While I was preparing for and recovering from labor, I made the mistake of reading The Bitch in the House.
Now, it’s a really great book- a compilation on essays about resentment by women of different lifestyles. But it really hit a nerve with me during the perfect storm of hormones, hugeness and horror. Many of the essays documented lives wherein women, by becoming mothers, had unintentionally signed up to do more than they originally expected. They ended up simmering in silent resentment of all the expectations of their husbands, families, society while they did it all alone.
So, perhaps I was on-edge about the idea of co-parenting. My husband had always been an understanding, forward-thinking man. We shared equally in the household chores. I was the breadwinner, in my modern and educated feminism. I was never expected to cook meals or wash dishes- clearly we would have no issue with changing diapers.
And then I came home with my Little One, and we went a few days where it seemed like I was THE ONLY ONE doing all of the feeding, all of the waking up in the middle of the night, all of the diapering. (okay, so maybe I’m the one with the necessary feeding equipment- but that certainly doesn’t remove his poop responsibilities)
And here’s what didn’t dawn on me. Josh was nervous. I know, right? Who ISN’T when they bring home their first baby? Those things are fragile, hungry, alien beings. But, Josh assumed that I knew what I was doing (incorrect, sir). Oh, that marital communication stuff- always requiring us to talk about things. Out loud, even. So there he was, nervous about breaking the baby, assuming I knew what I was doing with the baby- it only made sense for him to step back and let me do my thing.
As soon as I asked him, “Um. WHY AM I DOING ALL THE THINGS?” Josh realized his error, confessed that I “seemed” to know what I was doing (how easily he was fooled) and tried to mend his ways. In honesty, things have been great since, with the occasional hiccup.
A few key factors come into play here.
Josh loves his son. This seems pretty basic, but really, it’s major. Because Josh loves his son so much, he doesn’t mind an occasional 2am wake-up or toxic nappy. He enjoys spending time with the kiddo as much as I do, and if that time is spent wiping mushed bananas off the kitchen wall- he’s happy to be wiping mushed bananas with his son (who is probably also covered in bananas).
The other major thing is that we’re here for each other. As in, I love my son and enjoy spending time with him. But, when we have those days where he’s been screaming his face off about a new tooth that’s coming in, it is a wonderful, beautiful, glorious sight to see Josh walk through the door. Then by the time Josh reaches the end of his rope, I’ve calmed down (or had a shot of tequila) and am ready for some baby time.
In a similar way, we can switch off on the little annoying duties. Sure, i said Josh is thrilled to clean up those mushed bananas- but say it’s the fourth jar of bananas in a week. Or a day (we’ve had some rough days). Not quite so enchanting. Same goes for diapering, feeding, burping, bathing (it never ennnnds). Luckily we have two very sophisticated methods- The Rock, Paper, Scissors Technique and the critically acclaimed Hot Potato (whoever is holding baby when he poos has to change the hot potato- there’s usually little warning, so limited room for cheating).
I was worried that the whole co-parenting thing wouldn’t gel- that I would be all alone in caring for and raising the same child I had nurtured for nine months previous. But we both care about each other and care about Little Josh. That makes taking care of us- this NEW “us” that involves three people now- really important. To us both.