Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Easing into Our Parenting Roles

I’m not quite sure what my expectations were as far as the division of labor between my husband and I when it came to parenting.  Ever since we moved in together, we naturally divided up housework evenly (it always surprised me that I didn’t have to fight to get it to be equal—thank goodness he was raised by a feminist woman!) I hate washing dishes, he doesn’t mind. I’m the worst laundry folder to ever live—he folds a fitted sheet like Martha Stewart. I’m picky with how the bathrooms are cleaned, so I prefer to do that. He hates vacuuming and I don’t mind. We both take turns cooking. It all just fell into place.

My, how things have changed. It’s not the housework that is the issue—it’s the hours that are put into raising this little person that depends on us for EVERYTHING.
I’m breastfeeding, which I’ve realized makes parenting extremely one-sided in the beginning.  I was able to stay home 6 weeks with the baby. It was me, all me (plus some awesome friends and family that came to visit) with H. I was the soother, the feeder, the entertainer, the diaper changer, etc. It was so mentally and physically exhausting.  Add onto that the extreme pain of a c-section and the resulting inability to do any real housework and you’ve got one stressed new mama. Then, we slowly started introducing the bottle so that the poor baby didn’t go into shock when I returned to work. The first few weeks of sleepless nights I would sit in the rocking chair while nursing H and wonder how other women did it.  How did other new moms not appear to be filled with angst over this huge inequity? Was I expecting too much? It’s not that hubby didn’t want to help more, it’s just that there was no real way for him to contribute in the beginning. I was pissed pretty often. Pissed off at nature, really. Pissed off at my milk-leaking tits. Pissed off at the fact that while I did want hubby to be able to help more, I also wanted to hold onto my new baby every second of every day, even if it meant I wouldn’t get to shower or put on makeup or real clothes. Obviously I was feeling pretty conflicted!
Now that I am back at work, hubby is home for seven weeks (I know. How awesome is that!) and since H has a bottle all day, I need to give him the tit in the evening and at night in order to keep my milk supply up and to also make sure he doesn’t  start to prefer the bottle nipple over mine. Obviously I am beyond sleep deprived. H doesn’t wake up in the middle of night for any other reason than to eat. Meanwhile, my hubby gets to sleep through the night, uninterrupted.  I’m not going to lie—I loathe him in the morning when he wakes up refreshed with no bags under his eyes. People have suggested waking my hubby up when I get up with H but it just seems cruel to make him wake up just because I am walking (half comatose, mind you) to the nursery with the baby and plopping in the rocking chair to nurse him back to sleep.
Granted, once we started co-sleeping with H in the bed things got MUCH easier.  Most of the time if he wakes up I can roll over and pop the boob in his mouth and half-sleep while he eats which is amazingly better than physically getting up and going into another room. Plus as he gets older he is waking up less often. But even so, I am the one with the baby right next to me, utterly aware of his every move and tiny mouse-like noises that occur throughout the night—sleeping or not. I am the one waking with the engorged breasts leaking milk all over the bed. (Although it doesn’t sound like it in this post, I actually LOVE breastfeeding!)

I can decipher which cry means H is hungry and which one means he is just straight up cranky or overtired while hubby, for the most part, has no clue.  I often wonder how much of this is instinct on my part versus the fact that I have been a caretaker of children for most of my life (babysitting is the best!), especially since hubby really has no childcare experience prior to our little bundle of joy joining us. Is it really that women are better equipped with instincts and hormones to care for a new baby compared to men? I don’t know if I will ever know the answer to this but what I can tell you is that hubby staying home with H for the last 6 weeks has had a huge impact on how he cares for the baby. I can tell that they have a stronger bond and hubby is much better at anticipating the baby’s needs compared to when it was just me with the baby 24/7. Despite the fact that the parenting gig still feels unequal I am so incredibly grateful that hubby was able to take so much time off with the baby. He is an amazing father and H adores him—you can see it on his chubby little face.
Soon H will be joining a nanny share and it will be interesting to see how it changes our parenting roles. Hubby has law school at night so once he goes back to work he will hardly see the baby during the week and I will again be the parent spending the most time with H. What I know for sure is that this baby is so loved and despite my mommy guilt (more on that later) I know he is going to be ok—especially since he’s been able to bond with both of us.

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