When I was pregnant, there were a number of ruts that I swore I wouldn’t get into after becoming a mother. But the toils and demands of motherhood robbed me of that adamance, and well, I ate my words when it came to certain things, such as making a conscious effort not to neglect my husband.
The Early Months of Motherhood
Nothing prepares one for motherhood and it can feel like you are riding a unicorn through rainbow-hued skies and getting hit by the bus at the same time. (Yes, that is a real thing you are feeling right there.) Time slips away like none other when you have a baby to care for, and along with that, your energy and resolve to shampoo your hair for the first time that week.
Looking back, it’s no wonder I had little want to spend time with my husband when all I desired for Christmas all day, all year, all my life was to catch up on sleep. I’m not going to lie and say that our marriage was fine and dandy and going swimmingly well after the birth of our daughter. The truth is whilst our relationship eventually cemented in unprecedented strength after we became parents, it also hit rock bottom more times than I care to admit.
Sheer exhaustion, resentment, depression, lack of time, jarring differences in schedules and commitments, and stress from others are just some of the potential deal-breakers if the cracks are left to recklessly erode the foundation of a relationship. These pinpricks nag and gnaw at us, as we struggle to cope with daily on goings, inner emotional wars on top of our dear child who needs to be fed, changed and soothed round the clock, before they morph into real demons that make us forget why we even had a child in the first place.
For instance, I mostly spoke of my daughter when my husband came home from work. ‘She smiled for the first time today!’ ‘She drove me nuts today, I didn’t know what to do to stop the crying!’ And he found it much too easy to rattle on about the struggles at work. We care about each other deeply but our plates were too full for us to remember checking in with the other to see how we were actually feeling.
By the time we were showered and ready for bed (that is if husband manages to knock off before I fall asleep), we might have managed to talk but failed to connect, and we had never felt lonelier. While this problem tugged at our legs, it was much too easy to lapse into paying attention to the demands that were, at that point, in our faces and foolishly burying whatever emotional struggles until we had time to deal with them.
The Irony of Parenthood
It took us a while to realise that that was happening much too often, and it took even more courage to take a step back, assess our marriage and work on the cracks that were breaking our connection. It took us a while to realise that we were just ‘you and me’ and barely ‘us’; this was truly painful to admit because it felt as if parenthood, something that we so yearned for, was ironically hurting our marriage.
We knew we still love each other very much, but we also knew that love, when left unattended, stagnates and it needs to be nurtured to grow. Something had to be done and it required both of our best efforts. I started letting go of the parenting ideals I had previously. For example, I learnt that it is absolutely okay to get someone in the family to babysit so I could spend quality time with my husband after our daughter goes to bed. It’s not all for him, because I, too, needed to feel connected to the one I love.
And the husband switched gears in his career so that work schedules are no longer so punishing that he hardly saw us. Of course, these changes, as with others that we made, came with sacrifices. We let go of our ideals, managed our expectations, ignored the naysayers and made our marriage the top priority, without which our family would be fragmented by now.
Finding Each Other Again
And that has made the world of a difference in how we raise our daughter. We are much happier and a lot more relaxed, and that positive, uplifting vibe rubs off on our toddler, who picks up our emotional cues so acutely these days.
So yes, I am glad that we found each other again, and that we have grown to be more deeply connected and in love than ever before. By acknowledging that our marriage comes first, we paved the way to becoming more self-assured individuals, a stronger couple and more loving parents to our girl. And that can only be a good thing.
By Rachel Tan
Stay tuned for part four of our ‘First Time Mum’ series in our next issue!
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine