The Relationship Gauntlet
Recently my gal pals and I were texting; 4 mamas and a soon-to-be mama. You may find yourself nodding your head here. The text convo went a little like this:
Mama-to-be: I’m so hormonal these days, I’m constantly angry at him for no reason. Like literally his face just pisses me off sometimes.
Mama 1: I think for me it got worse when the baby arrived. Not right away but a few weeks in, I was annoyed that he didn’t know what I was thinking. Or know what the baby was thinking.
Mama 2: I still get mad when he doesn’t understand my thought process.
Mama 1: He’d ask me a question about child rearing and I’d get so annoyed. Like why do I have to know the answer and tell you? Can’t you just know or figure it out another way? Lol
Mama 3: Well they do have access to Google!
Mama 1: Now I’m an ass and just say I’m not sure. I’m sure that’s great for our relationship, but I can’t parent a grown man. I refuse.
Mama 2: Ya that’s fair. They need to figure that shit out.
Mama 4: (me, who was away from my phone during the convo, otherwise I would have chimed in): OK I may need to quote some of these comments on the blog. 🤣
Now, I know where you think this is going. A free-for-all partner-ranting post. And I assure it’s really not. What the text convo highlights is the frustration, the overwhelm, the unknowns, the new experiences, the exhaustion and the assumptions. While my friends are aware that it’s ridiculous to think their partners should just know what they are thinking, it does highlight how hard it is to be new parents and not want to intentionally pass off a baby with a poopy diaper as payback for something they did or didn’t do.
Having a baby can certainly put strain on a relationship as you navigate your new life as parents. As partners. It’s so easy to forget you’re on the same damn team. This is something I have to remind myself of from time to time. Well ok, maybe a little more often than from time to time. It’s easy to notice all of the things they are doing differently than you. The key word being different, because I often think: ‘Why is he doing it like that?’ when in fact it really doesn’t matter. It’s ok that he makes her baby cereal super thick, almost to the point of cement paste, when I make it much smoother. She eats it both ways, and she may just have to chug back her water when she’s having breakfast with him. Why waste energy being bothered by these little insignificant things? Instead, I try to redirect my energy on watching the two of them laugh together and really just try to take in the much more meaningful moments.
I’m not saying let it all slide, but make a conscious effort to choose how much energy you put into getting frustrated with your partner. Communicate the things that really bother you, but take 2 seconds to consider if it really matters. And if it does, bring it up, don’t let it add to your invisible shit pile against them. My partner is an incredible dad, and seeing him with her over the last year and a half has made me love him even more. This is new to both of us, so at times, I need to give us both a break. And often a little rant to your friends helps release any pent up frustration. Comparing notes with a laugh, and some advice goes such a long way.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely find myself getting irked when I look over and he’s on his phone while hanging out with her. And I know he’s not the only dad ‘multitasking’ like this. Or when I am in the shower and he lets our daughter walk up the door and start banging, saying ‘Mama, mama, maaaaamaaaa’. Can he please entertain her so I can let my poor amygdala relax for 2 minutes a day? Is that too much to ask? Or when he is out cold and I hear her cry at night for the third time in a row. How? How do you not hear the cries? I think I am starting to see why the baby kangaroo hangs out in her mom’s pouch or why the baby orangutan clings to his mama’s back. I think they’ve figured out that dad might not notice if they fall off his back. I kid, sort of.
If you think about all of the priorities you have with a young kid, it often goes a little something like this:
2) Work/house/bare minimum social commitments/family demands/dog/etc
3) Basic self-care
4) Oh shit, my partner
Now this isn’t a reflection of importance, but more that the other priorities can often be louder and a little more forceful. And when you are chronically bleary-eyed from night wakings, and sleep regressions, and early morning baby alarm clocks and work deadlines and family commitments and squeezing in workouts to gain some semblance of health, that person beside you on the couch at night can start to seem far away. So instead of trying to think ‘Ok now I need to somehow carve out time and energy I don’t have’ think about the small moments you can create. While a date night out once every few weeks sounds nice, maybe it’s more realistic to do Friday date night in every single week. Takeout, a glass of wine after baby goes to bed and hanging out with each other on that couch. Chat-without a show on. If you normally trade off dog walks during the week, make the weekend about a family walk. If you start to recognize that life isn’t about just getting through the day or getting through your to-do list, you’ll realize you really do have time for these little moments with your partner. See your responsibilities and your to-do lists as eternally ongoing. They will never be fully complete-and that’s ok.
My friend reminded me of something a little while back. She said ‘You know it won’t always be like this’. We were talking about how overwhelming life is these days. And she’s right. The babies, who are now toddlers (single tear), won’t always be this dependent. Soak in the chaos of these years. Your house will one day be much quieter when they are out and about in the world getting up to big things. Knowing it won’t always be like this is bittersweet. Except that every day is more or less a mystery of how it will go down. Except that there are so many variables in your life, and ultimately you have much less control than you are used to having. So have that glass of wine on the couch with your partner tonight, bring the baby in bed on Saturday and just hang as a family before you get started on your weekend plans, share the important frustrations, but let the insignificant ones go and really watch them interact with the little human you two created. Acknowledge those moments your heart wants to burst because you love how they are showing up as a parent. And if any dads are reading this, this goes for you too. Express your appreciation and admiration for your incredible partner.