I understand why people get divorced after having kids. No, don’t worry, my husband and I are fine. I just mean that after having a baby, I now understand the way children change even the most stable relationship. You would think it would be just about the new challenges associated with the baby, but it isn’t that simple.
My husband and I were together for 13 years before our son was born, during which time we developed a good system for sharing household responsibilities. Since the birth of our son in August, I have been on maternity leave, and our carefully crafted system has gone out the window. Suddenly I find myself the primary caregiver to a baby and a dog for most of the day, as well as being in charge of most of the house work and all of the food preparation. This last one is the hardest for me to adjust to, because my husband and I used to cook meals together, and talk about our days. Now, the baby’s bedtime doesn’t allow for that, so I cook on my own while the baby attempts to destroy the house. My husband comes home from work and spends about an hour or two with his son before putting him to bed.
After months of trying to do it all, I got tired. I got overwhelmed. I was full of self-pity and low on empathy. I am not sure when it happened, but I began to notice things my husband didn’t do more than the things he did. It happened so gradually, that I didn’t notice at first. I didn’t acknowledge my building anger and I didn’t talk to my husband about it. Instead, it was there under the surface, boiling up unchecked. It wasn’t my husband’s fault, but I was furious that he didn’t understand how hard I had it. He couldn’t possibly get it, because he had never spent a whole day alone with our son, I thought.
I am not proud of it, but I was keeping score. Every time he didn’t do the dishes or forgot to move his shoes from the front door or complained that he was tired, I was keeping score. Each time he left a glass on the table or came home late, I was keeping score. Yes, I was overwhelmed and keeping score was only making it worse. Instead of making me feel better, each mark against my husband only made me feel heavier and more isolated.
I wish I could say that I had a major teary epiphany, but the turning point was such an ordinary moment that I almost missed it. One day my husband came home late, and dinner was waiting, getting cold. I was irritated about waiting for him and greeted him coolly at the door.
As we sat down to eat he said, “I wish I was home earlier,” looking sadly at his son. In that moment, I suddenly understood something. He wasn’t being selfish – he was making a sacrifice for me. He was missing out on daily time with his son, to allow me to have it. I was so caught up in the struggle, that I forgot the joy of my daily life. I was so busy keeping score, that I didn’t see what a gift he was giving me. He didn’t deserve my anger, he deserved some gratitude.
I decided in that moment to try and stop keeping score. It’s not always easy, and I still have setbacks, but I am determined to stick with it. I was headed down a dangerous path. My anger and resentment were waiting in the shadows, ready to take us down. I decided I wasn’t going to let it. I could keep score all day long, but no one was going to win. Marriage with kids is a team sport, and I need him on my team more than I need to keep score.