The one I found the hardest was one I didn’t even see coming. H struggled with the interrupted nights (and continues to) – she’s a newborn, I expected that. And, lucky me, I can function on significantly less sleep than he does. Also, I don’t have to go to work… but precisely that turned out to be the challenge.

We had always had comparable jobs, with similar expectations of how much commitment to put in. And now suddenly I was at home all day (quite literally, trying to go outside at least for a short walk every day, but sometimes not succeeding until after dark) doing the most challenging and most amazing job I’d ever done, while he had to return to business as usual after a week.

Perhaps like every new family, we had (have) many things to take care of – unfinished paperwork for my leave, doctors appointments, keeping the house from falling apart and everyone fed, thank-you emails, etc. Nothing major. If I managed to take care of one item, or just run the dishwasher or a load of laundry, in addition to keeping SB fed, clean and cuddled, I felt like I had accomplished something. But when my husband came home and went through his long list, that feeling quickly vanished. We were both frustrated – him because “nothing got done” and he was freaking out, me because I felt he didn’t appreciate how much work I was doing – a labor of love, sure, but still a lot of work. Being part of the “independent women” generation, consciously or not, didn’t help. I want to pull my share. Being home full time, I tried to do all the housework – but most of it usually wasn’t happening, so that didn’t really help.

On the other hand, H is unhappy because he doesn’t get to spend as much time with his baby as he’d like. It’s not his choice – postdocs here get zero paternity leave, his new contract just started and vacation does not carry over… Lots of little things piling up to significant frustration. Two sleep-deprived people in challenging and unfamiliar but different situations – it’s not always been pretty.

Over the long weekend we had several days with basically nothing getting done. While that hasn’t helped H’s panic about his very long list, I hope he now has a better understanding of how my days are, and that not crossing off items isn’t purely laziness on my part. (Which is not to say that I sometimes prefer to cuddle a sleeping baby instead of transferring her to her crib and taking care of visa paperwork. Chances are she’ll wake up and the net effect is the same, just with more crying.)

It’s been quite a change, with unexpected difficulties. I’m curious how we will manage once I go back to work (a topic that deserves a post of its own, or two). And whether the insights from this weekend will have an effect. We’ll try to focus on the moments when we both coo over our adorable daughter. That’s where “it’s just a phase” becomes bittersweet – some of it is hard, but I (we) wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.


13 thoughts on “Transitions

  1. Thankfully my husband didn’t expect anything to get done while I was on my maternity leave- a newborn doesn’t have a set schedule so it’s hard to get too much done around the house. Honestly, you can’t worry about it. Maternity leave is the BEST time to just cuddle with SB. Your leave is going to go by so fast and if the dishes don’t get done? Well, they don’t get done but you had a great day snuggling with SB.

    Now that I have been back at work for a while, the house is still not as clean as it was pre-kids. On the weekends I would rather spend my time with Izzy than clean. And that’s okay.

    1. I totally do snuggle as much as I can get away with ;)
      As for cleaning, my best hope is that at some point it’ll be reasonably affordable to hire someone to do it for us, at least occasionally. Like you, I’d rather spend the time with my baby.

  2. A thousand times yes. And as I have gone back not to full-time work with full-time childcare but part-time work with lots I am supposed to get done while simultaneously taking care of the children…well. Sugar got it a lot more after I did go back to work post-Bean, as she “worked from home” one day a week while taking care of him. I think most people don’t really understand how large the job of childcare is until it is theirs alone. (I know I didn’t.)

    Yes, too, to the internal feelings of low self-worth on account of not being “doing” anything, despite being so impossibly busy. Haven’t really reconciled them, either. Funny how all these issues I talked earnestly about in my women’s studies classes turned out to apply to my real life, eh? Imagine that.

    1. Your last line made me laugh :)
      And I think *alone* is the key here. It’s so much easier when both of us are home, because then one person can hold SB while the other indulges in luxuries such as taking a shower. And because it’s not all you all the time it seems much less obvious how much time is spent “just baby-holding” (which of course is awesome and is what we’ve been waiting for for so long!)

  3. I’m sorry that there are so many things to get done and that is is causing stress – and even more sorry that your husband doesn’t get to spend as much time as he wants with the baby. I imagine it will be the same for my husband and I when/if Baby C gets here. But I’ve heard this from many. many different couples. The newborn phase is just a blur of business and many adjustments. But you have this amazing little baby and I think you’ll look back on this period remembering nothing but how adorable she was… and maybe even how you wish she was that little again!

  4. I don’t have first hand experience with any of what you wrote about, and I can only imagine right now how difficult the transition is. But remember to be kind to yourselves. These moments will be gone in a flash, and SB will be growing up so quickly. Just take it one day at a time and enjoy the time with your precious SB. Hugs. <3

  5. The good thing is, it’s normal to want to murder your otherwise dear spouse when you have a newborn. The bad thing is, it’s normal….

    It doesn’t help when the baby’s nursing and only wants the Milk Person. Preferably NOW. My spouse calls it the chopped liver phase (“What am I, chopped liver?”).

    1. Thanks for making me feel more normal :)
      SB will cry noticeably harder when she’s hungry and I hand her to H (usually to wash my hands or some similar luxury). She already knows he doesn’t have milk, and he has found it a little depressing. Which is probably why he’s so excited about me pumping milk in preparation for going back to work…

  6. I think what surprised me most was the number of times this readjustment had to happen and how difficult it was each time (me being home, going back to work, then going from just being back at work and going through the motions to really putting myself back into the work at full effort). A friend of mine told me it took her 2-4 years with each of her kids to really dive back into work which was helpful to hear as well.
    But yeah it wasn’t easy.

  7. Oh boy, does this sound familiar! It is so challenging to get things done with a baby! And my Hubby has a hard time going to work because he wants to play with our babies. He makes me (unintentionally) feel guilty for getting to stay home with them. I have to remind myself sometimes to remember how awesome it is that he loves his babies so much and it’s hard for him to be away from them, just like it would also be hard for me if roles were reversed.

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