There were a lot of things I was expecting and prepared (at least as prepared as you can be) for when our little boy entered the world. I was expecting to be sleep deprived, have less time for household chores, learn how to eat one-handed, and have my days completely revolve around our baby. What I wasn’t expecting was the sudden and glaring strain on my marriage.
Things that maybe would have slightly bothered me before, suddenly bothered me a lot. I would ask for my husband to do things, like bring up the laundry or put together the diaper bag, and it would make me angry if he would forget or was too slow about it. Or, I would get angry about him working extra hours instead of spending the extra time with our baby and me. And I was so wrapped up in baby that I didn’t notice that I hadn’t even held his hand in weeks or that he was facing more pressure to financially provide for our family.
So why hadn’t anyone brought up the adjustment we would be facing in our marriage? Do people just not like to talk about it? The closest hint I got that there might be issues was the advice card I got from my mom at my baby shower which read, “Make time for you and Carl,” and when my delivery doctor told my husband not to be surprised if he ranked lower than the family pet after the baby was born. Looking back now, those were the only flags. No one wanted to tell me that having the baby was going to make our relationship hard. Having a baby is a wonderful and joyous event and cause for celebration…I guess no one wanted to rain on the parade.
But it’s normal! And common! So why aren’t people talking about it? Why aren’t people handing out books about improving communication skills alongside What to Expect While Your Expecting?
I was so relieved when I talked to a friend who gave birth around the same time as me, and she told me her and her husband were having a few issues, too. At first I felt guilty and ashamed, like I was failing at parent- and spouse-hood, but then I found out I wasn’t alone. Coworkers of mine talking about their kids mentioned how having their kids made them have to work harder at their marriage. I wasn’t failing. I was going through what most parents go through, the “adjustment to parenthood.”
So now, like my coworkers have experienced, I’m working harder at my marriage, or at least trying to work harder. My husband and I are lucky enough to know each one’s love language and to be friends along with being lovers. We try to keep our love tanks full (physical touch and quality time) and keep the lines of communication open. Some days are harder than others (lack of sleep, bad day at work, messy house), but we know we are both in it together and that’s what counts.
If you aren’t familiar with love languages, I’d highly suggest the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book was a big eye opener for me. I haven’t read it in quite some time though. I probably should again.