Hi Is This Normal,
My husband and I had our first child 16 months ago and honestly, we’ve been so lucky. Our son is amazing. He blows my mind every day. He’s healthy, so observant, a pretty decent sleeper and easy with my parents/daycare teachers – I really count my blessings here because I have a lot of friends who are dealing with a lot of crap and so far, we’ve been relatively smooth sailing (knock on wood).
The reason I’m writing is because of my husband. He went back to work a few weeks after our kid was born (we agreed on this) and his life seems basically the same to me. He comes and goes on a normal schedule. He grabs a bite after work when he feels like it. Goes out to lunch with co-workers. Takes a fitness class a few times in the morning. Answers emails for a few hours after our son goes to sleep.
All of this makes perfect sense, and yada yada yada, all the rational things, but I resent the shit out of it. My life is entirely and utterly different – and actually I’m pretty fine with that most days, I was ready for it – but I can’t understand how my world could be so completely upended and his is just coasting. A world where I could grab a drink after work feels so incredibly far away from mine, I can’t fathom how it’s just there for him. His ease in texting me that he’s missing bath time because a call ran over makes my blood boil. And I don’t even think I care that much that he’s missing it, I just can’t believe it’s AVAILABLE to him.
I’m sick of being angry over what can’t be controlled. I’m tired from all the energy I’m putting into talking myself off the ledge of blowing up on him. I can’t seem to wrangle what I’m feeling here and I don’t know how to let it go. Any ideas?
Dear Pissed Partner,
I want to say first that everything you are feeling, from the anger to the resentment, are completely normal. Your feelings? 100% valid. Having a baby changes your life in ways that you can’t even begin to comprehend before you become a mom. It changes for dads, too. But, as you’ve discovered, not quite in the same way. Your life is not the life you had before your son came along. And while you’re trying to figure out what this new life even is, you’re also trying to adjust to living in what basically amounts to an alternate reality – one that your husband seems to be content to just visit from time to time.
I’m going to be perfectly honest – if my partner were coming and going without a care in the world while I was doing all the heavy lifting at home with our baby, I would be pissed too! I think people, particularly men (not all men, I know, I know), take for granted just how freaking hard this parenting thing is. Even when you have an easy baby, which it sounds like you do! It’s not a job that you get to clock in and out from. It’s a constant state of being. And it’s exhausting. It’s emotionally draining. It’s physically demanding. Like you said, your world was completely upended. It can feel pretty damn unfair at times, absolutely. BUT (you knew there was going to be a but), I’m wondering how much of what you’re telling me here your husband is even aware of.
Listen, here’s the thing about men: their brains don’t change the way ours do when they become parents (science backs me up on this, having a baby actually changes the female brain which is wiiiiiiiiild). The other thing about men is that they’re kind of … oblivious. Adorable! But oblivious. Because you and your husband agreed that he would go back to work and you would stay home with your son, there’s a good chance he took that to mean that he would just … go back to his pre-baby life. Drinks after work (while you try to get your toddler to actually eat their food as opposed to throwing it on the ground)? Sure, why not! Long lunches with co-workers (as you hoover some almonds while simultaneously doing eleventy different chores during naptime)? Sounds great. It might not occur to him that these little luxuries are just that now: luxuries. To him, since you guys agreed that he would go back to work, that means his life would go back to what it was like before your son was born.
It sounds like you’ve been internalizing this for a while now, and that’s not healthy for you or your relationship. You and your husband need to have a heart-to-heart, and pronto. If you haven’t expressed how you feel about all of this, now is the time. You mention all the energy you spend trying to talk yourself off the ledge so you don’t blow up at him, which leads me to believe this isn’t a conversation you guys have had yet. Mama, you need to have this conversation. Because you don’t want to blow up at him! A heated confrontation, especially when you’re carrying around all this anger, is not going to be constructive. But he needs to know all this, because it sounds like he may have no idea you feel this way.
I do disagree with you on two things though. One, I don’t think this is out of your (or his) control. These are behaviors that can be changed, and if they’re causing you this much unhappiness, they NEED to change. Which brings me to the next point of disagreement: I don’t think you need to let this go. Your feelings about this are valid, and I don’t want you to ignore them. That is only going to lead to more anger and more resentment, and that stuff festers and destroys. Sit down with your husband, and tell him how you feel. You deserve to be heard, and he deserves the chance to do better.
Is This Normal