Having children is one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make with your partner. Can we afford a baby? Do we have enough room in our house? What will we name this new person? What should the nursery look like? Do we really want to give up our fun night life? Which childcare route are we going to take?
All of these questions, and several hundred others, may cross your mind in those months leading up to your final decision on the matter. But one question that many people overlook is whether the relationship that they have with their spouse is strong enough for all of the stress that comes with bringing a new human into the world.
Before you start thinking that all I'm anti-baby, let me explain (in case you didn't already know) that Hus and I are probably two of the most pro-baby people you will ever meet. We love kids. If we could afford them, we would probably have 6 or 8 or 10 (Okay, maybe not 10)! We have twins and we've highly considered having more (no Mom, I'm not pregnant), which if you have twins or know anyone who has twins, you know that wanting more after two at once is a pretty big deal.
- Crying and whining are two of the most annoying sounds on earth. I'm serious. A recent study published in the Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology has shown that toddler whining and infant crying are two of the most effective ways to distract adults when they are trying to perform an elementary task. In this study, adults were less able to concentrate when listening to these two sounds than when listening to other seemingly annoying sounds such as the screeching sound of sawing wood, fingernails on a chalkboard, and loud machine noise. In the beginning days of parenthood, the incessant crying can make even the most calm and patient individuals feel as though they are losing their mind. And then as the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years, the incessant whining kicks into high gear. And all kids whine. There is no avoiding this phase of childhood. You and your partner are going to need to learn to deal with two of the most annoying sounds on this planet living in your house.
- Sleep is necessary for sanity. Again, I'm serious here. If you don't sleep, you will literally go insane; which is why sleep deprivation has been a popular torture method in times of war for several centuries. The lack of sleep you experience in the beginning of parenthood is a shock to your system and it can make you act like a crazy person; a crazy bitchy person. A lack of sleep can cause you to say things that you don't mean, lash out on your partner because you can't lash out on your adorably stressful little baby, cry for no apparent reason, and start arguments with anyone around you. I would even venture to say that missing out on sleep will be the foundation of the large majority of your spats, disagreements, and blow-out arguments during that first year. Just believe me when I say that sleep deprivation is one of the worst "side effects" of caring for small children. I think I've slept with any interruptions only a handful of nights in the last TWO YEARS!
- "Going out" has a completely new meaning. Before you have kids, you can basically go anywhere you want and do anything you want without worrying about much of anything. And then you have a baby. And everything that you thought you knew about leaving the house changes. For instance, your plans to "just run down to the store" turn into a huge production. You suddenly have to bring this huge bag with you where ever you go that's full of all kinds of junk for your baby's well-being and your sanity. And your ideas about a romantic date night change from dinner and dancing to falling asleep on the couch while watching a movie together. I'm not saying that romance is automatically thrown out the window when you have a kiddo. Not at all. But, you will likely be so tired that you won't want to do anything else for a good while. And forget about going out to eat. If you're going to bring the little tike, you can't go anywhere too loud (you don't want to damage the little one's precious eardrums) or too quiet (you wouldn't want to offend anyone when your child begins screaming uncontrollably). And if you're leaving your bambino behind, get ready to pay your sitter a pretty penny (only the best for your baby, right?). I think Hus and I spend more on babysitting (remember, we have two kiddos) than we do on the actual meal when we go out (which isn't very often). The bottom line is that your freedom to come and go as you please is seriously stifled by your new addition.
- Not being able to communicate with your little peanut is incredibly frustrating. I used to watch parents of toddlers in the grocery store get overwhelmed. I would look at them and think, "That will never happen to me. Children are so amazing. I mean, I get that it's difficult when you don't know what they want, but think about it from their perspective! It must be terrible to try and communicate your thoughts and feelings to your parent only to encounter misunderstanding... yadda yadda yadda." Let me first apologize to all of those parents who I judged. I had NO IDEA how frustrating the lack of communication was going to be until I experienced it firsthand. And boy, is it frustrating. Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not immune to these feelings of irritation, annoyance, and actual anger when trying to figure out what my kiddos want from me. Dealing with your child's inability to communicate with you about anything and everything is rough. Implementing some relaxation and calming techniques into your everyday life is key to getting past this frustrating phase (which takes a lot longer than I thought it would).
So unless you have a great starting-off point, having a child does not help your relationship. Instead, it actually has the potential to seriously damage it. Make sure that your relationship is STRONG before you make that important decision because there is no way that you can deal with the endless crying and whining, lack of sleep, change in your lifestyle, and misunderstanding with someone who you only kinda-sorta like.