Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Life After Baby, Part 1: The Marriage

There are a handful of truly significant changes in life, the birth of a new baby among them. Ever since Charlie's sudden, yet joyful entrance into our lives, there have been a number of change-related posts I've wanted to write. Now that we are beginning to settle into our new reality a bit more, I've decided to write a series of posts about how our lives have been transformed. The first topic on my mind, also perhaps the most important, is our marriage.

Please note that I am writing from the heart here, and sharing our experiences as I have lived them...I hope none of this comes off as though I'm complaining, because nothing could be further from the truth!

When we brought Charlie home, we had been married almost exactly 12 years and four months. That's a long time with just the two of us, which has turned out to be both sweet and sour. On one hand, the fact that we've got such a solid foundation upon which to stand has meant that our transition has been easier. We have a lot of happy times and good memories to lean on when we are missing "us" a little bit.

And it's true, I do miss us as a couple sometimes.

I love and cherish every moment with Charlie, but I also miss the time just hanging out with my husband and doing nothing...or just going with the flow without having to consider how our decisions will affect our little person. Especially as "Mommy," the primary doer where Charlie is concerned, I find that I'm almost always preoccupied with what's going on with Charlie at least a little bit. Unless I'm sleeping, I'm rarely completely relaxed anymore. I do relax, but even when I'm in downtime mode, I'm contemplating what's coming next in Charlie's world, if that makes any sense. All that being said, and without tooting my own horn too much, I think I'm one of the more laid back moms out there.

We have been on one "date night" since Charlie's birth, when he was about two months old. We had a good time, but Michael actually surprised me that night by saying he didn't understand why we needed a night for just us, when Charlie could have just as easily been with us. At the time my feelings were hurt. There I was, trying so hard to balance myself between wife and mother, doing what I thought I 'should' do, and my husband was basically telling me he thought our date night was stupid. But...that was an enlightening moment for me at the same time that it was hurtful: Wake up call...Michael is missing Charlie! I get so busy going about my days with Charlie that I forget Michael is missing time with him while he's away at work. We try to meet for lunches when it works out, and sometimes I take Charlie to the library to visit Michael while he's working, but that's still not enough.

And that brings me to my next point - the whole work versus home balance. One thing has become crystal clear since Charlie's arrival, and that is that Michael and I are drastically out of balance where this is concerned. He works two jobs so that I can continue my education, while I do most if not all of the work around the house. This was a joint decision we made years ago; however, my educational path has been longer than I initially anticipated. I am at the point now where I am frustrated, and I really can't wait to have a "real" job again. Even though I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, I do carry a lot of guilt over the fact that I pull very little financial weight in our marriage. And it's me who makes me feel this way, not my husband. He works way too much, and he is often exhausted when he gets home at night, but he's rarely got a chip on his shoulder about our situation.

Why is it that women struggle with guilt so much...or is it just me?

The other part of that package is that I also feel some resentment over the fact that the weight of all the chores is on my shoulders. In particular since Charlie's birth, mowing the yard and taking care of both outside and inside has become overwhelming for me. Things aren't getting done, and it's piling up. I feel as though we need outside help, but that's most definitely not within our budget at this stage of the game. I think Michael and I both feel unappreciated by one another at times, and we could both stand to work a little harder at finding and naming the value we each add to the mix. Sometimes I feel as though we are a house of cards, and if either one of us stops doing what we're doing, it's all going to come tumbling down. Perhaps that's a bit melodramatic, but I have felt it a time or two these past couple of months.

I think I'm almost done with this installment of "Life After Baby," but this post wouldn't be complete without me mentioning my observations that when it comes to babies and child care, men and women are very different! When Michael first went back to work, we had a slight glitch because when he would get home at night, I was handing Charlie over the second he walked through the door. I was under the assumption that's what Michael would want, since that's what I feel like I would want if I was working outside the home all day. It took one serious discussion, and a few more hurt feelings before I understood that what Michael wants/needs when he gets home is to have a few minutes to himself before he takes Charlie. It's not that he doesn't want to see the baby, it's just that he needs that few minutes of debriefing time first. Now that we've sorted this out, we have a pretty workable routine, but it took effort on both our parts to get to this point.

There are also differences in the way we interact with and care for Charlie, as well as how we prioritize. I try to take a step back and let Michael do things his way, but sometimes I have to bite my tongue a bit as he's figuring it all out. As he put it during one of our "discussions," I've been preparing for this time of our lives since I was 12, while he's only just getting started. Sometimes I feel that he over-complicates things, or makes them more difficult than they need to be. By that same token, I was feeling that Michael was being somewhat oblivious to the things that needed to be done around the house and/or for Charlie. After we've been out and about, Michael has a tendency to get home and go about his business, forgetting the fact that we have a baby boy for whom we need to care. I don't think this is intentional at all, I think it's just a habit born of so many years as just the two of us. There was never anyone else to consider before, and we are both having to make mental adjustments to find our harmony. I have fond myself increasingly falling into the role of director where I'm constantly asking him to do things when what I really want is for him to look around, see that there are dirty bottles on the counter (as one example) and voluntarily do something about it.

The good news is that things are smoothing out a bit...slowly but surely we are getting there! We are becoming a lot more adept at discussing these matters without one of us having our feelings hurt, or getting angry. Communication is so very important in marriage, and especially where children are concerned. In August, Michael will be starting a new schedule at his second job where he will work several less hours per week. We will still have to work hard to strike a balance between time for us as a couple, time as a family, and individual time for each of us, but this change will make a significantly positive difference for us. Then will come another big transition when I head back to school full time this fall. I'm nervous about the logistics of all that, and incorporating child care into our mix, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

For now, we are taking things one day at a time, and enjoying this special time in our lives as new parents of the most wonderful little boy on the planet. Even though the change has come with it's fair share of upheaval, we are happier and more fulfilled than we have ever been. We are so grateful for the precious gift Charlie is, and we will never become complacent, or forget what it was like to be without be longing for him with every ounce of our being, every day of our lives.


Cari said...

You have a wonderful way with words. You have described the last 10 years in our house. We have smoothed over most of it, but still struggle with the "handing over of the kids" at the end of Ed's work day.

Remember that your relationship with Michael should be your priority. Everything else will fall into place.

M/J Granata said...

This is a beautiful post.
I am not in your shoes at this very moment (I hope to be sooner than later, though!!); however, I can only imagine that the transition and the global changes that come with it are/have been very challenging on so many levels.

Every post you write paints a very vivid picture of your pure and honest love for Charlie... AND for Michael. All of the "stuff" in between must be very 'normal' in regards to adjusting to a precious addition to one's home.

Mike and I are used to "us"... life will surely change when we adopt a baby! I have had so many friends express similar guilty feelings and similar challenges, as you shared.

I sincerely admire you for your diligence and for your sincere honesty. It can't be easy for you right now. You are right, it will all work out in the end... and as each new struggle/challenge arises, you will tackle it, together!

You are meant to be a mommy... and you ARE! God will provide you with all of the pieces to put the puzzle together perfectly! He gives us our true heart's desires!

I will keep you and Michael and Charlie in my thoughts and prayers as you head into the fall season! For now, love that precious little baby boy and your wonderful husband to pieces!

Best wishes...
Julie :)

A said...

Beautiful post!! :) (Delurking)

Rebekah said...

Melba this is really beautiful! What a good idea for a series...I'll be tuning in for sure.

I see so much of me in your words. After only a few short weeks, our relationship has changed so much. I hate admitting that....and am still trying to process what is happening to our world.

As we work it all out, I'm glad this is another point we can relate on. It helps so much to know I'm not alone!

Jamie said...

this is beautiful melba ~ so raw and honest and the good thing to know is that you and michael are not alone in the changes/frustrations that have occurred in your lives. :)

you both have a wonderful relationship that ~ thank goodness ~ involves communication. :) that's the key as you even thought these things are occurring, the good thing is that you are both committed to working through them for the betterment of your whole family.

thank you for sharing your heart regarding's so nice to know that we are not alone in the extended journey of "life after baby". :)

thank you for your comment to my last post. i really appreciate your feedback and shared ideas. :)

Andi-bo-bandi said...

Great post, Melba! It is so true. There is a lot of adjusting once baby comes home that most of us don't think about beforehand.

For us the biggest thing was that although we planned on me taking time at home my husband was laid-off the SAME week that KJ came home. Hello? Wake up call! LOL

I now work full time and my husband is the primary caregiver. It has actually worked out in both of our best interests. God knows even when we don't! It has been a struggle but we have learned so much about one another, our marriage, and our relationship with the Lord.

Have faith, friend. It will all fall into place!

hope548 said...

Great post Mel. I can relate to just about all of it. And yes, the guilt, I have that too.

I have been trying and trying to write my own post about this, but haven't succeeded yet. I can't quite get my ideas straight about it, but I definitely agree that communication is key and throwing a baby into the mix when it's been just the two of you for so many years can really change the dynamic in your home.

BB said...

Oh Melba, you have me in tears!!! I needed to hear this!! We have so many of the same "issues" in our home... only I am grudgingly working full time as well.

It is HARD. When people talk about how parenting is HARD, I always thought they were just complaining. In some ways, I still do. None of what is HARD for me has anything to do with being a mom, per se. Being a mom is pretty easy and natural for me. It is being a mom along with being everything that I was before I was a mom.

Men and women are so different. I think that while it isn't the 1950s any longer, many of those roles that had been carved out for us still exist. For our entire marriage, I have always done the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning. Not because it was my job, but because I just did it. The thing is, after awhile, it kind of became my JOB. Hubbs always kind of did the yard and emptied the trash. Not exactly a 50/50 split.

Now, taking care of the baby is my JOB, also. I am ok with that, because that is the best job in the whole world. If she cries, it is my role to either take care of her, or ask him to (which he will if I ask, but he is 'helping' me). He isn't an ass or anything, it is just how things have fallen into place at our home. The problem is, all the other things that are my job, along with my actual job... there simply just isn't enough time. And the worst part is, I can't get all my jobs done and there certainly isn’t any ME time. But time with my daughter is #1 for me. Running the household comes next, and then “me time” falls somewhere at the end. The only time I can get any ‘me time’ is after R goes to bed, but then I get a guilt trip from Hubbs about not spending any time with HIM. I feel like I am spread pretty thin.

A few weeks ago we were at birthday party (with my BIL, SIL and their twins) and a elderly woman commented on how much more men help out now than they did in her days. It totally went to hubbs head and he tried to use it in a discussion about how I need more help. I had to clarify that while he may "help" me more than a 1950s father, I also bring in a whole lot more financial "help" than a 1950s mother. If we look at it that way, he isn't "helping" me nearly as much as I am "helping" him.

As far as being a working parent, I think men and women are just different there, too. When I come home, it is all R for me (most of the time). I just want to soak up every second of her that I missed all day. Hubbs, not so much. He wants to relax and wind down, which is ok…. And quite frankly necessary because there isn’t enough of her to go around!! It has made me kind of a crazy mama, though. The kind that wants to chop loving relatives hands off when they try to love on her during my time with her.

Again, like you said, being a mom is the greatest joy of my life. I am not complaining about being a mom or about R AT ALL. I am complaining about all the other stuff that isn’t as much fun or rewarding, yet takes up lots of my increasingly valuable time. Stuff that HAS to be done, that no one wants to do.

So, obviously your post really resonated with me and I probably could have used my own post! Oh well!! Here is to adjusting!!

Anonymous said...

Melba, I admire your honesty. I think you have hit a heart string for so many women (and possibly men) in the blog community. So many times our blogs contain all the "fun" things of parenthood, but I think its important to note the challenging parts of it as well. I am on the other side of the adoption process...Im a birth mom...a new birth mom at that...and I enjoy reading your blog because its real...its honest and I love your heart. In no way did you come accross as complaining.

Thanks Melba


Rachel said...

Dear Melba,

I just discovered your blog yesterday and spent a good chunk of time reading through your past blogs. I have to tell you, I appreciate everything you have written.

In fact, at point, I thought we could be sisters :)

I have just started this journey and my own blog, and your entries reminded me of my own feelings and things I have already written. I so appreciate it. And I really liked this entry, because just the other day Keith & I were talking about how to "protect" our marriage when we do finally have that little one in our arms and our home. This is very encouraging to me.

So, thank you. Between you and Rebekah's blogs, I am filled with such hope for our journey. And I was so lonely earlier this summer, thinking I was the only woman on earth to be feeling & experiencing what I'm feeling and experiencing. I no longer feel so lonely, thanks to you!!


Malloryn said...

Melba, thank you for your honesty and for sharing the ups and downs of new parenthood. It's been just DH and I for about ten years, and we probably haven't given enough thought yet to the adjustments that we'll need to do. I think the most valuable things I took from your post was the importance of communication, as well as always remembering what you value about your partner. It sounds like you two (three!) are finding your way along this new path... a few bumps here and there, but you just need to look at your son to know its worthwhile :)

I love your changing headers as well, with the new pictures. So talented!

E said...

Oh my goodness Melba...I've been thinking about writing on a similar topic for some time. Of course since we're still waiting, the focus would have been on "loss" of "just the two of us". Quite frankly, I'm anticipating that I will miss that. Like you, we have been married for some time (10 yrs) and only ever had to focus on ourselves and each other. Thanks for writing this. I also expect that we will have some growing pains when it comes to our roles and distribution of the workload once baby is here. I think about this so much...and I do worry about it too.

It sounds like you and your dh work well together as parents. Sure, "discussions" happen and while it might not always be easy, communication is so important, as I'm sure you know. Otherwise, resentment can set in, as with anything else when couples don't communicate.

Mommy guilt, as far as I can see, occurs no matter what...SAHMs may have guilt about not contributing financially, moms who work outside of the home feel guilty about not being with their child. And it goes on and on.

While it's a ginormous change in your lives, it's a wonderful one! I only need to look at your family pic to know that!

TXMom2B said...

I'm glad you can be so honest about it. I felt like I reading about the first 6 months of our new life with Andrew. I can say that it does get dramatically better. For the last 2+ months, Andrew has been sleeping from at 7 or 8pm through the night, so my husband and I do get time together again. Sometimes, we'll pack up the baby in his pjs and go to a cafe late at night. The baby usually sleeps right through it, and it's nice to get out of the house with Jim. Jim and I also figured out a better chore balance, too, and that helped a ton. Very few people can get all the chores done in a house without going crazy. On Saturdays, Jim and I swap taking care of the baby while the other person does chores. Then, on Sunday, we take a true Sabbath and try to not do any chores other than dishes and cooking. We try to plan some quality time, even if it's just relaxing around the house.

Debbie B said...

Great post. We were married 5 years and one month. While I believe that was a great foundation for us like you mentioned my Dave is a rather needy husband. I have to make sure I schedule random date nights without Isabel. He'd be happy to have them every week while I don't understand why he doesn't want to spend his time off with our daughter as well.

I struggle with the same guilt of not bringing in enough for our family. If only I could bring in more we wouldn't struggle so much. Big time guilt.
Oh yeah, I'm shaking my head reading about the household stuff. I have to make a conscious effort to tell Dave how much I appreciate... He's just now finally (with me working two jobs) letting it sink in that I need help. I haven't had to clean the kitchen in weeks thanks to him. And just that little bit of help makes everything so much easier for me around the house.

Excellent post. Thank you for honestly putting this out there.