I’ve been hesitant to write this particular blog post because, well, it’s not all that funny. But then life with an infant is not always all that funny. And you guys are like free therapy for me. So here it goes:
Having a baby puts some serious strain on a relationship. At least in our case it has. Though not necessarily in a way that I think will be bad once we make it through all this. And by “all this” I mean the next eighteen years.
Our situation is likely particularly rough because Marta and I are both a) super independent and b) just a wee bit stubborn. These qualities are fine when one is in a relationship without children and can basically do as one pleases. In our previous relationship life–the one where we had no shared dependent–there were often times where one of us wanted to do one thing and the other another and, so, we both did exactly what we wanted to do. I might have chosen to go to a drag show, say, while she stayed home watching bad cop shows on Netflix. Or I picked a poetry reading and she a conference panel on second language acquisition. We were both happy.
But you throw a baby in the mix and suddenly one cannot do as one pleases all the time. Because someone has to watch that baby. And not just watch. Someone has to change that baby’s diapers, feed her, interact with her, take her for walks, make funny noises for her, sing her songs, read her books, change more of her diapers, etc.
And by “have to,” of course, I mean “get to,” though sometimes, after many many days of getting to do all these things, there are moments when they also feel like have-tos. Because getting to do all these things also means not getting to do many of the things you did before. And then there comes a point where you are frustrated that you can’t do the things you could do before and, because you can’t really get mad at a chubby smiling baby for this change in your life, you get mad at your spouse instead. She asks you to change the baby’s diaper and all you really want to do is finish that chapter you’re reading and so you snap: “Why don’t you change it?!”
And soon you realize you are snapping far more than you ever did before. And you don’t like snapping. Snapping is for turtles.
So we talked about the snapping, because we’ve both been doing it more than we used to or than we want to. And, after we talked, we decided to stop snapping at each other. Though we still do it sometimes. I then proposed that we both take out a roll of quarters from the bank and put a quarter in a jar each time one of us snaps. This seemed like a very effective idea when I proposed it. But we’ve been to busy with the baby and the upcoming move to go to the bank and take out quarters.
Related to the snapping problem is what I call the calibration problem. By that I mean that Marta and I also have to calibrate our lives now. When we wake up in the morning, we have to talk about what it is we want to or need to do in the day. And we have come to some sort of agreement about what we want to do so that we can both do some of what we want or need to do while also making sure we do right by Nico.
In general, in fact, we have to come to an agreement on way more than we had to before.
This happens with little things: like if Nico is crying. I’ll say it’s because she’s tired and Marta will think it’s because she needs a walk. Eventually we have to decide that we’re either going to try to get her to sleep or that we’re going to take her for a walk. Then, sometimes, if it turns out she really did need a walk and wasn’t tired and Marta will sort of gloat. Or, if it’s the opposite, I will. Because, really, we’re both tired and sometimes act like babies ourselves.
Then, of course, there are also the big things we need to agree on: like what we are going to do with Nico once we move to Lubbock and are both working or studying full time. Marta wants to go to a daycare. And I mostly agree. But I also like the idea of a nanny, especially if we could find one who speaks Spanish and could help reinforce the Spanish we’re already speaking in the house. Marta says nannies are expensive and unreliable. I’m freaked out that all the daycares in Lubbock seem to be all about Jesus.
If we didn’t have a baby, we’d never have a reason to need to agree on all these things. We could–and we did–go along quite happily, each holding her own believes about baby raising or the politics of nannies without those beliefs ever coming into conflict. But now…well there is really no way to be independent in the way we were both independent before. And there is very little reason for us to be as stubborn as we’re both inclined to be.
So if I were to try to be optimistic about all this, I would say that Marta and I are both learning to be a little more flexible. We’ve also gotten pretty good at making divorce jokes. Which takes off the edge.
And honestly I am pretty sure we’ll make it through all this without a divorce attorney or even all that much heart ache. But I would be lying if I were to say that having a baby is easy on a couple. Or at least this couple. It’s more like going to couples boot camp. You have some crazy personal trainer forcing you to work out your couple-muscles every day for three hours. And it’s torturous. But you do so with the hope that in a month or a year you’ll be so couple-muscular and couple-fit that you’ll look fabulous in that couple-dress you bought last summer and have been dying to wear out.
If that last part made no sense, please blame it on the sleep deprivation.