Becoming a parent opens up so many more issues than just looking after a tiny infant. You have re-negotiate your whole life and relationships. Things that cruised along before need to work on a different level.
Last week I read this beautiful post by Cherie at A Baby Called Max and it brought back some memories for me.
When Lil-lil was born I struggled those first few months at home. I would watch Skip walk out the door to work and be filled with envy. Oh how I would have loved the freedom of walking out the door, talking to adults, doing something productive, drinking a hot cup of tea. Instead, Lil-lil cried a lot and slept little. She hung off me all day and while there were moments I loved just looking at her and chatting to her, I often felt a little 'touched out' and trapped. I felt quite isolated as I didn't really have anyone around me in the same boat. I felt resentful that I was at home. I felt like I had no freedom. I felt like this despite loving her with every fibre of my being.
When Lil-lil was seven months old, Skip and I swapped roles. He stayed at home and looked after her and I went to work full-time. Boy were my eyes opened up. I never imagined how hard it would be to walk out the door and leave my baby. I also never in my foggiest realised the guilt and pressure a parent who's at work can feel. Worrying about what's going on at home. Trying to do your best at work when your mind is often somewhere else. Rushing to work, rushing home. Feeling like you're being torn in two. It was really a great experience to have, to see the other side of the coin.
I'm sure it was also great for Skip to see that being an at-home parent is more than watching soap operas all day.
Almost everyone I know who is a parent has played the "who's more tired, who's worse off, who's got it harder" game with their partner at some stage, I know I have. It can be a toxic game to play because no-one ever wins.
Sometimes it's good to step out of your shoes and see where the other person is, really look, even if you think you know because you might be surprised.
I feel for Skip because he does rush to work each morning and rush home each afternoon. As much as I try not to talk his ear off when he walks through the door, the kids want to soak up every bit with him and jump and yell and climb all over him before they're shuffled off to bed. If he's had a bad day at work, he pushes it aside to smile and spend a few happy moments with the kids. He even listens (or at least pretends to listen) to my mundane mutterings about my day. He gets up extra early with the kids and makes them breakfast. He works hard so that we can have a home, food, holidays, a life. He bears the weight of being the sole bread winner which is a heavy weight.
So when I'm cleaning up Weet-Bix off the floor or wiping someone's bum or dealing with a tantrum (or multiples tantrums). When I'm rocking a baby until my arms are going to fall off or scrubbing off a happy face which has been drawn onto the back of a school uniform (or an LCD TV). When all three kids are yelling and crying and screaming at the same time and I feel my head might explode. When I'm doing all this and thinking of Skip going out to lunch or having drinks after work and feeling jibbed, I remember the stress of his job, him dealing with difficult people at work, him carving out a career, him worrying that I'm not killing the kids, the weight of responsibility he has so we can have a good life. Then I remember the times when I get to watch the kids play, swim, laugh, sing and he's at work, working for us. The grass is never greener.
Being parents in a young family is a balancing act of looking after the kids, looking after each other, looking after yourself. Trying to have a career, a social life, a relationship, a stable family life while just keeping your head above water and getting a couple of hours sleep here and there. There are times where one areas suffers and other times when every area suffers. You just have to go back and try again.
I think I'm lucky, as I think Skip and I do look at life from each other's perspective from time-to-time and I think we try to work as a team. Or at least I hope we do. I'm so appreciative of everything he does for me. I know we try to make life a little bit better, easier and enjoyable for each other. And for that I'm thankful and grateful.