Six Months In: Our Relationship

When I read the limited collection of books available about having a second child, there were a few common themes. One was that it would be hard. Really hard. The second was that it is an even bigger transition for fathers than it is for mothers, because two kids means each adult is usually busy with one of them, so fathers lose out on a lot of down time they continued to enjoy despite having a first child. It is when the second child enters the picture that many fathers finally realize what it really means to be a parent, as they start spending way more time with their children. They have to step up in a lot of ways that just weren’t necessary before, and they end up taking on more responsibility both around the house and with child care. (This is obviously not true for all fathers–some spend lots of time with their first child, but I guess a fair number do not.)

I remember reading that and kind of freaking out. Holy shit I thought. Mi.Vida isn’t going to like that. Sometimes it felt like he’d spent the last three and half years mourning the loss of past life, of time to himself, of being able to dedicate time and energy to pursuits he cared about. I was worried he was going to be miserable giving up even more–perhaps all–of his precious time, and that he’d make me miserable too. I was also worried that I was going to make myself crazy trying to take on the added work of another child in an attempt to spare him the hard work of truly transitioning into the role of full time parent.

Luckily, this is not what happened. Not at all.

What happened–after the initial shit storm that was the first three months of our lives as a family of four–is that Mi.Vida stepped up, and he did so with a surprisingly positive attitude.

It’s true what the books say. When you have a second kid, the father is really forced to take on a lot more than he used to do (especially if he was less involved, like my partner was). It became apparent pretty quickly after Monito was born that no one was getting any down time. One kid is always awake (Osita stopped napping six months before Monito was born) and usually both of them are. When they are both awake we mostly divide and conquer. When one is awake, the other parent is almost always getting caught up somewhere else in the house–doing dishes, folding laundry, picking shit up off the floor. By the end of the day we both collapse into bed, barely able to keep our eyes open, let alone spend quality time doing anything together, or alone.

Mi.Vida really did have a lot less free time after Monito was born. It used to be that I would take Osita somewhere on the weekends, and Mi.Vida would get some time alone at home to get caught up in the kitchen, and just hang out on the couch with his computer. Now I will still take out both kids every now and again, but it happens very rarely. More frequently one of us will take Osita while the other stays home with Monito. This is especially necessary since Monito naps twice daily, and it’s becoming more and more necessary that he be home to do it.

Another kid doesn’t just mean more time spent on child care, it’s also more time spent doing all the things we already have to do. Pumping and bottle feeding especially create a ton of dishes. In the first six months, when I was stuck on the couch with the pump for 2+ hours a day, Mi.Vida supported me by doing ALL the dishes. This was no small feat. Every night he disappeared into the kitchen for 30-45 minutes emptying the dishwasher, taking apart all the pump pieces and bottle parts, rinsing them, loading them (along with any other dishes we used that day) and running the dishwasher. He did that EVERY NIGHT and never once complained about it. He didn’t even let out a disgruntled sigh (his modus operandi).

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that he stepped up and did that without being asked. And he’s continues to do it even now. That simple 30-45 minutes a day of helping around the house, plus all the additional child care he is a part of, has really leveled the parenting playing field. For the first time since we became parents I feel like the effort we extend is approaching equal. I still believe I do more–and I doubt Mi.Vida would disagree–but the discrepancy is much less.

This makes for a much happier marriage.

And that is how, despite my considerably apprehension, we’re are happier now with two kids than we ever were before with only one. At least I’m happier, and strangely I think Mi.Vida is too. There is a feeling like we’re in this together, and when we collapse in bed at night, we both know that we did what we needed to do to keep this small family afloat. That is a really good feeling, even when you’re so bone tired you can barely see straight. I’m so incredibly thankful that we’ve finally arrived at this place. I’ve been waiting four years to get here, and it’s really nice to have reached the final destination.

How did your relationship change after you had a child? After your second? Are you more or less happy in your marriage now than you have been in the past?

8 responses

  1. I think that as much as K likes sitting on the couch watching tv, there was also a part of him that felt left out from my relationship with J. Now that we have 2, he’s become more involved by necessity, but I think he is also happy to be developing his own relationship with the kids. The past few weeks have also been really helpful in that he’s been home in the evenings, so he sees what the evening routine looks like. This week he’s back to working evenings, and I’m a little apprehensive about how that’s going to change the dynamic.

    • I think Mi.Vida experienced something similar with Osita. I think he’s also better able to bond with her as she gets older and he can have real conversations with her. The older she gets, the more their relationship flourishes. She is also a lot easier to be around these days, and that helps.

      Mi.Vida isn’t around much in the evenings since he started his new job a year ago. He doesn’t even see Monito most days. But he is alone with Osita in the mornings and gets her ready for school and takes her on the bus, so they get a lot of good QT together. She definitely seems closer to him, and is more willing to go to him when we’re both around. It’s really nice, actually.

      I hope things don’t revert back to their old ways when K starts back at work. It sounds like things have been a lot better since he’s been home.

  2. This is really interesting, and I’m so glad to hear its going well for you guys. I wonder if a lot of it is expectation-driven—when you get to the point that you don’t expect to have ANY free time, you just dive in and go for it, and it is satisfying at the end of the day to know you gave it your all. Whereas if you think you may get a break, than whatever break you do get never seems enough.
    I am lucky in that G stepped up to the plate immediately when B was born, because he was so very very high needs that I could not handle him alone (and also because we didn’t nurse)…it started things off equal and they’ve continued that way.
    I will say that going from one to two was fine. But when L started growing up, that’s when things got really hard and we were just so so exhausted and needing a break that we took it out on each other & our relationship was at its lowest point (last summer). It took me really making an effort to work on it to get us to a good place (yes, me, he didn’t really notice/care).

    • I’ve read that when the second child becomes mobile mothers hit their nadir as far as happiness. It is absolutely the hardest point in motherhood. I can already tell that my son is going to be WAY more physical than my daughter ever was, and that is going to cause me a lot of stress. I just didn’t need to be that diligent about watching my daughter because she didn’t get into trouble. I have a feeling my son will not follow her lead on that.

      I am afraid that in a few months, when Monito starts crawling, everything is going to go to shit. I’m just trying to enjoy this little (relative) calm before the storm; I’ll deal with the insanity of two mobile kids when the time comes…

      • Interesting. That wasn’t true for me. I think that the first two months of C’s life were just SOO stressful (with her NICU stay, my gallbladder surgery, & my grandmother’s death) and things actually started to seem easier as she got older. When she started waking up less, I think it really turned a corner for the better. I hope that you get some calm, too.

  3. While R and my relationship has definitely suffered since the birth of our second child, I will say that he is a MUCH better dad now that we have two kids. It’s like something totally clicked when Charlotte came along. I’m so glad you’ve been pleasantly surprised by this aspect of parenting two. I hope the good things continue!

  4. Great that you are feeling positive about this! I’m not sure I can quantify whether the 2nd has had an impact on our relationship as of yet – it would be hard to separate it from the typical fatigue of the early baby months. But definitely something to think about.

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