For my partner I mean. I wouldn’t mind it being easier for me, but I really want to make it easier for him. I see that he’s struggling with this transition into parenthood and it breaks my heart. I used to feel guilty about it (because I wanted kids now and basically had to persuade him to come along for the ride), but I think I’m finally past that. I know my partner loves our daughter. I have no doubt it my mind. I see it when they are together, I hear it when he speaks to her, when he speaks about her. I feel it when the three of us are together, playing on the floor, at the park, at the grandparents’ house. I’m certain he has no regrets and that he never has, not even for a second.
At the same time I can tell he’s not entirely happy. I don’t want to declare that he is unhappy, because I don’t feel that is my place, and I doubt he would say that himself. I also doubt he’d argue that he’s entirely happy. There is so much to do, so much responsibility. He feels trapped at his job, saddled with obligation of supporting not just himself but his daughter. He’s tired all the time; the fact is he’s exhausted, constantly. It doesn’t matter how much sleep he got the night before or if we order in for dinner, every night he climbs into bed a haggard mess. He seems weary, in body, mind and spirit.
I understand how he feels. There is always something to do; there is rarely, if ever, down time. Mi.Vida has really stepped up since Isa was born, taking on more and more chores around the house. While I still shoulder a significant portion of the “baby-related” duties, Mi.Vida does so much to keep things running smoothly. Using our interests and our skills as guides, we’ve divvied up the burden in a way that (I think, I hope) feels equal to both of us. The result, it seems, is we’re both equally overextended at the end of the day.
I’ve mentioned before the book When Partners Become Parents, which I read before TTC. It’s reports the findings of a study which intimately followed about 100 couples during pregnancy and into their child’s fifth year. Overwhelmingly the couples were less satisfied with their relationship, and daily life, after having children. I’ve encountered similar findings in other articles (which I don’t feel the need to source at the moment). They all seem to say the same things, the overall satisfaction of having children is incredibly fulfilling and ultimately no one would (or admits) to wanting to give it up. But the day to day drudgery of having kids can be brutal, on both the individual and a relationship. While children might boost the over all happiness of their parents, a random poll sent out at different times of the day asking how those same parents are feeling right then will show that they are more tired, distracted and overwhelmed than their childless counterparts.
I see this in my partner (and to a degree in myself). Would he say that having his daughter has made his life better? Absolutely he would. Would the results, from before becoming and parent and after, of randomly answered surveys throughout the day support that claim? I’m guessing they wouldn’t. That is where the disconnect happens.
When we were in counseling about having children, Mi.Vida mentioned time and time again that he was worried he wouldn’t be able to do the things he loved: continue working on his local music website/podcast and seeing live shows. I assured him that he would be able to do that. I told him I would support him, giving him whatever time he wanted to make those things happen. He predicted that even with my support it would be hard, because he’d feel guilty leaving us alone. I was adamant that we would find a way.
What neither of us predicted was how the sheer exhaustion would make seeing live shows all but impossible. Even if I support him 1000%, offering to “babysit” whenever he want to go out, just being too tired can hold him hostage at home. Sometimes I feel guilty about that part, because he was right – he can’t pursue those interests in the way he wants and I told him that he’d be able to. I didn’t lie, but I was wrong and I feel horrible about that.
On Mothers Day the love of my life gave me the most amazing card, declaring what a great mother I am and thanking me for helping him embrace fatherhood at his own pace, in his own way. He added something to the effect of, “if you told me I could be this happy and this tired at the same time, I’d wouldn’t have believed you.”
I know my partner is happy. I’m certain of this. But I also see that he is struggling with the day to day. I recognize that he feels overwhelmed with chores and responsibility. I hurt that he misses many of the things he loves and that make him feel whole. I want to help him but I’m not sure how. I consider assuring him that it will get better but I worry that isn’t so.
We talk about having a second child. While he seems concerned about how we’d handle the stress of two children he never asks me to wait, he never requests a reprieve. Will having a second child be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Because we all know that a second child is a much more significant weight than any single straw. Will waiting make a difference anyway? Is it better to just get the difficult early years over with?
I have struggled a lot in my life. I handle disappointment and sadness in my own way. I know what steps I need to take to resolve my own feelings. Mi.Vida is not me. He processes things differently than I do. The strategies I use may not work for him. I don’t know how to “fix” this for him and I hate that. I feel insignificant and powerless and… sorry.
I knew parenting would be difficult but I didn’t foresee the degree to which it would test me and my partner. I also don’t know how to lighten either of our loads. I assume it will get easier. I hope that it will but I can’t be sure. In the meantime I wish I knew how to make it better. I wish I were strong enough to carry extra weight so my partner feels less burdened. I wish I had the power to make it all better. But I’m not. And I never will be. And I suppose I have to accept that.
Are you surprised by how parenting or IF/TTC/loss has affected your partner or your relationship? What do you do when your partner is unhappy you don’t know how to help him?