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.