Sunday 27 May 2012

How to Baby-Proof your Marriage

Before Mac was born I read plenty of baby books and blogs offering point form advice on how to baby-proof your marriage. This advice wasn’t at all helpful. Not because the content wasn’t brilliant but because I didn't think that I needed it. I was a lesbian after all and if you are at all familiar with my people you will know that we are totally awesome at processing our feelings and negotiating with our partners. It’s in our DNA right next to the must-wear-plaid gene. 
And secondly, once Mac was here and Tracy was doing obnoxious things like complaining about being tired after sleeping for 8 straight hours or leaving her damn cereal bowl on the coffee table for the millionth time so that the cereal crumbs turned into cement on the bottom of the bowl, I was more likely to think of a ten-ways-to-murder-your-wife list than a ten-ways-to-baby-proof-your-marriage list. 
The truth is that I have never loved or hated my wife more than I have in the last ten months. Seeing her emerge into her new role as my son’s mother has been more of a blessing than I can adequately describe. She has never been more sexy than when she is bouncing a grumpy baby around the room. I have also never imagined smothering her in her sleep just to stop the snoring more. 
But we’re ten months into this baby thing and I’ve managed to both not murder my wife and stay married to her. Which really doesn’t qualify me to offer advice to new and soon-to-be parents but I’m gonna do it anyway. Most of you will ignore this advice because you are either still in denial that a baby can make marriage challenging or you are too busy plotting ways to kill your spouse. But if this list helps one lonely, grumpy, parent somewhere in Flin Flon Saskatchewan/Manitoba (totally a real place - that also happens to straddle two Canadian provinces) I will consider this time well spent. 

1. Don't Score Keep
Does this sound familiar? It’s 7 AM and you’ve been up with the baby more times through the night than your sleep deprived brain can count. Your partner has to work (outside of the home) so you have let him/her sleep, uninterrupted, for the last 8 hours. There is puke in your hair that you are too exhausted to clean and you are beginning to wonder if your baby is actually trying to no-sleep train you. The alarm goes off and your partner sleepily complains about being so tired. It’s normal if heinous murder plans are running through your head. But, the truth is that she/he probably heard you getting up with the baby at least a few times. She/he may have been restless through the night worrying about bills or college funds or your deteriorating mental state. Tired is tired and it is not a competition. 
Being a stay-at-home parent can be really challenging. And so can being a working parent. Nobody can win the who-has-it-worse game so do yourselves a favour and forfeit before it begins. 

2. Innocent until Proven Guilty
You’ve bounced, rocked, fed, and sung to your baby and he is now finally (FINALLY) sleeping soundly. You place him gently into his crib and tiptoe out of the room. At that exact moment your partner enters the house with a slam of the door and a loud honey I’m home! You feel certain that she/he was standing outside the door waiting until his eyes closed. That’s not likely true. She/he probably also isn’t putting the diaper on wrong, forgetting to use baby friendly laundry soap, or picking-up the wrong formula brand on purpose. Give him/her the benefit of the doubt and hopefully you will be able expect the same in return. 

3. Have Sex
I’m no scientist but if I was I would be able to explain how childbirth and breastfeeding buries your sex drive in a deep hole, fills it in with dirt, covers it with cement and builds a 12 story apartment complex on top. It’s nature’s way of making sure our bodies have a chance to recover before we get pregnant again. But as a lesbian I can tell you that procreation certainly isn’t the only reason to have sex. And that’s all I’m going to say about that because my wife is still under the impression that this blog isn’t going to expose our private life to the world wide web. 

4. Vocalize Appreciation
My wife needs a lot of sleep. If she gets less than 8 hours a night everybody will suffer the next day. In contrast, even pre-baby I was lucky to get 4 solid hours. A history of insomnia coupled with my role as breast-feeder has meant that I have done 99% of the nighttime parenting. One day around week 8 I was feeling exhausted and asked Tracy if she would take a night shift. As morning broke and she was finally able to pass him back to me she said the kindest words I had heard in months: “that was so hard. I don’t know how you do that every night.” 
Although I momentarily basked in that appreciation, the truth is that I don’t envy her at all. I know that trading his beautiful smile for the gray walls of cubicle-land each day must be incredibly difficult.  I am so grateful that she is able to provide for our family so well while I stay home and care for our son. And when I vocalize this appreciation I can see the damn right! can I get an amen?! in her eyes. Don’t underestimate the power of a little appreciation.  

5. If Mama Ain't Happy Ain't Nobody Happy
The same goes for Mommy, Daddy, or Papa. For better or worse, in baby giggles and epic meltdowns, you and your spouse are a team. Your happiness is co-dependent and if one of you is miserable the other one will be too. Want to make yourself happy? Try focusing on your partner’s happiness. It will be reflected back to you.  

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