Monday, April 25, 2011
When I began thinking through this post I was entering my 40th week of pregnancy. On maternity leave, counting down the days until my baby would arrive... and feeling like a woman on borrowed time. During the first half of my second pregnancy I was a BUSY lady, doing perhaps a little too much. Finishing graduate school, practicum, working part time and planning a wedding. Needless to say when things slowed down and classes were complete, nuptials were exchanged, I felt entitled to chill. My husband shared this sentiment and he became even more of a supportive partner than usual. He's already a really involved Dad, but he went above and beyond with our son as my belly expanded. Breakfast? Done. Dinner dishes? Done. Cars cleaned and gassed up? Done. Laundry, cleaning, you name it? Done. It was amazing. I remember mentioning this Superman syndrome to a girlfriend and wondering if this attitude was pregnancy inspired or part of our "Honeymoon period". I wasn't trying to "milk it" but the perks were goooood!
As my induction date approached I worried that my right hand man might be less hands on when the baby arrives. Now our daughter is 3 weeks old and my worries were for naught. Hubs continues to be as involved with both of our children and the operation of our household. As he's explained to me his actions during pregnancy were an act of partnership - not a short term exercise of obligation. He was simply picking up the slack as needed, something that we have done for one another throughout the course of our relationship. This got me thinking about how important partnership is in relationships, especially when children arrive to turn a couple into a family.
Give and take, sharing the load - we'd think that these ideals are standard within committed relationships. However some couples are polarized by their gender roles, or operate as separate but equal as they manage distinct domains. Nothing will make parenting harder than adhering to that mentality. In successful, well functioning families there is one page, and Mommy and Daddy better both be on it. I suggest first time parents take this to heart. Surely expectant fathers are quick to dote on their honeys during maternity. It is important that men realize that continued care and support will be just as critical post-partum. Just because baby is born doesn't mean Mom will be immediately back to "normal". In fact from that point on there is a "new normal". Hormones are still fluctuating, sleep is evasive, priorities shift, schedules change and baby rules the roost for quite some time. Moms and Dads must work together to rethink how life will best be managed by them as a team - a unit committed to collective success.
Moms have to watch their moods and attitudes, though being a little grumpy is to be expected. A lack of sleep and the "baby blues" can be a bad mix which leads you to take your spouse (and other helpers) for granted. As they vacillate from feeling euphoric to underwhelmed or overwhelmed, at times new Moms may be unable to appreciate what a magical time this is for your growing family. Dads need TLC too. At times it may be hard for them to compete with baby for Mommy's attention. They're less funny, charming and adorable with an infant in the room. They may feel as if they can't do enough, or compare themselves to their super spouses who juggle it all with ease.
The long and short of it is simply this, GET IT TOGETHER. Take the advice of friends and extended family to heart, but spend time alone figuring out what works for your partnership. Don't let your notions of gender roles and rules hinder your ability to work together. By building your solidarity you will find the toughest parenting patches easier to traverse. You will undoubtedly be less exhausted, and you just might find more time to spend together doing grown up stuff. This solidarity will be on display for your children and will give them their first cues about coupling. The habits you exhibit will equip them for healthy personal relationships in the future.