the "who does more" war: and 3 other common arguments caused by throwing a new baby into the mix

Me & my little Nugget ~ May 2012
Having a baby is supposed to be this wonderfully magical time in your life when the world stands still and you get to bask in the glory that is a precious, itty-bitty human being... right? Well, sorry to break it to ya, but adding a new person to your life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely one of the happiest times in your life. You can't imagine loving another person as much as you do and everything else in your life seems, well, insignificant at best.

BUT (and that's a big but), it's also one of the most stress-inducing times in your life, where a surge of hormones causes you to go bat-shit crazy, a change in routine causes you to feel a bit uneasy, and a black hole in your wallet causes you to wonder how you thought you could handle this new venture in the first place. If you've already experienced the joy of becoming a new parent, you know exactly what I'm talking about and if you're gearing up for this new journey, get ready for seemingly insignificant things to push your ass right off the deep end.

The good news is that you can easily avoid some (but certainly not all) of these conflict-inducing problems simply by learning about the common arguments that new parents face. Recognizing that these conflicts are completely normal can not only help you feel more sane when they surface, but just by knowing what to expect, you can begin to create plans for dealing with these issues for when the time to deal with them comes. Whether it's your first baby or your sixth, below are 4 common arguments that couples have when a new baby is thrown into the mix. And by the way, I'm calling them "wars" because, like a war, until you figure out a way to end them peacefully, these arguments could continue for a very long time.

The "Who Does More" War
(a.k.a. The Chore War)
Our twins at 2 weeks of age ~ May 2009
If you live with your partner, you probably already feel like you've got this one in the bag. And you might. But having a baby seriously increases the number of chores you have to complete on a month-to-month, week-to-week, and day-to-day basis. So you will likely need to sort things out again. And if you're anything like the 4-years-ago version me, I would rather have just done all of the chores than have an argument about how Hus wasn't doing his share. This caused me to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated at times; and that was BEFORE we had any children! We've since worked it out, but I can't tell you how many little (and sometimes not-so-little) spats we've had about who is doing more when it comes to caring for our children.

When you have a baby, everything seems to triple. You have more laundry than you know what to do with, you're vacuuming and sweeping as much as possible to keep the floors clean for your itty-bitty, and you're changing diapers around the clock. If you're nursing, well, it seems like all you do is have something (a baby or a pump) attached to you and if you're formula-feeding, you're filling, mixing, heating, and washing bottles all freakin' day. It's exhausting. And one of you will usually get the short end of the stick.

The goal here is to figure out a way to make both of you feel like you're putting in your fair share of work; whatever that may be. Some couples are perfectly fine with the woman doing more of the child-raising than the man, while other couples want everything to be equal, and still other couples expect the man to put in more man-hours caring for baby. Having a discussion about divvying up baby-related chores is vital to maintaining your sanity.

Hus and I, for example, subscribe to the idea of equal parenting. We both want to put in an equal amount of time and energy when it comes to caring for our children. And we negotiate, barter, and compromise about all kinds of things to achieve that goal. But we still engage in the epic "who does more" battle on a regular basis. Don't be fooled; this war does not escape our discussions. And I think it's impossible to eliminate it completely. For us, we just try to voice our concerns when things feel a little unbalanced. Figuring out how to make each person happy is important. And keeping the lines of communication open about this issue can definitely help. Another thing you can do is try to avoid keeping score about who does more, because trust me, it will just piss you off.

The "Why Don't You Want to BLEEP Me Anymore" War
(a.k.a. The Sex War)
Our youngest ~ June 2012
 Pregnancy does some pretty messed up things to your body; most of which are TMI to discuss at length. But one of the most prominent side effects of pregnancy is your total lack of a sex drive. Now, this doesn't happen to everyone, but for many of you, engaging in sexual activities with your partners is the absolute last thing on your mind (because of your hormones and extreme tiredness). And it usually continues (sometimes getting worse) for a few months after your baby is born (for some, it continues until you stop breast feeding). This can cause a lot of conflict in your relationship; especially if your pre-pregnancy relationship was filled with a lot of sex. With many men, sex is an important component of his feelings of relationship security and self-worth. So a sudden lack of sex can cause even the most secure men to feel anxious or even fearful about their relationship.

Acknowledging your partner's feelings about this and explaining that it's not him (it's your hormones) that's causing you to not be in the mood can help, but sometimes a good old fashioned make-out session is the only cure. Be aware of your partner's point of view and try to increase your physical touch with him as much as possible. Expressing your attraction to him is also something you're going to want to implement into your daily routine (as if you didn't have enough stuff to do!). And whatever you do, DO NOT act as if engaging in intimate activities with him is a chore. This can seriously damage his confidence and could cause the two of you to drift apart. Trust me when I say that you do not want that to happen. Just keep reminding yourself that this too will pass. Hopefully.

The "You're Not Doing That Right" War
(a.k.a. The Gatekeeping War)
Our daughter with our youngest ~ May 2012
 No, I'm not still talking about sex. Get your minds out of the gutter, people. What I'm talking about here is a situation where one parent (usually mom) takes control of the care-giving and then (either consciously or unconsciously) limit's dad's involvement by preventing him from caring for their child, criticizing how he cares for their child, or failing to encourage him. The mom in these situations is the "gatekeeper" of knowledge about caring for children. The mom feels like the dad is incapable of knowing what she knows and may begin to treat the dad as beneath her. I see women do this ALL OF THE TIME. For instance, when you tell your partner how to hold a baby ("Make sure you hold the head, Honey.") or giggle at his inability to change a diaper, you are essentially making fun of him and it is emasculating. This can cause a multitude of issues from feelings of inadequacy in your partner all the way to the dreaded parent-child relationship between the two of you.

Try to avoid telling your partner how he should or should not care for his child. Bite your tongue. He may not have the same knowledge about newborns or children as you, but he's a grown-ass man who is perfectly capable of figuring it out. Make sure that he knows you support him and his efforts. Express your appreciation for everything that he does and compliment him. {Side note: I can't tell you how many times I congratulate Hus on his self-honed daddy skills. It not only makes him feel great, but he usually returns the compliments when he sees me do something well.} Studies have found that this will not only enable him to be more involved, but it will also decrease conflict in your relationship.

The "WTF are we Fighting About" War
(a.k.a. The War about Nothing)
Hus asleep at the doctor's office with our twins ~ May 2009
The last war you will inevitably experience as new parents is the War about Nothing. After that little bundle of joy joins your family, you'll have arguments about all kinds of things that never seemed important before. And the sleep deprivation and change in routine will be the main sources of these fights.

For example, during the first year of his life, our son had reflux and was very colicky. His incessant crying and need to be carried everywhere was terribly challenging. The amount of attention that he demanded was difficult for Hus and I to deal with because we didn’t always agree about how to best handle the situation (and we also had a second crying baby to soothe). Coupled with the sleep deprivation that we were both experiencing, Hus and I would get into arguments about all kinds of insignificant things related to our cranky son.

“I’ve been carrying him around all day; what the hell have you done?”
(i.e. The Chore War)

“You’re not holding him right. If you would hold him like this he would stop screaming!”
(i.e. The Gatekeeping War)

“Stop getting annoyed by him! He’s just a baby! And his stomach hurts! He can’t help it!”
(i.e. The War about Nothing) 

These phrases (and several dozen others) were said by Hus and myself many times each day. And they didn’t help our marriage. We were angry at one another about things we couldn’t control. It was ridiculous. The good news is that you eventually get out of this phase. The bad news is that some couples say or do things during this phase that negatively and sometimes permanently change their relationship. The best advice I have here is to try to not sweat the small stuff.

In the end, all of the arguing is worth it.
Our youngest ~ October 2012

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...