It's often not until your baby is six to 12 months old that you can really sit back and begin to feel that you are getting to grips with being a parent. The birth of a baby changes the relationship between a couple forever and there are many things that can create stress:
• Broken sleep for days, sometimes weeks, on end;
• Lack of experience and confidence, which can make parents feel defensive and often critical of each other;
• Finding that you don't always agree on how to bring up children;
• Problems such as colic can put rationalism to the test and take you to the limit of your tolerance;
• A cash-flow shortage due to one partner stopping work, or paying childcare costs.
It's easy to see how communication between partners can break down.
"Each night it's a real scramble as we both pitch in to get the two children fed, in the bath and into bed, with their clothes ready for the childminder the next morning, and the next load of washing on. Time to really play and spend time away from the hard work of looking after them comes at the weekends. And then in giving the children some 'quality time', Helen and I often feel that our time together as a couple gets squeezed out. By the time Jake and Jessica are in bed, we're exhausted." Neil, father to Jake, four and Jessica, one.
• Talk about how you share the workload, for example, is one of you happier cooking every evening while the other plays with the baby, or do you want to do a bit of both?
• Say what you want out loud, especially if you're not sure what it is that you want. Finding the right words helps.
• Think about taking turns when you need a break: an extra hour in bed for you today, for him tomorrow.
• Hugs and caresses can really make a difference when you're at the end of your tether. It helps to be hands-on loving.