Maybe you have the most beautiful, conflict-free relationship.
Maybe you do have the occasional spat but you are both just so in love that you are over it within the hour.
“The first year of marriage is the hardest? Bah! Moving in together will be tricky? Not us! We’re the lucky ones. Now, let’s take a so-in-love selfie with the sunset. #swoon”
Spoiler alert: You will fight once the baby comes.
Combine disrupted and minimal sleep with loud crying at 2am and a little human that needs you 24/7 and tell me that you don’t snap at your spouse at one point.
The simple fact is that having a baby will demand more of you and your partner—more than ever before. A relationship that was once focused on each other has now been redirected toward a cute, squishy baby that reciprocates your affection and efforts with crying, blow-out diapers, and the sweetest little coos that make you forget the spit up that she just spewed on your fresh t-shirt.
The man who gave you butterflies when he first told you he loved you is now the one that is so annoying when he leaves the drinking glass on the counter—the dishwasher is right there!
After all, you just got done washing bottles, pump parts, or yourself for the 142nd time today. Maybe more likely, it’s just one more thing to clean in the pile of things to clean.
The man who you would love to curl up with while watching a movie is now bringing out the inner rage monster in you because he’s sitting on that same couch, watching TV, while you wrangle a squirmy baby into her 33rd onesie that day. Because oh-my-gosh, how does this tiny being produce so many bodily fluids?!
The man who would cause you to go buy a new dress or spend extra time on your hair to look extra-great on date night is now the one who just doesn’t get why you are craving to go on a Target-run all by yourself. For a few hours, no interruptions. Perhaps with a hot coffee drink from the in-store Starbucks that won’t spill or get cold because the baby started crying?! Yes. And now, I will stare at all the pretty things and promise not to buy anything. Until I buy something.
Um, and when did you become that wife? You know—the kind you said you’d never be? The nagging, score-keeping, snappy kind?
Girl—you and me both.
When I became a mommy, I had no idea that I would also get really good at keeping score. I don’t know what your scoreboard holds, but mine looked a little like this…
…who was the last one to change the baby?
…who was the last one to get up in the middle of the night with the baby?
….who had the harder day, thus more deserving of a break?
…who was the last one that got to do that fun thing they love—watch the game, go on a run, take a trip outside of the home by themselves?
…who is just doing more?
And here’s how it would play out: I would be changing our daughter for the millionth time and my husband would be in the other room. Since it was the end of a full work day, I would be tired. My husband would be tired. Our daughter would be morphing into that thing babies turn into before bed—you know—fussy, rubbing her eyes, and wiggling like a live wire. So ready for bed while fighting it so hard.
I would assume, of course, that my husband didn’t care about my needs or how tired I was. I would also assume that he was looking at his Twitter feed or watching TV. So I would sigh loudly as I grabbed a bottle and proceed to feed our daughter. He would ask what’s wrong and I would say “Nothing.” (Because I love passive aggression.) He would get annoyed, ask me again, and then I would say something dramatic like, “You never help! We both work full time and we both are tired but why am I the one who is always taking care of her after work?!”
And then, the scorecard game would begin.
My husband, rightfully hurt and a tad angry, would point out that he was warming up dinner—not just sitting around on Twitter. And that he was the one who got up with our daughter the night before and rocked her back to sleep for an hour. Then, seeing that he was right but not willing to admit it, I would get defensive and throw out something like, “But I give her a bath. I make formula for the next day. And I’m always the one who does the dream feed before bed!” To which, he would remind me that he does in fact help—Don’t I remember that he does the first morning bottle? That part of the reason he lets me take the lead with the evening routine is that he sees the tears I try to hide when it’s hard to kiss my baby good-bye for the day?
And then we would proceed to list out everything we were doing “for the baby” in efforts to prove who was the better parent or working harder. Throw in some tears (from me) and bouts of silence (from both of us) and you’ve basically witnessed all of our fights since becoming parents. You’re welcome.
But, before you swear off ever having children or get really judgy about our marriage (please don’t!) let me say this: I love my husband more now than ever before.
It’s tough and it’s hard. But what’s amazing about the hard things in life is that they make you value the sweet and precious things in life all the more. And I do miss our pre-baby days but I would never go back to them.
The scorecard game is a primitive, self-serving game. In contrast, everything about raising a child and maintaining a healthy relationship with your loved one is about becoming more and more selfless. It’s about treasuring your relationships with them more than anything else. It’s not easy, but it is so, so worth it.
A few months ago, after we had a conflict similar to what I described above, I found a blog that changed my perspective forever. It was written by a woman was a widow after losing her husband of 5 short years She talked about how, before he got sick, she would get so annoyed at how he snored at night. And, now that he was gone, she would have given anything to be annoyed by that snore again.
I realized I was taking for granted that I had someone to keep score with. And all of the sudden, the scorecard game felt kind of silly. There is a time and a place for expectations and I’m 110% for moms and dads sharing the load of raising a child. I can turn into an absolute stress-ball sometimes with all the to-do’s of a full-time job and motherhood. But my husband knows how to snap me out of it better than anyone. The problem with the scorecard game is that I am really good at keeping my score and not really bothering to notice my husband’s efforts.
And not just noticing them—but being grateful for all of his hard work:
Like how he is so good at putting our daughter to sleep.
Like how he will do the grocery store runs on the weekends and help get dinner ready during the week.
Like how he keeps track of our finances to make sure our family is provided for.
Like how he gets so excited to play with her and make her laugh.
Like the funny things he says when he changes her diaper (“How does someone so small poop SO MUCH?”).
So here’s what I’ve learned: In the moment, keeping score feels like a way to prove something. But all it really does is drive a wedge between you and the person you love the most.
I’ve found the much better way comes in two parts. First, I look for and express gratitude in what my husband is doing to help our family. If I stop looking for all the ways I rock and he sucks, I find that he is actually crushing it. And I find a thousand reasons to say thank you. Second, I speak up when I need help. If I am overwhelmed one evening but I normally do the bedtime routine, now I raise my white flag and ask for a trade for that night.
You and bae got this, Mama. And the quicker you lose the scorecard, the quicker you can get back to the things that matter—like the person you’re playing it with.