-home parent complains about feeling disconnected from their friends, while the working parent comes home not wanting to spend time with their caregiving partner because they're too exhausted from work.

Tempers can easily flare and conversations get heated when both sides feel exhausted and unappreciated. One study showed that the first year of parenthood usually witnesses 187 arguments, with a 40% increase from the pre-parenthood stage (via The Daily Mail). Besides, new parents typically suffer from sleep deprivation, which can make them more stressed, irritable, and likely to fulminate against their loved ones. If you're a new parent struggling with everything from nursing the baby to battling stressful thoughts, remember that verbalizing your feelings can help your partner better understand your challenges. When you need help, ask for it — be it a short nap to recharge your energy or more sharing of house chores.

Couple time is out of the window

Part of the difficulty of parenthood is that you get busier and have far less time to spend with your partner than you did before. Your time as a couple will be determined by the baby's feeding schedules, sleeping schedules, diaper changes, crying outbursts, sleepless nights, and so on. If you want to have some private time together, you'll need to enlist help to watch over your kid. While some people are excited about these lifestyle changes, others may feel like they're drifting away from each other and begin to withdraw emotionally. Couples need to spend time together to cultivate closeness and support.

Even when you're snowed under with household obligations, making time for each other on a regular basis can make an impact on your relationship, according to psychologist Carol Ummel Lindquist (via Parents). That time away from the kids reminds you that you're still partners — not just parents. To keep the spark alive, schedule weekly romantic dates where you can dress up, talk about the things you used to, and do fun things together. Quality couple time reminds both of you of the fun and attractive side of each other and helps you break out of the usual parenting routine for a while. When you're in the middle of your couple time, focus your energy on your partner and save the baby care-related discussions for other times.

Parenthood might produce an identity crisis

With a new baby comes more obligations and sacrifices. Your alone time becomes family time. Every trip outside the house will require prior planning and preparations. Every small or big decision you make for yourself, you have to factor in the interests of your baby. You'll feel cut off from your old life and you wonder if those spontaneous, carefree moments are out of the window for good. The loss of familiarity and the pressure of adjustment into a new role can throw a new parent into an identity crisis. Not to mention, childbirth can take a toll on a woman's self-image. 

Although new mothers usually bear the brunt of the transition, new fathers can also experience an identity crisis and have a hard time with lifestyle changes, according to marriage and family therapist Bruce Linton (via Fatherly). Not only might new dads feel excluded from their partners, but they also struggle to adapt to their new duties. Cue spending more time at home, taking their partners' irritable behaviors without a fight, and resetting financial priorities.

"I think it's okay to have a period of mourning in which you say goodbye to your old, more footloose life," says mom and author Jancee Dunn (Healthline). According to Dunn, she and her husband take 15 minutes every day to talk about anything except their kid and the mundane details of family life and try to relive their pre-kid days when they can.

The baby blues make marriage life more difficult

When it comes to parenthood, moms are usually the ones who bear the heaviest cost. Up to 70% of women experience the "baby blues" shortly following childbirth, which lasts anywhere from one to two weeks, according to WebMD. "Baby blues" are characterized by mood swings, which cause you to feel overwhelmed from one moment to the next, from extreme joy to extreme sadness. When the mood swings strike, you just want to lash out at somebody and your partner usually ends up being your verbal punching bag. If your partner is not understanding or you don't get the support you rightfully need, you two will be fighting all the time.

A far more severe mental health issue that affects many new moms is post-partum depression (PPD). It can last for a few days, months, or even years. People with PPD experience extreme mood changes on a more intense scale and need timely treatment to get better. Extreme highs and lows apart, PPD can make you despise motherhood and vent your moodiness out on your partner. Therefore, it's essential that your husband has a thorough grasp of PPD and how it affects a person's physical and mental health so he can have reasonable expectations about becoming a parent and can support you as you battle with post-partum mood and anxiety disorders.

What's important now is that people are talking about marriage after having a baby. It's a different experience entirely, and people need to know this before jumping into parenthood.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.