Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love and Marriage (Lost Post #3)

This post comes from way back in September. Before you read it I have to say I adore my husband. I'm very lucky that he is such an involved dad. We were never at each other's throats, even though this post might give you that impression. This post was written at a time when our nerves were frayed and we were seriously sleep deprived, and had maybe temporarily forgotten how much we adored each other. The post is incomplete, but our story won't be...

This week I have had lots of time to indulge in my favourite pastimes, one of which is blogging. That's because my husband is in London and, at night after J goes to bed, I have the evening stretched out before me with nothing to do but whatever takes my fancy. I always achieve an awful lot (and eat more than my fair share of chocolate) when D is away, and I have to be honest, after two weeks of having him at home, I was quite looking forward to this trip. I know I sound like a terrible wife, and if you have a husband who works a regular 9-5 job and is never at home, you're probably hating me right now. But trust me when I say, you really can have too much of a good thing (the good thing in this case being my husband).

It wasn't always this way. Back when I was young and single, all I wanted was a boyfriend; someone to watch movies, hold hands, and dream of a future with. When I finally got a boyfriend and I decided he was "the One" I spent an awful lot of time wishing we lived together. When that happened it was a natural progression to wishing we were married. Naturally, a year or two after we were married, I started talking about babies. I was always looking for the next step, wanting a little more. I believe that you have to have something to look forward to, something to work towards. Since we became parents the one thing I've been wishing for is for my husband to be at home more. Last year when I was pregnant, D took on a second job. Mostly for the extra money but also because he is the kind of guy who needs to be busy, and he felt that he had too much time on his hands. His second job ended up being more work than his actual career. He worked 9-6 on his days off and still took calls once he was home. He worked every day of the week and, with a newborn baby at home, I found it really hard. The final straw came when he went to work for a day and was on call at his "proper" job. He called me at 4pm that afternoon to tell me he'd been called to fly to Vancouver that night and would be home as soon as possible. I was furious! He'd been gone all day and would only be home to have dinner and pack his bags before going away for 4 days. We both agreed that it simply wasn't worth it. We were both exhausted and cranky, and D was missing out on too much of J's growing up.

It took a couple of weeks but eventually he worked his way out of the 2nd job and now it's more of a hobby. I got my wish, and I have my husband at home, sharing the parenting, when he's not away on a trip. He's home a lot... To those of you out there going it alone most of the time, this probably sounds like a luxury, and it is at times. But it definitely creates a new set of challenges. A good friend warned me when I was pregnant that a little one can really test your relationship. She said that we should be prepared to fight more often. I like a good heated debate but my husband is such a pacifist he could work for the UN, so I had my doubts about that. After a couple of sleep deprived weeks we realised it was true, and it continues today. We do fight more and most of the major disagreements we've had over the last year have occurred at times when we've spent a lot of time together. I'm not sure if that's because we've had time to realise that we disagree or if we're both worked up because we're getting on each other's nerves. I think it has more to do with our levels of fatigue than fundamental differences of opinion, but we've both realised the importance of being on the same page when a little person is involved.

We generally agree on how we want to raise our son, which is a great start (apart from the whole christening debate, which remains unresolved!). But what we've realised through our attempts at co-parenting is that we could work on our communication skills. Shouting commands at each other over the baby's screams or grunting apathetically with exhaustion aren't cutting it apparently. One particular incident that highlighted this concerned J's routine. From the day we brought J home from the hospital I was completely focused on how our days were going to run. I let him call the shots for a couple of months and then decided that we needed a routine of sorts. Feeding, playing and sleeping were all mapped out in a very flexible, but consistent plan, based on the little man's changing needs. The trouble was, it was all in my head. I explained to our helper what I was doing each day and she knew what was going on because she paid attention, but my husband would come home and have no idea that we'd just spent 4 days teaching J to self-soothe. It wasn't until I overheard my husband comment one day on how lucky we were that J napped and ate at roughly the same time every day, and that it was purely by accident, that I realised I had never explained to him that I had been working my butt off while he was away. Initially he had no idea that J and I were like a well-oiled machine, following a carefully orchestrated routine, and I was terribly upset that he couldn't see how hard I had worked to achieve that. I now have J's routine written down on the fridge and I make sure everyone in the house knows when I make changes, but it's taken a huge effort on my part to remember to talk about it (I'm a bit more relaxed 6 months on!).

We had an argument recently over something fairly inconsequential, but because we hadn't communicated how we each felt about it, it escalated to the point where I ended up sending D an email to let him know exactly what was on my mind. I was so sleep deprived and emotional that any time I tried to talk to him I just got upset. It's not an approach I recommend, in fact, it seems crazy now, but our whole world has been turned upside down this year, so it makes sense that the way we would normally do other things has changed too.

P.S. Marriage, like parenting, is a work in progress. And something we've learned since I wrote this post is that dates and mini-breaks are essential!

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