I never felt more love for my husband than watching him joyfully hold our son in his arms. I also never felt more hate for my husband than watching him deeply “sleep” while I breastfed the baby for the 100th time in the middle of the night (I’m still convinced his “sleep” was the same type of “sleep” I’m in when I hear him crawl into bed on Friday nights 😜)
I remember during our babymoon in Hawaii, my husband and I listened to audio books about pregnancy and parenting. As we laid on the beach, enjoying the ocean breeze and daydreaming about our perfect little baby, we started listening to a book on healthy sleep patterns. The author talked about severe sleep deprivation the first few weeks and I remember thinking “how bad can it really be?” Oh boy did I underestimate what was to come.
The first night at the hospital with James was brutal. I was beyond exhausted from the labor and craved any sleep I could get. Of course, the moment we put James down in our little hospital-provided bassinet, James woke up crying. My natural instinct was to breastfeed him, believing that once his little belly was full of milk, he will give me a chance to sleep. Little did I know; he would wake hour after hour. On top of that, the determined nurses kept checking in on me and James every few hours (obviously I’m grateful for the awesome job they were doing but could I have gotten a couple hours of sleep maybe?)
I thought maybe once we’re home, it’ll be better. Not so much. Real-life set in. On top of spending hours trying to rock and bounce James to sleep, I had to deal with the real-world burdens of never-ending laundry, cleaning spit-up from the floor and furniture, and the far-more-than-expected poop accidents (I had no idea that the poop could literally erupt out of his diaper up to the back of his neck). The lack of sleep surely caught up to me. I spent far too much time crying in the bathroom, wondering when this nightmare would be over.
At night, as I nursed my baby, I looked at my husband and just felt so much resentment. How is this fair? I carried this baby for 9 long months. I went through labor and pushed out a human being. I breastfeed all day and all night and hold this baby 24/7. And HE gets to sleep? No No No!
Well, unfortunately, there is no magic cure to get over these feelings (if you have it, please share!). But, what I can offer you are five tips that I read or heard from various sources that have resonated with me, and which, fortunately for my husband, have been good enough to keep him alive (so far 😜).
1. Ask for help and set clear expectations.
Various sources consistently mention that “You need to ask for help.” Yes, it’s easier said than done. When your baby is crying and you’re the only person that can comfort him, it seems like asking for help is not an option. But trust me, others can comfort the baby too. Same with contributing to household chores! Yes you may clean up, fold laundry or make lunch better than your significant other, but at some point you do need the help. Thank goodness I implemented this tip early on and asked my husband to make breakfast every morning, change diapers when he was home, do laundry on the weekends, and put him to sleep at night. This way he knew how he can contribute and really help me. I’ve come to realize that my husband was not simply avoiding helping me, he just did not fully comprehend what help I needed (yes, men are simple creatures, but not necessarily evil creatures).
I also needed to remind myself that my husband was working hard too and contributing to the family in his own way. And, even though he was not pulling night shifts like me, his hard work made it possible for me to stay home with James. But, they do need a gentle reminder that us moms are working double, if not triple, duty. Being a mother is a full time job just like any other job. And many times, it’s much harder than the regular jobs. This reminds me of this great article which states that being a mom is equivalent to 2.5 full time jobs: https://www.google.com/amp/s/nypost.com/2018/03/17/being-a-mom-is-the-equivalent-of-2-5-full-time-jobs/amp/
2. Accept the help, even if it’s not perfect.
Ok, so you’ve asked for help, but now you wish you didn’t? Ha, I totally felt this way so so many times. Whether it was misplacing dishes and silverware, orchestrating a 7-minute diaper change (when it should take no more than 2), or undercooking a quesadilla, at the time, it seemed like it would just be easier to do it myself. I remember feeling frustrated so many times that my husband didn’t know how to soothe James, or feed him or change him “correctly”. But after a while, it dawned on me that the problem may not have been the performance of the tasks, but the expectation that I had. To be honest, I have a master’s degree in criticizing, so it was very hard for me to pick my battles and keep my mouth shut. The more I picked on my husband, the less motivated he was in trying harder next time. So the second lesson I learned is to accept that people do things differently. And that’s ok. His way is not necessarily the wrong way; it is just different.
3. Take a daily break.
When I saw James’ doctor for the 1-month appointment, she asked me how I was feeling. I expressed that I have been exhausted and overwhelmed. She explained that the best advise she gives all her moms is to take a break for at least one hour every day. So my husband and I agreed that when he came home from work each day, he would take care of the baby while I take a physical and mental break–e.g., sitting on the massage pad, drinking a chamomile tea, snacking on something sweet, and (most importantly) watching a girly TV show. Of course there were days where hubby had to work late or was gone or my break only lasted 10 minutes. But, it was important for to me to stick to this routine as best I could. This was the only way I didn’t feel like throwing something at my husband. It truly helped me stay sane. And it surely saved me lots of tears.
4. Set a date night/day and stick to it.
Oh this one is so so hard for us. We realized that after having James, we didn’t spend any time alone, except for the occasional quick meal or, if we were lucky, 30 minutes of TV. Of course, I wouldn’t consider sitting on the couch, drained after a long day, and vegging out real quality time (my husband may disagree). So we decided to schedule a date (usually on Saturdays) while my mom could watch James and we both put the date and time in our calendar. Whether it was going to the park for a walk, trying a new restaurant, or just cuddling on the couch, having the couple of hours to just have “us” time is truly important to reconnect. Having a baby puts all the focus on the baby and it’s easy to forget where it all started: with us.
5. Be honest and share your emotions.
This one in my opinion is probably the most important tip. Bottling up feelings can really hurt a relationship especially after being already on a rocky path after having a baby. It’s difficult, but being able to express your feelings to your partner can be very liberating. Talking through the challenges with your partner can help reduce the stress and anxiety so much. One important tip I read in several books was to start your statements with “I/me” not “you”. You don’t wanna start a fight with your partner by attacking him directly for not helping. Instead tell your partner that you felt alone/helpless/overwhelmed that you had to____ . Of course this takes lots of time and practice but it’s an invaluable tool to work on. Sharing with your spouse that you feel overwhelmed and that you need a hug or just an ear to vent to can be one of the best ways to calm down and manage your anger and anxiety.
Marriage is hard enough without a baby. It takes hard work on both sides. However, having a baby brings unimaginable joy and a special bond and connection between the parents. It’s magical to see your significant other hold a tiny human being that both of you created. And yes, parenting is hard but just remember that this is a phase and time flies by. Live in the moment and cherish every experience with your new family. What seems like a big deal and makes you angry now will one day be something you will remember and laugh about.
So now after incorporating these tips, I definitely have less days where I wanna kill my husband 😜. Hope these tips help you out as well! I hope that you are able to take something new with you to help ease motherhood and decrease fights and stress with your hubby.
Comment below if you have any other tips, suggestions or any other comments! Thank you for reading my first blog post 😘