Having a Baby is Like a Bomb Dropping on Your Marriage
A close friend who already had her first told me this when I was close to delivering my oldest daughter. I did not appreciate what she meant until we brought our tiny, new baby home and had to figure out how to handle our new lives as parents.
When our daughter was very young, it was easy to take her to a restaurant. We also had family nearby so we were able to schedule date nights. I regularly attended a breastfeeding support group where I met an amazing number of new mommies. We had regular playdates: picnics in Rittenhouse Square, coffee dates, and even baby friendly movie screenings!
When my daughter was 8 months old we moved to the suburbs. Moving was a challenge. We loved our house, but my husband’s office was no longer four blocks away and we had to drive to get everywhere. I knew no one and missed my friends.
Eventually, we settled into our new lives. I made new friends at the library and music class, and eventually started having regular playdates. Then I got pregnant again.
When my second daughter was born, I figured that we had this. We knew how to handle a kid. Two of us, two kids. Easy! My husband took our toddler out while I stayed home with the baby. We made it work.
But, somewhere in there, we started to lose ourselves.
We were both constantly exhausted. He works long hours and I’m home with two kids all day. By the time the girls are in bed, we have nothing left. For a long time, we would collapse on the couch at the end of the day and play with our phones, watch TV or read. We talk about our days and tell funny stories about the girls, but we lost sight of each other.
I started to feel invisible. All I did all day was cater to two children (one of whom is not verbal yet and the other never stops talking).
I felt like I lived for nap time and I had nothing more to give.
For a long time, I felt that I just needed someone to acknowledge everything I did all day. And what about an extra set of hands? Don’t get me wrong, my husband is great. He loves to play with the girls, has no problem pitching in with the housework and does all the grocery shopping on the weekends. But I still feel like I’m constantly doing everything.
Last weekend, I got very upset because he mentioned going to Barnes and Noble, but it was getting close to the girls’ bedtime and one of them had not taken a nap that day. Somehow, my oldest overheard this and had a meltdown over going to the bookstore when I said no. This made me feel like I was the bad guy and I realized that I often felt like the “not fun” parent.
Adding to all of this (no wonder moms are so exhausted!), I was feeling very lonely. For a full year, we were under what I affectionately called “nap jail.” I was alone with two kids, neither of whom were on-the-go nappers and I felt like all the friends I had made moved on without me. They were able to still do playdates and fun activities with their toddlers, while I was stuck home with a baby.
I also was not feeling great about myself. Losing the baby weight the second time around was much harder and I hated how I looked in pictures and did not feel attractive. All of these factors simmered in my brain until I finally exploded at my husband. I felt unhappy about so many things and he was the target for my anger.
After we put the kids to bed that night, we lay in our bed and had a long talk. There were lots of tears on my end as I finally explained how I had been feeling.
Part of the problem was a lack of communication on my part. I spend a lot of time passively hinting at things, rather than outright saying what I want and feel. I expected him to know what I was thinking and feeling all the time. I also realized that, even though I am endlessly grateful for the work he does because it allows me to stay home, I needed to say that to him more.
Most importantly, we realized we needed more time for each other and we needed to communicate with each other better. We started making an effort right away: gin and tonics on our deck together that night after the kids went to sleep. Asking my parents to babysit so we could get coffee and walk around a nearby town. Scheduling dinner and movie dates.
I also realized that I needed to carve out more time for me. I was fortunate that my mom friends were still around after I served my time in nap jail. Also, now that we are down to one nap, I can get out in the mornings. We joined a gym recently and I am 8 pounds down and already feeling better about how I look.
Our marriage certainly is not perfect. Like all marriages, it is a work in progress, but it is one we are both willing to work on. Our lives have changed so much since we had children. We adore them, but we both have to remember that our marriage is the foundation of this family and we need to nourish it regardless of how tired we are at the end of the day.
We need to take those moments to check in with each other and remember to say “I love you.”
Cheesy as it is (I’m not a “Twilight” fan), Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” has become our song. Every time I hear the lyrics, my mind always turns to the love I have for him: “I have loved you for a Thousand years and I’ll love you for a Thousand more…”
Because in the end, I love him more than anything in the world. We’re best friends and partners and parents together.
We just need to remember the “us” in this marriage.