Today, you'll learn about some of the harsh realities of the transition to parenthood(lum) that they don't teach you in school. AND YES, there will be poop. Hopefully you'll find a helpful gem of incompetence to avoid in your own transition to parenthood; or at least a little laugh at our expense.
The past several weeks have been both the hardest and happiest. Our little boob-buzzard has grown and changed so much. Most of the her astounding feats of development that would put any of ours over the past 25-30 years to shame, have occurred unnoticed. She is constantly at work, like Data from Star Trek Next Generation, becoming more and more human each day.
The Spousal Unit and myself are pretty synced. We've had 14 years of exclusive schooling on the subject of each other, more than some laureates have on the subject of how cow farts affect the biosphere. Having grown up together, we're fiercely protective of one another. Why, just yesterday, some Duck Dynasty-looking, inbred, butter-fed, f--k behaved in a threatening manner toward the Spousal Unit and I felt my neck hairs bristle and my chest puff up. The guy eventually sped away in his pick-up as he was undoubtedly late for a date with his sister-wife at the seasonal corn-hole hoedown in his tooth-deprived aluminum village.
As it happened, the 10-second encounter was the fault of the Spousal Unit to begin with. In the past some mouth-breathers have asked, "Uhh, so which one uh y'all is the man", as if the fact we are both male had somehow eluded them. If there were ever a thing that would make one of us the wife, it would be the Spousal Unit's driving. In fact, I've taken to strictly staring into my phone while a passenger in a vehicle he's driving so as to avoid episodic incontinence.
Digression aside, we are indeed still in love with each other. I often compare love to a volcano. In the beginning, it is this violently passionate eruption of heat and goop. It's so hot that it burns everything around it and burning ash blocks out the sun leaving only the glow of lava to light the way. After some years, the lava slows, the sky clears, leaving an impassable mountain of strength warmed from beneath by the magma that unites landscapes from the inside out. The mountain still erupts but it has calmed into a fertile island of refuge and growth.
That is not to say that it is perfect, in any traditional sense of the word. Familiarity breeds contempt after all, and we're both capable of harshness. In fact, everyone knows that one couple that appears 'just perfect'. Folks look at them with envy and the couple feeds into it by saying things like, "Oh we don't really ever fight".
Look, if you never fight, if you have no conflicts, if you don't occasionally want to rip off the face of your beloved, roll it into a tight little ball, and shove it where the sun don't shine, if you really have ZERO skeletons in your closet, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. It is how you deal with conflict that determines your strength as a lava-oozing planet-pimple.
When you throw an infant into that mix, WHOA! As much as 83% of couples experience significant marital decline when they become parents, (Journal of Family Psychology, 2008). This of course begs the question; why?
When Elle wakes up in the middle of the night either the Spousal Unit or I will stammer out of bed, put the lounge clothes back on (sometimes discovering that the cat puked in the pants in the middle of the night), pluck the squalling bundle of mushy back-side from her bassinet, place her over a shoulder to be doused in the cold, stomach-clabbered milk-puke she's swaddled in, bang a toe on the bed and make way to the kitchen. Once there, milk is selected from the fridge, placed in nuked water to warm, while we make way to the nursery.
The changing table, fraught with its own mix of midnight joys, becomes a place to bend at the waist and rest one's head for just a moment until she kicks me in the ear as if to say with her tiny, drill sergeant feet, "GET UP MAGGOT! MOVE MOVE MOVE"! Once poop and pee have been washed from both her butt and our hands, the bottle is retrieved and the beast appeased... for now.
Then, we'll lay her quietly back into the bassinet. Undress again, completely having forgotten about the cat vomit that has now warmed to 98.6 degrees, and climb back into bed. Somewhere around 30 minutes later, I'll feel sleep beginning to return, when suddenly, she decides the 120cc of milk consumed wasn't enough. Rinse. Repeat.
As you might imagine, just sleeping seems like it could be a full-time job. As adults, lacking Warren Buffet wealth, our full-time jobs are still there too. What, did someone fail to mention to you that a child is 'in-addition to', not 'instead of' the normal day-to-day routine that already leaves you feeling drained? HA! Dumbass.
The commute from hell still awaits you. The laundry, the house, the pets, the bills, the meeting, the boss, your 2-month overdue haircut, the trash, and all the other things you didn't know how you'd find the time to get done are ALL STILL THERE.
You don't want to end up feeding your baby soot from the fire you have to burn out of old furniture to warm the house so it behooves you to keep your job. You don't want to smell like that one kid in high-school that everyone assumed carried sliced onions and an open can of salmon in their pocket everyday, so you keep up with the laundry. You try to keep up with it all, and when you feel so overwhelmed by it and see that your spouse has two seconds more free time than you do, you scream at them for dumping all of this in your lap and about how unfair the workload is.
Remember that social life you've been promising yourself you'd pay more attention to? Again with the HA!
Since Elle still has a fragile immune system, crowds must be avoided. We'd prefer the diseased masses keep their skankiness to themselves. This presents a dilemma. As explained earlier, the Spousal Unit and I are best friends. We've been together our entire adult life and don't know anything without the other. We like it that way, but it makes it difficult to get out of the house and have any fun with friends since at least one of us would have to remain behind to monitor the prodigy and ensure she refrained from the manufacture of enriched uranium in our absence.
Given all the annoyances associated with the snores, chores, and bores, it isn't difficult to imagine a need to lash out on occasion. Since there's no one else there, it makes sense that one's spouse is a likely target. Only, it doesn't really make sense at all.
Vetted neuroscience tells us that the parental relationship is of primary importance to the developing brain of infants. When it's good, they feel safe, when they feel safe, they learn and grow, when they learn and grow, you don't have to pay for special tutoring sessions, when you don't have to pay for special tutoring sessions, you don't have to bail your kid out of jail for robbing a liquor store. When you don't have to bail your kid out of jail for robbing a liquor store, you don't have to pay for a criminal defense, and when you don't have to pay for a criminal defense, you are less stressed because you can pay for a vacation instead.
So it really does pay to have a solid volcano.
Here's what mostly working for us:
- Honesty. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about the fact that it is hard sometimes. Be honest AND COMMUNICATIVE about what you think and feel.
- Empathy. At the same time DON'T wait to be told how or what your spouse is thinking or feeling - seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Describe the emotional changes you think you see, then take a guess as to where the emotional changes came from.
- Share the load. Write down all the daily, weekly, and monthly chores on paper. Then take turns picking from the main list to add to one of three columns, either Parent A, Parent B, or Both, until all the chores on the main list are accounted for (we don't consider childcare a chore).
- Parental private time. Schedule it for no less than once a week. You know the kind of 'private time' I'm referring to! SCHEDULE IT! Who cares if some romance novelist led you to believe it should be spontaneous? Trust me. You won't regret it.
- Blame the baby. Remember when you are ready to kill your spouse because of all the extra work or lack of sleep or social isolation that your spouse didn't cause all of this, THE BABY DID! Blame the baby! If you have to be mad at someone, be mad at the baby. If you're like us, this will prove impossible, leaving you mad at no one.
So with all of that said, is there ANY JOY to be had? You'll be happy to hear that we have never been happier. Our love is now ginormous at a magnitude 9.9. We are sleep-deprived, socially-isolated, over-worked, vomit-covered bliss-bunnies filled with more oxytocin than you can shake a stick at.