The Amazing Survivor Race Challenge: Parenting Edition

February 17, 2009

Babies are hard on a marriage.

It’s sort of ironic, really, seeing as babies are so often understood (rightly or wrongly) to represent core bonds of a life partnership, but still: for every measure of centripetal force that they exert upon a relationship and bind partners more closely, babies exert a half measure – maybe more – of centrifugal force, pulling those partners away from their center. It’s true. If I understood Newtonian physics well enough to explain it fully, I would, but I don’t, so just trust me on this: babies bring couples closer together and pull them apart in a million teeny tiny and not so teeny tiny ways, and the yank and tug of this phenomenon can exert an uncomfortable pressure upon a spousal partnership.

Pets do not have this effect, I’ve noticed, possibly because you can just put them out in the yard when they start to get difficult. You cannot do this with babies. When caring for babies gets difficult, you can only turn to your partner (if you have one – I cannot begin to address single parenthood here, other than to say that I have NO IDEA how people do that. Superheroes, seriously) and negotiate some means of coping and hope to hell that you can figure this shit out together. So when the moments come – and they do come – when you realize that you are not figuring this shit out together – that you’re either not figuring it out together, or you’re not figuring it out, period – it can be hard. You can put it down to lack of sleep, to lack of alone time, to sheer exhaustion, but it still feels the same: you’re struggling. And you’re not always struggling together. And in those moments when you’re struggling apart… those moments feel isolating. Lonely.

The first baby isn’t – I don’t think – as hard on the relationship as the second: with your first baby, the novelty of the situation can cause you to overlook or ignore the fact that you and your spouse are almost never together alone, that you almost never sleep, that your romantic dinners for two have become mac-and-cheese for three, that your bed has become the gathering place for a tangle of toddler and toys and cats. The first baby can be a great romantic quest, like backpacking together through Europe – full of all variety of trials and discomforts, but nonetheless an adventure, one that is full of new experiences that you are sharing! Together! So who cares if the hostels are crowded or you’re eating bad food or the pack on your back is crippling you with its weight? You’re having an adventure together, and it is awesome.

But when the second baby comes along, you’ve been there and done that and sent the postcards and you’re just not as open to feeling romantic about this whole journey as a quote-unquote adventure. The novelty has worn off. The hostel conditions – the noise, the squalor, the bathroom shared with too many other, messy people – no longer represent adventure, and their effect on you – sleeplessness, disorientation – is harder to bear. You’re still thrilled to be doing this again – you love so much about this journey – but you’re older now, and more tired, and the sleepless nights and bad food wear you down so much more quickly and so you look at each other and you both wonder why the other hasn’t booked you into a plush hotel already.

And this is where everything – including the extended travel metaphor – breaks down, because there are no plush hotels in New Parentland. New Parentland is not a backpacker’s Europe; it’s not even the outer reaches of the former Soviet Union, where at least they have beds and a limitless supply of vodka. New Parentland is more like a deserted island. It’s survival conditions, no matter who you are, unless you have the means and the foresight to have brought an entourage that will attend to your basic needs and forage for your food. There’s no straightforward solution to your discomfort here; there are no resources beyond what you can gather and/or jerryrig together. Neither you nor your travelling companion has it within their power to make things easy. With the first child, if you’re lucky, this is like Blue Lagoon: you’re so enthralled with the romance of the situation that you don’t care that you are – figuratively – wearing loincloths and drinking out of coconuts. You might even find that kind of thing sexy. But by the time you’re on baby number two? The loincloths are starting to feel scratchy and you’re sunburnt and sleeping on the sand is making your back hurt and that other person is eating your coconut, dammit. You are on Survivor: Child Island and it’s only a matter of time before you turn on each other.

My husband and I haven’t turned on each other (*knocks wood*), and we wouldn’t reverse the steps that brought us here to our own, personal Child Island. We find pleasure in this place; we bask in the sunshine here. But still: we find it challenging, coping with the hardship. I find it challenging. Once the chores are done and the children are tended to and this place falls silent, I am so exhausted, so spent and worn, that I want only to crawl under the blankets and escape – with a book, with some Ativan – and rest and I know that he experiences this as a withdrawal. But then I – perversely – resent him for experiencing it as withdrawal. I’m so tired, I tell myself. This is so hard. He should get that. I tell him that this is so hard and that I am so tired and he tells me that he is tired too and instead of feeling sympathy, I feel frustration. It’s harder for me, I think, and the resentment starts to burble. And then I catch myself and tell myself that hard is hard is hard and just because I have spent whole days and nights on my own wrangling our two creatures and lived to tell about it doesn’t mean that he can manage the same thing and in any case he gets up at night and first thing in the morning with the baby, right? And then I think, maybe if we just had some time together, just the two of us – or better, what if I had some time for me, just me, alone, and THEN we had some together just the two of us ?- but then I immediately think, why doesn’t he make that happen? Why must it be ME?

And then I worry us about turning on each other. I worry about even considering the possibility that we might turn on each other, because once upon a time – in the carefree days before we embarked upon this strange and wonderful and impossibly challenging journey – I would not have imagined for a second that we could turn on each other, that we could be anything other than perfect allies. (This is the tragic innocence, to borrow another pop culture analogy, of couples on the Amazing Race; the bluster behind their bold claims, before running a single step, of being a brilliant team, of knowing that they’ll work together perfectly, masterfully, that they will, as a unit, dominate the race. This bluster invariably end in shouts and tears in the empty corridors of this airport or across the field of that Road Block challenge, and we the audience murmur, from the security of our armchairs, that we knew that they would fall apart and, also, that wouldn’t happen to us.) We are allies, my husband and I, we are, but that I doubt our alliance for even a second weighs upon me heavily, presses the air from my lungs.

It weighs upon me, because how could I feel any doubt? He is wonderful, my husband, really wonderful, and I love him so much and am so, so lucky to have him as my partner. But, still, also, there is this: I am tired, and I want to be carried, just for a little while, just until I get my strength back. And this is where the doubt resides: in my fear that he might be getting tired of carrying me, that although I know he will give me his last coconut, he might resent doing so. That I might resent his resenting doing so. That that resentment might build, and that we’ll end up yelling at each other across the crowded airport corridor that is family life or turning on each other in our own personal Tribal Council. That I want a day off, alone, just by myself, just taking care of myself, more than I want a day alone with my husband – and that I want him to want that – hurts my heart, in a way, because I do want time alone with him, just me and him, with no children attached to our bodies and no cries ringing in our ears, time to reinforce our alliance, our team, so that we can continue to endure the challenges of this island, this race, this reality, with grace and humor. I really, really do. I just need to be rested first. I just need to be carried for a while, or allowed to stop and rest.

We’ve come this far together. We know that our alliance, our partnership, is the key to everything. Our alliance, and maybe a few naps, some liquor and an all-expenses-paid holiday somewhere warm, with soft beds and babysitters and, yes, coconuts.

That’s all.

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    Natasha February 17, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    The second baby was by far the hardest. I love your hostel metaphor.

    And you’re wrong about pets not tearing a marriage apart. This dog has been the worst thing to happen to us since the last worst thing to happen to us. You can put them out in the hard but they literally crap there, then tear up the grass, scratch the paint off the door and annoy the neighbors. At least babies are cute.

    Domestic Extraordinaire February 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    wow, what a great post.

    You have really summed it all up. It does get easier and then you enter the teenage years!


    Natasha February 17, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Why must the letter H be so close to the letter Y? Just to make me look stupid, I’m sure.

    Janet February 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    So achingly, familiarly true, this.

    Someone once told me that, if you look closely at the infamous 7-year-itch, it generally coincides with the timing of several young children in the marriage.

    But the children grow and it does get easier. It really does: just as long as you don’t lose total sight of one another across the crowded airport.

    Kara February 17, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    A great post. Baby boy #2 was far harder on the marriage than baby boy #1 and it’s amazing how many folks would agree with that assessment.

    Janet February 17, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    And by “several young children in the marriage” I, of course, meant “several young children added to the mix.”

    Having babies also kills brain cells. It’s true. I just can’t remember where I read it. ;)

    Tere February 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    My husband did not get it. And we turned on each other. I’ll be divorced before the Summer hits.

    Of course, there were more reasons, but this was one, a big one.

    Good post.

    crunchy February 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Really good post…you did it!

    I found the 2nd babe easier even though she was harder and never slept..we were prepared and aware of what we needed to do for ourselves and the obnoxious baby that never slept. EVER

    The resentment waxes and wains I think…comes and goes…as does the guilt.

    You may some days feel a silence between you and fear it..but then the dam breaks and you find out that they feel the same as you and all is okay…

    Or not, I suppose…

    We are prepping for the it can’t be all bad.

    Laural Dawn February 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    This is so opposite to what everyone says because I found baby #2 far far easier than baby #1.
    But, you’re right that kids make the marriage hard.
    For us our struggle is still with our older child – and because we’re going to a psychologist to deal with his issues (ADHD maybe? we find out soon) we keep being reminded that if we fight over his behaviour it makes his behaviour worse.
    I still keep wondering when I get a break? I love my kids every moment, but I’m tired too.

    LawMommy February 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I imagine that what I’m about to say will be wildly unpopular. It’s not something that we are supposed to say. In fact we say the exact opposite ALL THE TIME.

    But, part of my job is representing people who are getting divorced. Helping people get divorced. And as much as we constantly tell children that it’s not their fault that mommy and daddy are getting divorced…honestly, it often is. I mean, it’s not the children have done anything other than just BE children. But the existence of the children…leads to the divorce. Sad, but true.

    I know that I have a biased viewpoint (I am dealing with people who have already decided they want a divorce), but it does seem like, children (and again, not the children themselves, but the mere presence of children) can suck the life out of a marriage…

    I really, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “I had an affair because I needed to just feel like me again” or “he had an affair while I was busy with the kids” or “the only thing we have left in common is the kids and I just don’t love him/her anymore.” Trying to parent children can suck your soul of your marriage away.

    And as much as you want him to want you to have a day alone, odds are, he doesn’t see it that way. What he probably wants is to have a day alone with you. However, I would bet that if you took a day to yourself in order to be able to then take a day alone with him, he would probably be supportive. (Problematically, it is extremely hard to take a day to yourself when you are nursing a baby.) But if you need time alone in order to give time to him, DO IT. Find a way. Without intimacy, marriages die.

    kristi February 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I think #1 was hardest for us. Because we were still newlyweds practically. I poured all of my love into our daughter and he stood at the sidelines whining, “What about me?”

    Let me say that I work full time and still do almost all of the house cleaning and child rearing. It isn’t fair but it is how it is.

    Rose February 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Wonderfully said!
    There is no doubt that the second child is harder. For me there was the added resentment of my husband literally ignoring the second born for upwards of three months. With the first we argued about who would get to hold her next and wrestled her from each other, with the second it was all me, all the time, and even when I escaped to the shower he would pace the hallway outside the bathroom door waiting for me to get out.

    Sleep helps, but so does carving time out for the two of you. Even if you’re tired, I can’t tell you what a night out without kids and with the person you love can do for morale. And don’t be resentful of him not making that move. Men are most definitely not mind readers and he might think that you’re not ready for that time away…

    Lucie @ Unconventional Origins February 17, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    #1 has brought up a lot of these issues, especially when it comes to the, er, physical side of our relationship. Baby weight can weigh down a relationship too, I guess.

    Of course now I am just scared as all hell about number two!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences for those of us who haven’t taken that second adventure yet.

    Don't Lick The Ferrets! February 17, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I think you just summed up the reason many of us end up divorced…at least you two are getting it right!

    Anonymous February 17, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    The Marriage (Life-Partner Alliance), in my opinion, seems to experience more pressure with each additional child. Although it may be very different for other couples, my husband and I had to (have to, daily) figure out how to distribute the additional work in such a way that feels both equitable and manageable. Having experienced one Separation (to date) we have learned that raising a family together requires a reformulation of roles, responsibilities and expectations of one another. Constantly. For us, the only way to avoid The Tribal Counsel is continually revising the Game Plan.

    Which does not add to the pressure of parenting 3 young children or maintaining a loving relationship At. All. Pfft. What, with both my husband and I being so well-rested, capable of logical thought, emotionally balanced, well-mannered and self-sacrificing in any and all tension-ridden circumstance(s)…

    Try as we might, the truth is: we are both clinging to the very Edge by our fingernails, hoping to Key-Riest we can hang on for just One More Day. Having known one another for 20 years, this seems the greatest act of love we can manage right now. That, and never forgetting to fetch the other a cocktail or beer each time we visit (or pass) the kitchen.

    Amy February 17, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    #2 was MUCH easier for me, but I had PPD with #1 and Zoloft with #2, so that could be very skewed.

    My question, though, is where are all the people who are supposed to be helping you? Not just you, HBM, but ALL of you? Trade babysitting with a friend so that you can each enjoy time off – do it during the day when the husbands are off at work so that you can get your “me time.” Local relatives are awesome. Shamelessly exploit their willingness to babysit.

    Go to the local high school or college and post a flier for a babysitter. Interview the kids and pick the one that seems the least insane (be sure to Google). Join a Mom’s club. I hear the moms are in one room and the kids are in another, at least that’s how it is at my local MOPS.

    If you can’t find anyone to watch them, here are some ideas… Start going to church just for the opportunity to put the kids in the childcare room and sit quietly for an hour. I won’t even tell if you sit outside instead of in the sanctuary!! Put the kids in preschool as soon as humanly possible. See if that church you go to has a “Mommy’s Time Out” program. For $6 I can take my younger child to “school” while my older child is in school for 2.5 hours. And it’s during the day so Daddy isn’t there demanding my attention, too.

    One of the best things I ever did was to sign my kids up for gymnastics – not only do we get out of the house for the classes, but we also get to go to Open Gym at a reduced cost. I can stand around and talk to other adults while they run out all their energy. Win/win.

    Take them to the mall and let them play on the playplace. Just be sure to take hand sanitizer. You don’t have to buy anything. Take a book, or check e-mail on your cell phone. Treat yourself to a foofoo coffee.

    Sometimes I think that we make it harder for ourselves than it needs to be by being unwilling or unable to ask for help. The moment I learned that it is OK to need help my life as a mother got MUCH easier. The other big “Aha” moment was when I realized that being a stay at home mom didn’t mean that I had to literally stay at home.

    You don’t have to do it all by yourself. You’re not supposed to. It’s not good for you, your marriage, or your kids. It takes a village, etc.

    You’ve identified what you need (time to yourselves, time with your spouses) so do what it takes to make it happen. There’s a reason why so few martyrs enjoyed happy marriages, girls.

    Amy @

    Kendra February 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    I really thought baby #2 would easier. You hit the nail on the head when you said that the romance had worn off. I thought I was prepared this time since I had done it once. I guess it really is true that babies aren’t the same. My husband and I are in the same boat right now. I pray that we will make it through and I pray the same for you. I feel better knowing I’m not the only one feeling this way, but I wish you didn’t have to go through it

    Anonymous February 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    I get frustrated with people that keep suggesting “go out as a couple” and “get some alone time.” Some of us have very few childcare options and are not about to leave our young kids with some random high school or college student. It’s great if YOU have options that allow for “date nights” etc. but don’t assume that all couples have that. I don’t really see how sitting in church or having to supervise my kids at the mall is going to make coupledom so much happier.

    Kimberly February 17, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I think Amy is echoing what HBM said: sometimes we need time to ourselves before we are able to give to our mates. And frankly, sometimes it amazes me at how little time I actually need to myself to refresh me. Perhaps it is because we don’t get it that often, but even a little bit of “me” time is refreshing. And that little bit can make me more receptive to spending time with my husband.

    Not that there is much time to be spent. We seem to have a half hour between the toddler’s bedtime and us needed to crawl into bed with the newborn. But still. Every little bit helps.

    Even just turning off the electronics (I am more guilty of this than he is) and just talking for a few minutes.

    Boy, isn’t this all different than you thought it would be before you had kids?

    Mandy February 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    One of the best things David and I did was plan a trip to Mexico with just ourselves this past December. My inlaws came to stay with the kids and we took off.

    It was unbelievably reaffirming to know that we can be a couple still, independent of our kids.

    If it’s at all a possibility for you in the next year, I’d highly recommend it.

    Bea February 17, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    It seems to me that the really toxic combination is a baby (or two) plus the demands of what has come to seem like a normal workplace. Babies can put stress on any marriage, but if both parents are home by 5:30 (and not expected to work on weekends), that makes a world of difference.

    katydid6 February 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Beautifully and honestly written! I love my husband dearly, and I know that he is more supportive and helpful than most other spouses I know, but it’s still hard, it still sucks a lot, and I still find myself resentful.

    Like right now, when he announced he was going “to take a dump and then take a shower.” God help me if I don’t time my poohs for when the children aren’t around. The 6 year old is banging on the door and the 18-month-old is in the bathroom with me trying to wipe me and flushing the toilet before I’m done. And I never just randomly decide to take a shower – it must be scheduled just like the poohs.

    My heart ached at the part where you worried that your husband might get tired of carrying you. I had never thought of it, but that’s the underlying feeling I have when we’re stuck in the pissing match of which parent has it harder at the moment.

    Thanks for putting it all out there.

    ewe are here February 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I think we were lucky in that our first baby was harder than our second for the first three months… and even then, one of the fundamental problems resolved itself when he started to sleep through the night meaning we got some normal sleep. And we try to encourage each other to take a little time to ourselves when we can get it. It’s not frequent, and I could definitely use more of it, but it’s something.

    Of course, I suspect all bets may be off come June when we welcome our third and final wee one. Because then we will truly be outnumbered. shudder

    Her Bad Mother February 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Bea – the getting home at 5:30 thing? YES. That my husband sometimes works impossibly long hours and I work more or less full-time, from home, while caring for kids and so doing much of that work in the evenings… that makes it all the harder.

    We need us some Nannies Friday…

    Amo February 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I know exactly how you feel. For the first time in my life, I am recognizing that I am getting depressed. Sure, it might have something to do with my mom dying, suddenly, and before we could make amends for years of turmoil. Moving away from all of my family and friends just weeks after her death and right before Christmas. The fact that my husband has been working too much since we moved and I’m more alone than I have ever been, certainly isn’t helping matters. Also, he didn’t get me anything for my birthday, Christmas or Valentines day; which it isn’t the lack of the gift, but the gesture that hurts.

    I have been single parenting since he moved for his work back in May and we couldn’t join until December. It sucks. I cannot imagine how a true single mom handles it. I have been completely exhausted and totally alone for way too long.

    At this point, even his ‘gestures’ of cooking dinner or cleaning are lost on me. I want time alone and then (hopefully) I will want time with him again.

    We were best friends for so long and now, I have no one.

    And I have no one to admit it to but your comment box. Thank you for posting this.

    Expat Mom February 17, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    My first was harder than the second, but that might be because the second came right on the heels of the first and we were still dealing with surgeries and crap. All I can say is that kids ruin marriages. I love my kids, I love my husband, but we are about as far apart as a couple can be without separating. I`d like to say it were different, but we don`t have child care options and that means I am in the house 24/7, unless I want to take a chicken bus with two toddlers. We never get time alone, either and it`s very, very depressing.

    palinode February 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    What always surprises me about your weblog is your ability to write lucidly and at length, despite the various pressures you face. I don’t know how you do it, but hats off.

    Anonymous February 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Most of your letters make me very sad. I feel for all of you. My husband and I have been married for 44 years and the early years with children was quite difficult. We tried all kinds of things to make it better–going to a pyschologist for specific family problems, enrolling in parenting classes and family to babysit. Eventually it really does get better and I guess the most important advise is to hang in there! Our grown children are an absolute joy and our best friends and the grandchildren are the icing on the cake. As for my husband and myself (we had contemplated divorce) we have never been better or more in love and consider ourselves so very lucky. IT DOES GET BETTER!!

    Amy @ Milk Breath and Margaritas February 17, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    We do pretty darn well (please do not let this jinx me), I think in part because the boys are 4.5 yrs apart, so we’ve had one baby at a time. Also, we understand that we need Mom and Dad only trips. From long weekends to whole vacations, we do this multiple times a year. My parents (bless them!) keep the kids. I think any way a couple can arrange for a long weekend, even saving up and using a nanny service for those times, is well worth it to relax and reconnect. One time last year we didn’t even leave the city! We were 15 minutes from home, but it may as well have been 15 hundred miles.

    mom2nji February 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Awesome post.
    Baby #2 was trying for us, he was a coliky preemie who left us sobbing for sleep every night.
    I am blessed with a DH that should be sainted, and I too am worried that someday he will be afriafd he will get tired of carrying me on those days where I am beyond stressed. I have to say baby #3 was and is AWESOME! (of course 1 and 2 are wonderful now too)
    I think part of what makes becoming parents that damages a marriage, is expectations.
    As a couple you have to temporarily let go of how your marriage was before kids, it will go back again…someday (or so I am told). We have hit bumps in the road and will again, but the point is to ride them out together.
    Oh and an early bedtime for the kids and TONS of sex help too.

    Kari Wolfe February 17, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, I sometimes read things on here and realize that I feel like I could have written that. My hubby and I only have one child, but know what? One child is enough sometimes too :)

    Thank you for putting into words the way I feel sometimes and for doing it so eloquently.

    Mrs. CPA February 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    At my house, we don’t have the perfect relationship by any means, but our family was made for children to be in it. Now, this may be because we have been incredibly lucky in that our children (almost 3 and 5 mths old) are incredibly good natured.

    There were a couple of days when Tim went back to work and I stayed home with the 2nd newborn that we both had resentful feelings – he thought I was sitting around all day napping and watching TV and I thought at least his coworkers weren’t asking him to make them lunch and could talk in intelligible (some of them anyway) sentences. That lasted two days. And then I was over it and so was he.

    Our children have managed to fit pretty seamlessly into our lives. I don’t feel deprived, and I don’t think Tim does either. The source of my frustrations with him almost never involves children. It’s because he’s forgotten something or he’s left all the lights on in the house again.

    I also don’t think that our kids are our lives. We have outside interests and outside friends and we still do lots of stuff, but we also spend lots of time at home. I know that sounds impossible, but we do.

    What is so crazy about this is that we never wanted to have kids. We were going to do fun stuff as a couple and take care of our nephews and live the childless life. We never even discused how we would raise a child. After our son was born three years ago, we knew this is what our family was made for – kids. We’re planning on having at least four.

    I’ve babysat and taken care of probably 1,000 children starting with my brother and sister, which has given me the benefit of being comfortable around children. I knew what to expect when I came home from the hospital. I knew what to do with a baby. That kept things running smoothly and with less stress for everyone.

    Tim is also not afraid to keep the kids at home with just him. He is just as competent with both children as I am and is happy to take care of both of them while I go and help my aunt do taxes one night a weekend. He’s not scared of being left alone and the kids are just as happy to have one of us or both of us there.

    Families are different, they just are. There are families that aren’t at their strongest when there are non self sufficient kids. Maybe you’ll be the best school age kid family ever. Maybe you’ll be great at high schoolers or college age kids. Or maybe you won’t feel like yourself until your kids are on their own. That doesn’t mean you love them any less. It doesn’t mean you love your spouse any less and it doesn’t mean you are a bad person.

    Joy February 17, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    OK, wow. My first thought, when I read this, was GOOD FOR YOU! For caring that you maintain your connection as a couple. For taking the time to remember to try and be thoughtful, and for identifying what you need, even though you may not get it as needed (oh, elusive sleep and time alone). Good for you!! Good for you for the care and attention to both of your spirits, and recognising what each of you need, and experience. With this level of caring and concern, you are on a good path. And if you want HBF to plan some time for YOU, and then for both of you, send him an email, with some suggested dates that he can plan for. If he’s anything like most men I know, he’s not going to want to intrude on any plan that may possibly be in place that he doesn’t know if he’s forgotten or whatever. Train them with babysteps…

    Baby #1 was a tough transition for us, because of the intense nature of the child, and other issues such as finances and ill-health. The other two we took in stride, flat-out running, in fact. We took/take turns carrying each other, although he does do more carrying than I. But all those things we like to hear, the whispered appreciations for a job well done, for being a good Mom, etc, men need to hear too. And the more I give, it seems, the more I get in return…

    And children don’t always wreck marriages – our three children are a source of pride, and entertainment, and amusement, and love, and wonder, and experience, and… frustration, and anger, and love, and silliness, and… They are the BEST, most POSITIVE affirmation that we have made three very wonderful beings from our togetherness. And the fact that they are so bright, and loving, and caring, and wonderful, is another daily affirmation of the rightness of our marriage, and our strength as a couple as we parent these children of ours. (Even at 4:30 in the morning.)

    April February 17, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    When you say it, you really say it. I never could’ve put how I’m feeling to paper (or… computer) if you asked me to, but you just did.

    I think, for for my family, it’s amplified because I do not have easy children. The first one came out fussing and whining and hasn’t stopped two years later. He didn’t crawl until 12 months and didn’t walk until 18 months. At 26 months he’s only just starting to talk. But, he can unlock and get out of any door in the house, and he knows how to work a computer. Namely, daddy’s computer that makes us money and feeds us and clothes us and OHMYGODGETAWAYFROMTHEFUCKINGCOMPUTER!!!

    The second child came (on purpose) only 15+ months after the first. He’s a much sunnier disposition, but like your second, he DOES NOT REST. At 11 months, he’s sleeping through the night about 70% of the time. And he takes about one 45 minute nap a day. So between the two of them… one is day and the other is night. Plus #2 started crawling at 7mo and has now discovered climbing. We’ve already had two split lips and a bloody nose this week. And it’s only Tuesday.

    Add to that the fact that I quit a very lucrative law career to stay home with the kids while hubby transitioned into working from home, for himself. He also enrolled in college for a second degree (in engineering!) when i was 6 mo pregnant with our first. (He actually studied through both of my labors). So, along with time, money is also (very) tight.

    That being said – my husband is awesome and we make a serious point to laugh at whatever we can and to talk talk talk it through as much as possible. We are acutely aware of how kids can make you turn on each other (as it has certainly happened here!) and make a concerted effort to support one another.

    So, we’re hanging in there.

    And taking enjoyment from wherever we can.

    And we’re trying for #3.


    Amber February 17, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I found #1 the hardest on my relationship. At least with #2 we know that these early days will pass. Although I do occasionally harbour fantasies of running away and leaving all this behind me, at least for a couple of nights. ;-)

    Nadine AKA Scarbiedoll February 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    I wrote THIS on the plane home from BlogHer. Lucy was 10 months then.

    I so get it. It’s hard. It’s hard not to resent, it’s hard to not see each other through the children. It’s hard when your work hours are all over the place. It’s hard when you’re trying to still chunk something out of the world for yourself beyond motherhood and trying to be a good mom too.

    But I have to say: now that we’re mostly sleeping, it’s easier. Like night and day. Like we like each other again. Like everything does not have me reaching for a solution in a bottle.

    brigid February 17, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I recently had a lot of guilt when my kids would finally be asleep and I could finally have alone time with my husband, and it was the absolute last thing I wanted. I just wanted to be alone. I worried about our future. But as time creeps by, while flying by simultaneously, I realize this is a small portion of what will hopefully be a long union. In a few years when all of us are sleeping through the night, maybe I will feel like missing out on a little sleep for some husband/wife time.

    Jennifer February 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    #2 was hard on us also, even though there was 8 years and 10 months between the two. It is still hard, it is as if we have two families in one. #2 also coincided with my hub going into the narc unit so I had #2, a 9 year old and a husband gone all the time. I was very very aggrivated and angry.

    Her Bad Mother February 18, 2009 at 12:00 am

    nadine – yeah, I hope so much that sleep will make survival – and thrival (sp?)- much easier ;)

    Her Bad Mother February 18, 2009 at 12:01 am

    oh, and April? that anyone goes for 3 after the challenges of 2 gives me hope. MAD HOPE.

    Anonymous February 18, 2009 at 2:00 am

    I really, really admire you for putting all this out there. You are willing to be perfectly honest with perfect strangers who then give you perfectly well-meaning advice, which may be perfectly off for you!

    Looking back (and even forward, when I think about it), I have realized that I have had to take more responsibility for ‘carrying’ myself. In other words, I have made arrangements (after discussing with my husband, of course) to get at least some of what I need (time to myself, sleep, recreation, etc.) through arrangements that don’t totally ride on my husband. It just wasn’t fair to him, or to me, for me to feel that kind of resentment when he was already doing EVERYTHING he could. For us, that has meant having some childcare so that I have some time to myself, time to rest, etc. That way, I don’t have to rely entirely on my husband for that time. It makes us both happier. And I have been in your position before re: sleep, so I know your pain. I say all this with the knowledge that you haven’t yet posted your feelings on having others care for your kids, and also with the knowledge that I have no idea if that is even possible for you (financially, etc.). I can only tell you that it saved me and probably my marriage.

    Hang in there. We all want the best for you and if the advice is off, I apologize (at least for myself)!

    Carrien February 18, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Oh, I have felt this. Especially the resenting the possibility of resentment thing.

    SO silly now that I look back on it, but so alarming while caught in the middle.

    I like to think of it as a marathon. You will get stronger, because you have to. One of the things that those people who say children are blessings often fail to mention is that one of the ways they bless us is by forcing us to find/learn/become stronger/better/more able.

    You’ll never get the endurance to run a marathon if all you do is walk every day.

    I’m convinced that the end result of parenting boot camp, if we choose to rise to the challenge, is greater character, resilience, and humility.

    And those are good things, even if not all that popular.

    I’ve got 3 kids now. And my marriage is better than it ever has been, and we went through those times that you describe. 2 was tough.

    And now I laugh because two seems like a vacation I’ve become so accustomed to three.

    Do your best to remember to smile at your partner when you are feeling the worst. IT lets him know that you aren’t angry at him, and it’s nice to get a smile back too, it makes even all night long puke fests easier to deal with.

    Solo February 18, 2009 at 5:18 am

    That was a really good post…
    I just love the whole story..
    Keep on writing,i do love visiting your blog..
    Hope to see you on mine too.=)

    red pen mama February 18, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I feel a lot like you: I want time all by myself first.

    My husband just wants the latter part: time alone as a couple, someplace warm, without the kids.

    But we are still partnering, sometimes with resentment and anger, but mostly not. Mostly with the idea that we are on the same team, Team Parent.

    I could have written this post, but I could not have written it so well. And I’m not even dealing with an infant or sleep deprivation!


    Annie, The Evil Queen February 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

    We have only one child but I feel this way too. I always feel like I’m refereeing between them lately. I love them both but I also feel like I want just a few minutes to myself. I need to regroup.

    Tricia February 18, 2009 at 10:01 am

    I have no babies and this just reinforces why I have no babies. My husband and I would not have survived babies. I would have had to do it ALL alone and I would have snapped long ago. Together we are good but more than two of us and things would have fallen apart.

    I am watching my sister go through this now – her 2nd is 18 months and her 1st is 5 and she is struggling to hold onto it all. Her husband is there, helpful, involved and she struggles. I would have drown quite literally.

    Andrea February 18, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I was just thinking the other night that I feel like we are together simply for the sake of the kids (I feel such a distance between us as a couple) but that if we didn’t have kids she’d still be the person I’d want to be with forever. It’s so tough. So very, very tough. We have a babysitter and one set of grandparents who take the kids occasionally and we go to the mall for playtime and have a Y membership and the baby is in daycare while I’m at work. But I’m still tired most of the time. I work fulltime, I go to school evenings and the baby is on me like velcro if I’m in his vicinity. So when the baby is gone, I don’t want anyone else touching me…it’s problematic to say the least.

    Her Bad Mother February 18, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Andrea – “the baby is on me like velcro if I’m in his vicinity. So when the baby is gone, I don’t want anyone else touching me…it’s problematic to say the least”

    Yes. YES.

    Mommy Melee February 18, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Having kids has given my husband and I something to talk about. Always. And that’s kind of cool, this permanent experience we have in common.

    So in that way, our relationship of 10+ years has gotten stronger.

    On the other hand, I’ve had sex about 10 times in the past two years. Two years. And 10 might be an over estimate.

    For that I feel guilty. So often. I feel broken and it makes my stomach hurt. I’m just not that interested, I was pregnant, I was nursing, I’m so tired all the time, I am used to tiny kids clinging all over me and tiny peeners in diapers.

    And I remember the days where we had mind blowing sex ALL THE TIME. In some ways, that makes it worse.

    Jen February 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

    My husband and I are expecting our first baby in June and I can’t tell you how blessed I feel by posts/sites like yours. I think it’s going to be incredibly reassuring to know that parenthood isn’t supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows and that it does take hard work. Bloggers like you who are brave enough to talk about the tough stuff is what’s going to save first time parent’s like me from a lot of self-doubt and self-loathing. Thanks!

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