How We've Become A Parenting Team
Unsurprisingly, I've spent a lot of time in the past week reflecting on what this past year with our first child has been like. There's no doubt about it, parenting is HARD. Especially when it's your first and you are dealing with completely new situations and not knowing what exactly you "should" be doing. Sure, you have your natural instincts to help out, but you never truly know if there is something else you should or could be doing. If you're lucky enough to not do the parenting thing alone, you will have some backup, but that also presents its own problems.
I'm thankful I've had B with me every step of the way on this journey. We've been able to bounce ideas off each other, pick up the slack when the other needs a break, and laugh through the really tough times. But at the same time, there has been a lot that we've had to figure out in both the way we parent as a team, and in our relationship.
For starters, we're both incredibly stubborn people (no doubt a trait that has been passed on to Henry). We both like to be right and we usually think our way is the right way. But when it comes to parenting, there is hardly ever a "right" way. There's just a "way that works just this one time and won't work any other time". So when we're both coming up with different solutions to what ever hurdle we're facing at the time, one of us has to back down. And that doesn't always go easily. One perfect example of this is when I recently decided to get rid of Henry's pacifier. I took it away from him while he was really sick (probably not Mom of the Year material, but in my defense, he couldn't breathe while he was sucking on it) and because of that, when Henry would wake up crying in pain in the middle of the night, B wanted to give the pacifier back to comfort him. I refused. This caused more than one fight between us with both of us thinking we were right.
Along with the "not knowing" territory comes the assumption that one of us (usually me) "should" know what to do. Whether it's because I'm the Mom and supposedly have that maternal instinct thing people talk about, or because he thinks I just know what I'm doing, B has often looked to me when Henry is crying for what seems to be no reason. And in my frustration at the situation I get even more upset and scream "I DON'T KNOW". Because I don't. Which of course is completely ineffectual and doesn't help the situation at all. But after my little outbursts, it usually causes B and I to stop, take stock of the situation, and figure out a solution TOGETHER.
And then there are the times when I am the preferred parent- and that is usually because Henry is sick or overly tired and only wants the comfort of his Mom. B can try with all his might to calm Henry down or to get him to sleep, but nothing will work. And as soon as I take over, Henry is peacefully snoozing. That makes B frustrated because he wants to be able to provide the comfort and it makes me frustrated because I just need a break and don't get one.
In the beginning when I was still on maternity leave, B would come home from work and immediately take over baby duty so that I could have a little break- whether it was just to shower, to nap, or to eat food with both hands. Now that we're both working full-time it has become even more complicated to deal with it all after work. We're both exhausted from our work days and would love to have time to just sit and relax for a bit, but one of us has to be "in charge" of Henry. It seems more and more recently that we've managed to figure out a system that works for us to each have a bit of downtime in the evenings.
The biggest compromising period for us has been learning to deal with the nighttime. Both of us really, really love to sleep. Babies don't often provide you with that luxury, especially if you don't go the cry it out way. For awhile in the beginning, I was getting up at night to nurse and so wouldn't ask B to get up with me. I figured there was no point in it since it was "my job". And because he had to get up to work and I didn't. After a few weeks of this with very little sleep in between, I realized I couldn't do it all myself. So then we instituted a rule- because I would stay up later at night and had a really hard time falling back asleep if I was woken up, and because B can fall asleep basically anytime, anywhere- we decided that if Henry woke up anytime before 2 am, I'd be in charge. Anytime after that was B's job. And this worked well for us until Henry started sleeping through the night.
Now that he's been teething and had on and off ear infections, we've had to relearn this compromise. We often take turns getting up to rock him or feed him back to sleep. And we take turns getting up when he just needs a bit of back rubbing to fall back asleep. Often times before I've even managed to swing my foot over the side of the bed, B is already walking to Henry's room so that I don't have to get up. And that compromise has come with very little talking involved. He knows that I have a job to go to that I need to be alert for, and I know that he does too. One of our jobs is not more important than the other. And we also both understand that sometimes one of us needs sleep more than the other, and will pick up the slack. Is our situation perfect? No. I've found myself on more than one occasion wanting to smother B because he is peacefully sleeping while I've gotten up 3-4 times in a few hours, and I'm sure he's had the same thoughts. But it is what is working for us as a team.
And I think that's where I feel lucky in all this. I have someone to be my teammate in this shitstorm called parenthood. I can count on him to know when I'm about to scream. I can count on him when I just need to take a shower and not have a little face peeking around the curtain. I can count on him when I need just a little bit more sleep than he does. I can count on him when all I want is to eat in peace for once. It's taken a full year, and even now we're still learning what exactly it means to be a team. But I'm proud of how far we've come in this year. And I'm glad to know more about who my husband is. Because nothing will show you a person's true character like being a sleep deprived, poop covered mess.
Thank you for indulging my "week of Henry". It's been such a wonderful week celebrating what this past year of my life has been like. And thank you all for being a part of it.