Editors Note: This is a four-part series of articles that examine the pressures a child places on your relationship and some of the things to try and remember, especially when times get tough.
There seems to be this misconception that having a baby brings you and your partner together, to the extent that some people mistakenly believe that having a child will save their relationship.
I can categorically say, it will not save your relationship, in fact, quite the opposite, having a baby has the potential to destroy relationships, even ones that seem rock solid. Adding a child into the mix will test you and your relationship in ways you could not have imagined.
The most important thing to remember is that if you are holding your breath waiting for a perfect partner, perfectly balanced equity in your relationship, hell even the perfect date night. Stop. You are going to pass out waiting. Do not hold your breath, take one. You are going to need all the oxygen your brain can get to keep a somewhat clear head, stay sane and not murder anyone.
Clint Edwards is a daddy blogger and his perspective on co-parenting is refreshingly honest and insightful. He recounts a day when on his return from a long and stressful day at work, he arrived to a wife (who was down to her last nerve) and three energetic children. All he wanted to do was to have a bath and decompress but his wife wanted that too – a break.
“We went back and forth, both of us attempting to argue that our day had been the worst, and therefore, that each of us was the one justified in taking a break. When I think back on this situation, it seems clear that both our days were equally bad, and in fact, we were both due a break, but only one could take it.”
He continues, “Sometimes, it feels like the universe is out of balance when you’re a parent. You can’t blame the kids because they’re innocent, so you end up blaming your partner.”
In a moment of what could be termed weakness, capitulation, he chose strength, he chose to be a good partner, he chose to take a breath and suck it up. He says, “I sucked it up, and slid into my role as a father like it were a winter coat on a summer day.”. He did what he absolutely did not feel like doing, he shouldered the child load and let her have a time out.
In this act of selflessness, is also a morsel of self-serving. Because that is what relationships are giving and take. One day I take and the next day I will give.
You know how couples always complain about one or the other being the worst duvet hog. That someone always ends up with their but sticking out of the covers, exposed and cold, all because the other half of the bed has rolled themselves up like a burrito in the duvet. Well, this may be the perfect analogy for relationships. It is a constant tug of war, and neither partner may necessarily be aware of the constant tug of war. But it is happening. There is always someone tugging and someone giving.
I think when this tug of war becomes unintentional that’s when it becomes problematic. You have to be aware in your relationship, aware of what you can give and what you can take. Aware of how much you need or can give. Aware of your boundaries and theirs.
But most importantly you need to be aware of when you giving an inch, gives your partner all the space they need to recover their sanity and sense of humour.
Ultimately it boils down to resources. We are all stretched, we are all tired, we are all irritated, we are all run down, but in that moment who needs the break most. Who is just that little bit more frayed, that little bit more shaky? And who has that little bit more left in them to carry on for a little bit further, a little bit longer?
The trick is that sometimes you have to take a breath and suck it up, and sometimes your partner needs to be the one to suck it up, it’s give and take. And like everything in life, it is never perfect, and so sometimes no one takes a breath and no one sucks it up and so no one gets a break and everyone gets to argue, snark and sulk all evening.
And if you or your partner are Olympian sulkers then sometimes you obstinately hold your breath until into the next morning. But don’t worry eventually someone will pass out and then the clock is reset to zero and the game starts again.
Ain’t relationships grand?
Leigh Tayler is a writer, a Leo, a feminist, a fan of The Walking Dead, a lover of all things unicorn and nearly succumbs to rage strokes on the daily. Oh, and she also happens to be a mother to one small feral child. She wears her heart on her sleeve and invariably tells it like it is, the good the bad and the ugly. She juggles her writing, her family, her sanity in-between a demanding career in advertising. She has no shame in sharing her harebrained and high-strung anecdotes on her experience of motherhood, no sugar coating, no gloss, just her blunt truth with a healthy side order of sarcasm. Find her on her blog, The Ugly Truth of Being a Mom.