Having kids is the ultimate test of endurance for your marriage or relationship. It seems like such an odd thing to say, because generally speaking, you think it will have the opposite effect.
Being pregnant brings you and your partner closer together. You’ve created this little life, a part of both of you, it’s the start of your own little family. And especially in those first few days after the baby is born, you do find yourself in this bubble of love with you, your partner and your newborn.
But then, very quickly, shit gets real.
The crying starts, there’s no sleep, an endless pile of nappies to deal with, not to mention bottles, breastfeeding, issues like wind, reflux and colic to contend with, as emotions run high and hormones mess with your brain, leaving you feeling as though you don’t know who you are any more.
Needless to say it all combines to create this perfect storm of chaos that comes in to test your relationship to the limit.
Through that bitter haze of exhaustion it’s easy to lose yourselves, especially when your partner goes back to work and it’s just you and the baby, with the full weight of responsibility for him or her pretty much resting on your shoulders. You’ll be up nights, dealing with their care all day, with little time for yourself. You can be dealing with feelings of loneliness, fear or even PND. You can be at your limit and it’s then that sometimes, all it takes is for your partner to come in from work and utter these three simple words -
‘God I’m wrecked.’
Wrecked? Did he just say he’s wrecked? Is he for real?
You actually feel something inside you snap… very loudly and you’re off.
It will likely be an epic argument, up there with your most memorable, as you both get into it hot and heavy about who’s more tired.
Of course, the truth is you’re both bloody exhausted and trying to get used to this new change in your lives, but neither of you can see that.
I’d like to say it gets easier as time goes on… and to some degree yes it sort of does, but 21 months into this parenting malarkey, myself and the hubby still have the ‘who’s more tired debate’ now and then.
I go on the defensive, because as a stay at home mum who works from home, the only time I get breaks from being a mum, is when the baby naps or is at playschool a couple of mornings a week, but of course on those ‘breaks’, I’m actually working. So the only time I really get a proper break is in the evening when my husband comes home from work to take over. And on the days when he comes home and huffs and puffs and complains that he’s tired, those are the days when I feel myself lose it.
Yes, he works damn hard every day and I understand that is tiring. Yes he has a lot of pressure on his shoulders and he also has a long commute back and forth each day.
I get that.
But by Jesus, he can sit back and listen to the radio while on the train every morning. He can read a book, or even sip a coffee in relative peace as he gets ferried into town and back… I’d give my back teeth for 30 minutes of that every day.
He also gets a lunch break. A full hour away from his desk, to eat something he hasn’t cooked, while no one paws him for a bit of his food.
Again, I’d love to have this even a few times a week.
And yet, I’m quite sure that when I tell him ‘I’m tired too,’ he doesn’t really get it. He thinks being a stay at home mum, who works from home affords me the luxury of getting to sit down and have a break whenever I feel like it.
It’s enough to make you just want to give up!
But somehow, we don’t.
We hang in there, we take a breath and try and understand that we’re both working hard in different ways. There's pressures he's under that I don't fully get and we both envy each others situation to some extent.
So we pause. We look at each other and we know we’re both wrecked and doing our best. I give him my hand, or he gives me a hug and a kiss. We look at each other and we don’t need to say another word. It’s the unspoken support we’ve come to give each other on this parenting journey.
And what we’ve learned (apart from that it is exhausting) is that while a baby puts your relationship through the ringer, the unexpected side effect is that it can actually make it stronger than either of you imagined it could be.