My husband is outside with a few friends. By a “few” friends, I mean 30. Exactly 48-hours ago my husband and I brought our newborn home from the hospital and now he’s throwing a party. In his mind, a wonderful event has just happened in his life. He wants to connect with friends and celebrate. In my mind, I’ve just birthed an 8-pound future-adult out of my vagenius and haven’t slept in days. The last thing I want to wear to a party is swollen ankles and stitches in my lady-business. The hubs thinks I’m insane. I think he’s insensitive. We have a blowout fight and don’t speak for days. Things only get worse from there.
Six months later, it’s very clear to me that my previously blissful marriage is not in a good place. Prior to having a child, we were the annoyingly compatible pair who said things like, “We never really fight.” Or the phrase that could launch a thousand friends to eye-roll and vomit, “We just never get sick of each other.”
We weren’t trying to be annoying. We were in love and reveled in our rock-solid relationship. We were grateful to feel such a constant deep connection, which made it even more disturbing that it only took six months (or was it six hours?) of being parents to put a serious crack in our otherwise perfect relationship.
By the time our son turned one, things started to get better. Makes sense, right? Life with an infant is grueling. The older the baby gets, the easier it is to get back to being connected with the hubs. At least that’s how it was for us. So when conversations began about having baby #2, the hubs and I both panicked. Neither of us really liked our relationship year one of our baby’s life. And neither of us were anxious, or willing, to go back to a life of marital stress just to have another child.
But both of us knew we wanted to expand our family. We just didn’t want to get a divorce, too. So in effort to avoid a chasm in our relationship, both of us were going to need to make some changes. Here’s some things I decided to do differently.
1) If It Takes The Same Amount Of Time To Ask Him To Do It, I Do It Myself.
Simple, but oh so hard to do. Sure, it drives me crazy that my husband leaves his junk all over the house. And it makes me nuts that he washes the dishes, but only does half. He’s never taken the garbage cans in and ignores the mail unless I put it on his desk. But do I want my life to be about nagging? Best thing I can hope for is that the hubs will only be moderately annoyed that I nag all the time and that he’ll get moderately better and keeping our house clean. So if it takes me the same time to ask him to put his shoes away or take out the trash, I just do it myself. Who knows? Maybe he’s doing the same for me.
2) Have More Sex.
Or, at least try. I never have enough time to get my day done and there’s always a million reasons why sex is not a priority. But everyone’s a little happier after a game of “touch and grab” so I’m trying to say yes more often. And let’s face it, it’s not like sex takes that much time anyhow.
3) Give Him The Benefit Of The Doubt.
While I think it was somewhat (completely) insensitive to have 30 cigar smoking lushes in my house when I’d just had a baby, in my husband’s mind he was happy and wanting to celebrate. He wasn’t trying to hurt me or make me mad. He insensitivity wasn’t a personal attack. So I stopped taking his shortcomings as a personal affront. I stopped assuming the worst and things got much, much better.
4) If I’m Better At It, I Do It.
I’ve always believed that parenting is a two-parent job with both parents being equally responsible for the division of labor. I believed that right up until the point I had children. The truth is, the hubs just isn’t good at some stuff my kids require. And I’m sure I’m not either. Parenting shouldn’t be a game of “Tit For Tat.” Raising kids is not a competition. It’s not going to be equal.
5) Both Parents Don’t Need To Be Tired.
There’s one guarantee when raising kids: Mom and Dad aren’t going to sleep much. But two sleep deprived parents makes for two edgy, cranky people who can’t help their child much less one another. Sad as it is to admit, my husband can’t function when he’s tired. Sometimes it seems like he needs to sleep more than the baby. I’m pretty good at functioning with little sleep. So instead of us both being zombies, I do the nights. Yawn.
6) Staff Up!
No one’s tombstone will read: “She raised her kids and cleaned her house all by herself.” Barring financial constraints, there’s nothing wrong with getting some help with the kids, with the house, with the errands, or whatever. In the spirit of freeing up my time and energy so I can enjoy doing what I really want to do: Spend fun time with my kids, I get help how and when I need it. And no, I don’t feel guilty about it. Not even a little.
Life with our second infant was much easier than the first go around. Easier baby? Who knows. More relaxed parents? Maybe. Or maybe life gets better the more you start helping each other instead of competing. At least it did for me.