I always swore parenting wouldn’t be my full time job. When I was ready to have a family, I
said, I’d be one of those women who balanced parenthood and career. I knew it would be a challenge but of course I knew I could do it – plenty of other women do it,
and several of my closest friends were juggling work and family life.
But life doesn’t always work out the way we expect it to.While I was pregnant, I developed complications with pre-eclampsia and, eventually, delivered earlier than planned. We were doing ok for money at the time – my husband had moved into a new management role the previous year – so we agreed that I would take a career sabbatical to look after our baby.
It seemed like perfect timing. I’d grown dissatisfied with my career in the tech industry and had been considering a career change. I figured I could look after the baby for the first few months, then look for a new career direction. I could never have predicted the stress being a parent would put on our marriage. In fact, when parenting became my job, it almost cost us our marriage.
Everyone knows the stereotype of the bleary eyed parents, looking half drunk with sleep deprivation. For most new parents, it’s just part and parcel of having a new baby in the house. But nothing prepares you for how tired you’ll actually be. After a couple of weeks ofnever sleeping for more than three hours at a time, the world starts to look different. Everything is fuzzy around the edges. Your patience diminishes rapidly. Having a new baby is a wonderful experience, but it’s also a kind of twilight zone, and you don’t want to admit how hard it is because you don’t want to feel like you’re failing as a parent.
Envying My Husband
I loved staying home with our little one and watching as she became more and more interested in the world around her. I couldn’t help envying my husband sometimes. Any kind of personal time had long become a thing of the past. Showers were grabbed quickly after he got home and could watch the baby. Naps were snatched any time she was down for five minutes. Let’s be honest, I didn’t always have time to change my shirt after baby spit up on me. Most new moms know what I’m talking about – it’s not all plain sailing! Sometimes I envied my husband. I couldn’t imagine being away from baby for eight hours a day, but I would have given my eye, tooth for a couple of hours to myself.
Before long, the strain began taking its toll on or marriage. I was constantly sleep deprived, stressed out, and quite honestly my temperament and personal care had both taken a few knocks. I started sniping at my husband, getting cross at him for little things, or muttering sarcastic comments under my breath. He didn’t get it. He thought staying home with the baby was an easy gig. I really didn’t like who I was becoming – and I don’t think my husband was too keen, either.I was too caught up in the stress to see it at the time, but he started to feel like I was pushing him out. When he got home, all I wanted to do was grab a shower and a snack before it all started again.
It all came to a head one night. I’d dropped a plate clearing up after dinner. No big deal – it happens, right? But the crash woke baby up just after I’d got her down to sleep and suddenly it was just too much. As soon as she was settled again, I started crying and honestly felt like I’d never stop. It was a rough night – but it led to some vital conversations.
My husband and I sat down and had our first real heart to heart since the birth of our little one some three months prior. We agreed that we needed to support each other better. He started taking a longer stint looking after the little one in the evenings so I could grab some rest, and at weekends he would take her for a couple of hours so I could go outside and grab coffee with a girlfriend or get a massage. We arranged a sitter every couple of weeks so we could have more time together. As my stress went down and my energy went up, I could pay more attention when we talked, and take an interest in what was happening in his life.
We learned to navigate the new and sometimes baffling world of parenting together, as a team. As a result our co-parenting skills and marriage both grew stronger. I don’t regret becoming a full time parent. I loved being there for our daughter as she grew, and after a year I indeed changed my career and now love my work for a local non-profit. But I do regret not talking to my husband and working things out sooner. Having a baby will change your marriage forever – but if you communicate well and approach it as a team, those changes will be good ones.
Rachel Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training
and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around
the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful
relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to
everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer
for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.