My Marriage After A Baby
Having a baby was a life altering experience. Our lives changed in ways I would’ve never been able to comprehend. I had heard that a baby connects couples in numerable ways. But a piece of forewarning reading “it divides before it connects” would’ve helped us prepare better for the choppy waters.
Like all expectant couples, our baby came into our lives way before we held him in our arms. The ‘US’ time that my mister and I had savoured luxuriously for 5 years was beginning to accommodate different things; all spread under an umbrella labelled ‘baby.’ We deliberated over the baby names, debated over the safety of consuming sunny-side up eggs, conflicted over the choice of baby apparel. We talked baby, we walked talking baby, we watched TV talking baby, we ate thinking baby…you get my drift don’t you?
But nothing had prepared us for the vast unknown…the life after the baby. I look at it as the great dividing experience between the genders. Within a woman’s life, she gets split off from herself and is transformed into that opaque, idealised, conflicted creature, a mother. Naturally a man cannot give birth. But does that belittle his experience of becoming a father?
I was learning the ropes to being a mom, acquiring new skills in baby care, ignoring the intermittent post-delivery pain that my body was going through and new emotional needs were weeding into my beautifully nurtured marriage. I ached for a stronger sense of commitment from my man, something that I didn’t feel before. I yearned to see him in his role as a father, participating in his job towards his child. I was, as my husband puts it, hormones on steroids. It now annoyed me that he didn’t know how to make the beds and mop the floors. With a deportment of a tired child, I just kept asking for more. Perhaps it was a part of me being bitter, because he still got to go out and I was cooped in the house cleaning poop, smelling of vomit and nursing for what seemed like endless days and nights!
As for my husband, once the initial war dance of having a new baby ended, he ignited inside him a greater need to provide for the well-being of his family. Armed with the feelings of a new dad, he propelled full force towards churning in more finances. He gave up his photography (a cherished hobby), left for work earlier, worked harder, slept lesser and became a man of fewer words. He needed his new avatar to be recognized and appreciated. I was too consumed in the baby to notice. I wasn’t there for the mister anymore. The focus of attention had shifted. He ate out of take-away boxes, wore un-ironed clothes and waited to be heard, often falling off to sleep on the couch in the living room! There was no time for communication, meaningful discussions or intimacy. My only acknowledgement of sex was ‘Yes it is a boy!’ We had on hand a formula that would ensure a failing relationship.
This scared me. A baby couldn’t be fatal to our marriage now could he? It was hard for me to accept that life after the baby wasn’t what I had envisioned. My bubble was popping and the air was escaping at an astonishing pace. I told myself “I need to fix this!” The dishes didn’t wash themselves, the clothes didn’t walk to the machine and the baby didn’t self- feed! So why the hell did I assume that the marriage would thrive on its own. Silly and stupid. Making our marriage solid and happy was of paramount important because we wanted our children to grow up in a loving and secure environment.
We introspected and came up with a list of marriage ‘Must Dos.’ 8 years later and two kids in tow, time and again we bring these out and fall back on them.
- Talk. I have failed to make my husband a mind reader. I realize it is easier to spit it out. So we ‘just talk.’
- Intimacy cannot be eluded. And must not! All good comes out of this one!
- Seek out help when needed because kids can be so demanding. It could be grandparents, friends, neighbours or baby sitters. Whatever works is fine as long as it allows you some space to breathe.
- Talk about things other than the kids. The world is huge and there are so many things to discuss other than the omnipresent kids. Take the time without kids to be without them.
- I love the word ‘Date.’ The idea of a date makes me as enthusiastic as it did in college! We try to go out (just us two) of the house once in 15 days. Obviously we are major foodies, but we love the change of scenery and it helps set the mood. I admit, a lot of times I have wanted to curl up next to my kids and just snooze off, but over time, doing this repeatedly has me looking forward to my dates with my husband.
- We don’t set the bar for daily time together very high. We are content with watching TV together, playing a game of scrabble when the kids are asleep or simply sitting there and talking about the mundane topics of daily life.
- We appreciate each other. There’s always something worth appreciating in the other person. It’s not about pampering the other person’s ego but instead acknowledging the other half’s effort.
- Stay connected. A short message, an email or a text saying ‘Oh! I just remembered you when….’ is such a mood changer! It could be about the kids, about friends, something you heard, just about anything.
- We don’t mess with our kids’ bedtimes! We have established a very regular routine for our children. We have often received flak from other people over this, but it is only when they retire that we get time for ourselves. My kids know when it is time for bed, I mean it. This way, I get time with all of them without compromising anybody’s needs.
- We let some things so unsaid. I understand that everybody is trying the best they can. I am doing my bit and my husband is doing his. So if the kitchen counter is not cleaned and I really want to point it out, I let it go. The same kindness is then returned to me.
- Go out without each other. We have started doing this just recently and I have to admit, it is very refreshing. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to be with our respective other half. What it means is that some time with the girls for me, or some time with just the boys for him is fun. And no, it does not mean we want to live separate lives. It simple means we need a little ‘ME TIME.’
- We keep our arguments focused. We don’t digress to the past or to un-related topics. We keep the arguments restrained to the subject in question. There will always be baggage from the past, but letting it in now will ruin your time together and nothing productive will emerge out of it.