Loved your response to the bored-out-of-their-gourds parents of the 1-year-old. I’m three months pregnant and a little worried in the wake of a recent dinner party. There were four sets of new parents there, and all the wives seemed to resent the hell out of their husbands. The husbands, predictably, seemed defensive and angry in response. My husband and I have a really great partnership, and I’d like to keep it that way. Are there things we can do to avoid the parental hate stage, or … fret, fret … is it an inevitability that comes with the stress of having a child? –Baby On Board
Today’s marriage is reportedly a more equal partnership. For a lot of couples who become parents, here’s how that works: The woman blimps out for nine months, spends hours and hours in agony squeezing a huge thing out an extremely small opening, and then becomes a 24-hour milk dispenser and poo-slave for the better part of a year. The man holds her hand and says “You can do it, honey!” while she’s in labor, helps name the kid, and then, when friends come over to watch the World Series, picks it up and says, “Look what we made!”
Trophy dads aside, if there’s one area of parenting that breeds eye-daggers of wifely resentment, it’s unequal sleeplessness. Yeah, I know, according to The Beatles, “love is all you need,” but they forgot the small print: This is only true of people who are not suffering from sleep deprivation, which, by the way, is not only a necessity for tending to one’s newborn but a form of torture banned by the Geneva Conventions.
Sure, there are certain biological problems with sharing the nightly feeding duties. But, just because the booby with the drinks in it is on only one of you doesn’t mean there can’t be catering. In other words, Daddy can bottle-feed if mommy breast pumps, and nothing’s stopping him from diaper-changing. What matters is that Mommy and Daddy are going halfsies on sleeplessness. As a happily married male friend with a new baby puts it, it’s essential to “scrupulously share” wakeup duty, or a wife who used to look lovingly at her sleeping spouse may begin calculating how much jail time she’d get for smothering him with a pillow.
During daylight hours, a little time off for the stay-at-home mom, even for 20 minutes after Dad comes home, is a huge relief, as are playdates – one night a week for her to go out with friends and be a person instead of a big udder. Just a little alleviation goes a long way in showing that a husband doesn’t think women have babies and men have babies as props – to parade around Starbucks in a BabyBjorn, making all the hot girls coo, and then hand back to Mom until the kid’s old enough to be interesting: “Hey, little man, Daddy’s gotta read the newspaper and putter around the garage for six or seven years. Let’s talk when you’re big enough to throw a ball around.”
©2012, Amy Alkon, all rights reserved. Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com). Weekly radio show: blogtalkradio.com/amyalkon