Becoming a parent changes so many aspects of your life; your lifestyle, your priorities, your body (for mamas and sometimes for papas) and what I have recently had to accept, your relationship. Some couples thrive becoming partners in parenting, their bond gets stronger and they form an unbreakable team to raise their little mini human together. But sometimes the stresses of parenthood can drive a divide in some couples. There has definitely been a switch in my relationship with my husband that I was not expecting, we are by no means about to separate or even thinking about anything like that, we are very much still in love and plan on spending the rest of our days together but we absolutely have work to do to strengthen our team and make this little family work.
So a bit of background without getting too personal – my husband (Brett) and I have been together since we were teenagers, he moved in with my family when we were both at that crazy age where we thought we could just die without one another (young love, so pure and utterly ridiculous). We grew up together and our personalities developed in cohesion with the others. For the most part we balance each other out, we are both very anxious people and both irrationally emotional at times but to different degrees and luckily at opposite times so when one of us is spiraling the other is usually able to keep a level head and calm the other. We don’t fight often but like any couple we bicker and like to pull fun at one another (the mum jokes are at a whole different level in our house). We had very different childhoods and the parts of our personalities that developed from our younger years are polar opposite. I refer to Brett as a grumpy old man regularly, he gets frustrated very easily and would forget his head if it wasn’t attached to his body. I, on the other hand am very tolerable (I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘easy going’ as I can be unbearably anxious at times but I go with the flow most of the time) and I’m very organised and rarely loose anything (well now that baby brain has encroached and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere I’m loosing more than my mind now days). We honestly don’t have that much in common other than our inappropriate sense of humour and love of tattoos but as they say, opposites attract.
So I’m not claiming to have had it any harder than any other first time parent because it is hard no matter what the situation, but our first year of parenting was made even more difficult as Brett was working away on an unpredictable roster so he was away more than he was home. I have struggled with Post Natal Depression and have had a hard time processing my emotions and communicating them effectively, you know – other than crying hysterically for no particular reason on the regular. For a while I was taking out my frustrations on Chloe with my shouting and retreating to my bedroom to cry myself silly leaving her to tough it out by herself (only ever for a few minutes, don’t go calling CPS on me) but eventually I realised that wasn’t doing anyone any good so I have found forced cuddles and some fresh air in our backyard is more effective. But in the last few months of Brett being home based permanently I have had to check myself as I have been lashing out at him in times of frustration which only causes him to get defensive and an argument will usually result. It is generally over in a few minutes and we are back to normal after some huffing and puffing then apologies but the frequency of the spats are getting more regular than I am comfortable with and for the sake of Chloe I would prefer that they didn’t happen at all. There is no screaming or very little if any voice raising but the energy is just not very nice and I can tell that it upsets Chloe at times. It’s a roller coaster and a far cry from our steady and carefree relationship pre-baby.
The feeling of resentment is an ugly thing and is what usually gets me heated and ready for a rowel. Our parenting journey has definitely been different from one another, with Brett working away from home I just got into a groove of getting the whole parenting thing done on my own. Apart from being hard as fuck doing it alone it has also made me a little controlling when it comes to matters that relate to Chloe. Some days I have to bite my tongue from saying things like “What would you know, you’ve hardly been here!” which I know would devastate him as he was doing the best thing for this little family by working away for as long as he did. The first few weeks of Chloe’s life was a huge adjustment for the both of us (not unlike any first time parents), getting used to life with a new baby and the normal trials and tribulations of first time parenting but then he went back to work. Back to his normal day to day routine just with more phone calls from me and the odd night of broken sleep on his week off (apparently he can sleep through a hurricane as the buzzing baby monitor never seemed to wake him, go figure). As he wasn’t here consistently I just got accustomed to doing most of the parenting by myself and felt bad asking him to help out when he was on his time off as he has just been working 15 hour days for up to 4 weeks straight so I know he needed rest. But it drove me into a cycle of automatically doing everything on my own and then becoming frustrated that he wasn’t helping but in his mind I didn’t need help as I wasn’t asking for it and I was taking complete control when it came to looking after Chloe.
I absolutely don’t think Brett is any less of a capable father as he hasn’t been present for a long period but sometimes I can’t help but feel he has had it easier than me in the last 12 months. I realise it has been hard for him in the way that he has missed out on nearly a year of his daughters life and I know he would have been pining to come home and comfort me when I would call inconsolable as I couldn’t get Chloe to stop crying. But he only had a week here and there of the hell that was 9 solid months of silent reflux and then food refusal/aversion ending in constant soul shattering breakdowns (from me and her) for months on end. Things have levelled out now and apart from teething we aren’t dealing with anything too crazy (oh except for pre-toddler angst) but sometimes I really feel like Brett’s life hasn’t changed the same way mine has and some days I resent his ‘freedom’ and I’m starting to realise I can sometimes give him a hard time when he really doesn’t deserve it. I’ve never been one to tell Brett what he can and can’t do, I’m just not that kind of person, but whenever he goes out on his own I always get a little jealous as I feel like I can’t do the same but what the heck is stopping me? He’s Chloe’s father and is just as capable as me of looking after her while I leave the house for a while. And it won’t hurt him to take on some of the house hold duties so I really need to remember that he isn’t a mind reader and doesn’t know I’m giving him the silent treatment because he didn’t put the toilet seat down 2 days ago and he won’t think I’m a Drill Sargent if I ask him to chuck a load of washing on. I don’t want to be a nag but for my sanity and the sake of strengthening our partnership I need to communicate what I need rather than expecting it.
I don’t tell him enough but I appreciate all he does for us so fucking much, he stuck it out in a horrible job for as long as he could before it nearly broke him and he did it for us. He did it to make sure Chloe has everything she needs and so she doesn’t have to grow up seeing her parents struggle living week to week. He had to say goodbye to us after a week not knowing when he would be coming home and what he would miss; he missed her birth, he missed her first word, he missed so many little but significant milestones and I feel so sad about that every day. But I am happy that he is now home every night and can see his daughter grow and their bond can become stronger and stronger. She lights up every time he walks in the room and we are getting into a new groove with us being a full time family. I know I have to let go a little more and let Brett take the reigns, maybe I’ll even get lucky and escape to go shopping solo or get a manicure when he’s on his next week off. I know I speak for both of us when I say we love each other unconditionally but some days we just don’t like one another. And I think (or hope) others can relate. We don’t always have to be best friends but we need to remember to communicate when the other is driving us a little (or a lot) crazy and talk it out rather than putting out dark energy and giving each other the silent treatment. We aren’t trying to have a perfect relationship but like a lot of relationships we are working on it and we will continue to show Chloe the unconditional love we have for one another and for her.