My good friend’s wife G is due to give birth anytime now and my dear cousin A is also pregnant. A announced her 12-week milestone into the second trimester via Facebook. Ah the power of the new media!
I had A and her husband M over for dinner one night late February. A asked me the perennial question – how did my life change after becoming a mother? I have been contemplating this question for 2 weeks now and believe I now have a framework to anwer A. Let me be unequivocally clear… Life WILL change. What mothers normally gloss over (or choose to forget, otherwise no one will go on to have seconds and thirds and fourths etc) is that during the first year or motherhood, you will be anxious because everything… repeat, EVERY single thing is new…. the birth process, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, deciphering baby’s cries . And what do people do when they are anxious? We fight. Who do we fight with? The nearest and dearest husband. Fighting is a natural response to anxiety. It is difficult to avoid the reflex under stress. The most likely topics of dispute are
1. Money. Which is tigher than usual
2. Baby care and housework. Who picks up the baby when she cries and who changes diapers, shops, finds child care, and manages the countless details of running the home.
3. Work outside the home. Who earns, who stays home, whose work counts more, who misses work when the baby is sick.
4. Extended family. How often the grandparents will visit, what limits and boundaries are set.
5. Restoring intimacy in the couple. As in “Sex? What’s that?”
6. And finally, deciding how to spend what little free time you have together.
If you do not fight about the above issues, others will emerge – practically any subject will do. The above 6 points are important ones and won’t go away especially if the nearest and dearest is a Man. Unless you restore the ongoing conversation that you had before children, here is what the future may look like.
1. Money. You have lost earning power; he has gained earning power.
2. Baby care and housework. You notice and do more, you feel more responsible.
3. Work outside the home. His job comes first, he feels more responsible for bringing home the bacon.
4. Extended family. You overdeal with his family and he underdeals with his family.
5. Sex. You become disinterested as the unequal disbttibution of domestic tasks takes its toll.
6. … the little free time you have together…. You go out for the evening and spend it arguing about the above items.
*pause for breath*
You say oh no, WE will be different, we will keep communicating….. I tell you sister, the 2 hourly latching, his peaceful sleeping when you are feeding or pumping at night will get to you. Many are the nights I latched lying down beside the husband and I am just. So. Fed. Up. That he gets to sleep uninterrupted and I do not. The ILs will get to you… when they comment, you feel obliged to listen. If they do not comment, you resent that they do not care about the baby. When they comment about the baby and not you, you resent that they treat you as a mere brood mare, and not a person in your own right.
Thankfully those times are over. Have another baby…. No thank you. That option is out for me. My family is complete and I reckon that our marriage will fall apart under the strain.
Disclaimer and credit: I took the framework (6 points) of this post from “The Mother Dance: How Children change your life”, a book by Harriet Lerner. The stories however are entirely mine.
Yes I love my children and no, I do not want to spend my every waking minute with them.
I would be interested to know if other moms felt the same way…..