I am just going to say it having babies is an absolute assault onto marriage. Being that I am a psychological information junkie, I already knew that the drop in happiness quotient from when a couple is pregnant with their first child to when the baby is less than two years old is the largest gap in a lifetime of happiness scale (even larger of a drop than divorce and death).
I chose to have another child because the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and what I already knew about parenting (although I skipped this whole baby thing last time) was allegedly so meaningful and enriching. Children connect you to the world and bring purpose to life in the most incredible way. But in the process of connecting to these new lives, it would be a complete and total lie to pretend that somehow it doesn’t completely disconnect you from the person with whom you built this new life. It’s sufficed to say babies can make you hate your spouse at times.
The more you take on, the less there is to give…and the way this plays out in marriage is that everything you want and need to be a whole and sane person becomes a negotiation of sorts. There is what you need, what your spouse needs and what your children need. Once you hit a certain level of needs, something has to give across the board; therefore you and your spouse become opponents in the “what you are wiling to live without” war.
It’s a common scenario. One parent has been at home for hours/days on end while the other is clawing their way through the grind of work to keep up with the responsibilities of their job and providing for the family. While one parent has been grinding it out to keep up with the endless needs of little babies, the other is drowning under the financial pressure of what it takes to keep the ship afloat. Work parent comes home after a long day of work with nothing left and needs a break to prepare for the work to be done the next day, and hands on parent is ready to hand off baby (babies) in desperate need of a moment of solitude without a leaching child demanding every last ounce of their time and attention. Thus the “what I need right now” dance ensues.
How can you be spent when you got to shower, and got to have a real lunch amongst adults, not to mention a drive home alone where you got to hear yourself think vs. how can you not understand the pressure of the monetary responsibility and expectations of my job.
Work travel brings resentment. Failure to seek compassion for the other side leaves everyone frustrated, and at the end of the day, no one is getting their needs met. Everyone is pushed past his or her “limits” and it certainly does not present the ideal breading ground for romance and intimacy.
Who needs passion and intimacy when there hasn’t even been space to go to the bathroom alone? As you can imagine this plays out in modern day marriage as a power struggle of who is really the boss. The most reverend CEO’s can hold the most powerful seats in the industry and then come home to be demeaned to complete and utter idiots for their inability to meet their spouse’s needs. Yes, its all great and wonderful that they can close a multi million dollar deal but that doesn’t quite mean anything when there are puking babies that are screaming their heads off and they don’t know how to soothe them in the right way.
The measure of your existence at home becomes about nothing but your contribution to the welfare and care of the kids and in the thick of the war that is parenting young children, it is virtually impossibly to get your head wrapped around anything other than what is happening within those four walls. Your professional achievements, your personal connections, your witty and charming disposition mean nothing in this kind of warfare and the truth is that all the things about yourself that you feel define you, fulfill you, and make you who you are go by the wayside (skiing, playing music, running). There simply isn’t the time or energy to devote to your personal pursuits or well being, which, as you can imagine leaves you feeling even less desirable or attractive in your partners eyes. You have to feel good about yourself to love someone else in any kind of meaningful way and when you are in this battle, you are in the fight of your life to save yourself.
So much of what I have read is about how #blessed we all are to have this newfound life and love – and yes, this is true…but so is this tug of war of who is in charge….and who got to eat dinner and get a shower.
And I guess my advice to the world is to simply accept that your “marriage” in terms of communication and intimacy simply goes to shit post babies. You are soldiers in war – not lovers in paradise.
And in these moments you will see what your marriage is really made of. I for one, think it is high time people start talking honestly about what an effect babies has on marriage and start to create more realistic expectations about what happens after the babies come. Most of the things I read talk about date nights, and scheduled sex and therapy as methods to maintain your marriage and make it a priority. I for one, found that every time we tried and then failed to have a date night it just left me feeling like something was wrong or we were doomed for divorce. Lord knows early in I put so much pressure on myself to put my marriage first and constantly strived towards feeling connected and still in love, and you know what – all it did was stress me out. My kids have come first because their needs are simply greater than that of my marriage at this time. Hopefully that pendulum swings back in the other direction over time.
I once heard a quote that said, “The secret to a successful marriage is that you don’t fall out of love at the same time,” and I think this is a more reasonable portrayal of what its really like trying to navigate love with young children. I think there have been weeks where I was resentful and weeks where my husband was resentful, but somehow one of us always managed to pull the other out – always connected by our commitment to make it towards the other side…and there is a level of love that is created from that kind of reckoning, the loyalty that emerges from being in war together. And in my marriage, we are at seven months postpartum and just beginning to dig ourselves out from it. We are closer, stronger, more connected than we ever were before, but the biggest part of getting there on my part was letting go of who we were and accepting where we are today. Believing that we are capable of maintaining those smily skinny people in this photo is an absolute impossibility in the absence of the time to workout and meal plan and function on less than 6 hours of sleep. We aren’t skinny and we simply don’t have the space to see one another the way we once did. We barely have date nights…in fact we barely sleep in the same bedroom, but we are both here together and we both equally committed to making this family work. And if I have learned anything it is to let go of getting back to what you once were and finding appreciation and joy for what you have become…. partners in love and war.