Parenthood: The relationship builder

Having children can be life-altering and can change your relationships with your family and friends, but often in a positive way. 

When you’re expecting your first child, other parents will gleefully rib you about how your life will change. They’ll chortle about piles of dirty nappies, say you’ll never go to the bathroom again without a little person bursting through the door and promise you that a spaghettistained T-shirt will become your daily uniform. 

However, not as much is mentioned about how parenthood may change the dynamics with your loved ones. While having children can challenge relationships, it can also have a positive effect on them.

A stronger family unit

Nicky Barton’s relationship with her husband, Adam, was tested when their eldest child, Caleb, 5, was born 7 weeks premature and diagnosed with mild autism spectrum disorder at age 2 years.

"Up until Caleb’s diagnosis, Adam seemed to be in denial that anything was wrong, but I knew something wasn’t right so that caused tension,” Barton, 41, says. “But once the diagnosis was made we became closer because we started working together for the sake of our kids.” 

After daughter Molly, 3, was born, Barton then slept in a bedroom with her for a year due to breastfeeding demands, while Adam slept in Caleb’s room to soothe him.

“It didn’t really affect our love life though, we just kind of worked around it!” Barton laughs. Now the couple rarely argue. “Even though I’m a bit of a stress head Adam is very calm. We’ve definitely grown stronger now we’re a family unit.”

Meanwhile, Barton’s close relationship with her mother, Diane, has matured.

“We’ll now have a glass of wine and talk mother to mother, rather than mother to daughter, about family things,” she says.

The biggest improvement has been in the relationship between Barton and her sister, Helena.

“We’ve always had a volatile relationship; however, now we both have kids it’s calmer,” says Barton. “We put aside our differences because we want the cousins to get along.” 

"We’ve definitely grown stronger now we’re a family unit."

family walking

Friendships strengthened

For Sarah, 39, motherhood has deepened her friendships, particularly as her family live interstate. 

“My friends are like my family, they’re so important,” she says. “Many have kids, and we can truly relate to each other.” 

Unfortunately, one of Sarah’s close friendships dissolved during her first pregnancy, which sometimes happens. 

“However, it’s made me grateful for the friends who’ve been amazingly supportive. We’ve been through the trenches together.” 

After her daughter Grace, 3, was born, the lack of nearby family made things challenging for Sarah’s relationship with husband, Paul. 

“We had to rely on each other 100 per cent, which was tough. I would’ve liked him to be more hands-on. However, over time we’ve found our groove. Since our second daughter Jasmine was born in December last year we’re like a well-oiled machine.” 

Despite the distance, Sarah has become even closer to her mum, Trish, and sister, Donna.

“Donna had children earlier than me so now we have another bond. With Mum I have even more respect for her. She raised four kids on her own. I now realise how much she had to deal with – especially all the nappies and toilet training!” 

Having children can be an intense period of change. At times you may feel like pulling your hair out, but don’t fret. While it can test your relationships, it can also lead to more fulfilling interactions with those closest to you. 

Having children can test your relationships, but it can also lead to more fulfilling interactions with those closest to you. 

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