I read a post by R&R about how her marriage was affected by parenthood. If you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to click over. It's a good one, because it is written very well, but also because it encompasses so much of what marriages go through when two become three. . . or more.
No one really talks about the reality of this transition. Oh, I am sure there are books about it, but really, women should just be more open with other women. Then again, it might just be one of those things you have to experience for yourself to completely understand. Just as the fertiles of the world tried to tell me how exhausting having a newborn would be, I really didn't "get it" until I got it.
I remember when I was about three months pregnant with Will and my mom did try to warn me. She told me that my husband would become a lazy arse, I would hate him, and he would resent the baby. I pretty much laughed in her face and and told her that would certainly not be the case. Not my husband, the man who would run all over town looking for the "right" kind of lemonade for his queasy, pregnant wife. Not my husband, the man who was such a good Daddy to our furbabies. Not my husband who went to every. freakin'. doctor appointment without fail. She just said, "You'll see. . ."
Now, to be fair, my husband did not become a lazy arse, but it sure did feel that way sometimes. Not all of the time, mind you, but on weekends, when he considered himself "off" for 48 hours, but I was still on fulltime infant duty, I would look at him and think "What the heck?"
When Will's diaper was poopy for the 4,325,945th time and I asked him to do it and he said, "No." As if No is an option? I guess for him, it is. Not for me. Can't let the baby sit in his own feces and he sure isn't going to change it himself.
When all of the laundry, dishes, vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, scouring floors, etc., became my "jobs" now that I wasn't working outside of the home, but he would lay on the couch during Will's nap time? Yeah, I guess I felt as if he was being pretty darn lazy then.
Whew, getting a little fired up here. That is not the purpose of this post, but I wanted to give some examples. Now, please don't misunderstand me here, my husband is a good man. He gets up every single day, goes to his job, which he works hard at and is very, very good at, he brings home a good living, and he also manages our household budget, which is another very big responsibility. But it did seem that when Will came into our lives, a lot changed for me, but not as much for him. And while it seemed my workload increased exponentially, his seemed to stay about the same.
In talking with other newer moms, I see a definite pattern. Husbands defer the bulk of childcare to the wives. This seems to be the case regardless of whether the mom works outside of the home or in it. On weekends, husbands might eagerly play with their off-spring, but when it comes to the dirty jobs, they gladly hand it all over to their wives. Now, if this is not the case for you, I am really happy for you (really, no sarcasm intended or meant), but doing informal polling a lot of my friends and reading blogs, this seems to be the general case.
I have talked to my husband about this, and he does not see this to be true. He thinks that I "prefer" to do all of the heavy lifting when it comes to Will, that he thinks that he cannot do it as well as Mommy can. I feel badly, because if he thinks that, it must be that I have conveyed that. If I am honest, I definitely know there was a time or two (or twenty million) when he wasn't doing it the "right" (my) way and I stepped in and took over.
To show both sides here, an event that clearly illustrates this is the day that my husband was feeding Will lunch while I was doing some dishes. He turned to me and asked me if he could feed Will some more green beans. I automatically answered, "Yes."
Then I stopped and thought. This man is this child's father. He shouldn't have to ask if he can feed him something. . . especially something as innocous as green beans, but really anything for that matter. I never turn to M and say, "Can I do X?" when referring to anything in his day-to-day care. I might ask his opinion on some larger issue, such as discipline or whether to enroll him in a certain activity, but honestly, I probably already have my mind made up there, too, and would only change it if M had serious reservations. Why does M feel the need to ask my permission to do something so. . . simple? It is pretty clear to me, folks, that I was steam rolling my poor husband and being controlling when it came to taking care of my child. No wonder he hesitates to step in and help.
So, in the spirit of being completely honest, is this the classic "chicken vs. egg" scenario? Are men the ones that are lazy or do women take over? Since I find this repeating in so many households, I have to say that it can't just be me. I see it happen with all of my friends as they grow their families. So many have told me that when they add another baby to the mix, their husbands really step up and become more involved. I wonder if that's because the wives don't have the time and energy to take over as much and have to start letting go.
In addition to shifting roles and responsibities, becoming parents adds an entirely new dimension to the relationship. This dimension is both wonderful and unsettling all at once. Some of my favorite moments in my marriage have been watching my husband with our son. M is responsible for putting Will to bed everynight, and sometimes, I stand on the other side of the closed door and my heart just melts as I listen to him talk to Will.
The other side of the coin, however, is that there have also been times when M has let me down as a husband since we've had a baby. I'm not exempt here, either. Will definitely took first place for me for a long time, especially in the newborn days. Our marriage took a backseat while I was adjusting to mommyhood and while I know M "understood," it was something that we both had to get used to.
There is much to say on this topic, but I know that there is probably a lot that you can add about your experiences shifting from a couple to a family. What do you think has been the hardest part? The easiest? The lowest point? The highest?