I wanted a divorce.
My son was a few months old when I decided to end my marriage. My husband had gone from a man I loved to someone I loathed –at best– and I could barely remember what I had liked about him in the first place.
Our disconnect began soon after our son exited my body. My husband decided he needed to leave me and our baby at the hospital so that he could go home for a nap. A nap. Here I was, fresh off having my midsection sliced open while a tiny baby painfully fed off my body and he wanted a nap? The poor man, it must have been so exhausting to watch the process of me giving birth and breastfeeding.
Things got worse when we arrived home. Like most couples, we were severely sleep deprived. We were also scared, and trying to do our best while doubting ourselves at every turn. Our lives as we knew it had ceased almost entirely, and all we did was co-exist while taking care of our new baby.
My approach was to suck it up and tend to the task at hand, which was caring for a tiny, hungry and frequently screaming human. My husband, however, didn’t handle the exhaustion well. He was grumpy, spoke in short sentences and was miserable to be around. We began arguing about everything–and they weren’t small bouts of bickering, every disagreement bypassed levels 0-9 and began at a 10. We screamed, said awful things and slept in separate rooms. And the crazy thing is that these arguments weren’t over anything major, things as simple as who was going to empty the diaper pail could set us off.
What I didn’t know at the time was that it wasn’t just us. A newborn can —and likely will— strain any relationship to varying degrees. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together or if you rarely have conflicts or disagreements: Once you become parents, everything will change.
“For around thirty years, researchers have studied how having children affects a marriage, and the results are conclusive: The relationship between spouses suffers once kids come along,” said Matthew D. Johnson, Ph.D., author of Great Myths of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex, and Marriage.
As for us, things came to a head before I was able to enact my divorce plan. We had a blowout fight, albeit a very productive one. Everything came out and we were able to talk, clear things up and begin moving forward as a family – together.
It wasn’t possible for me to take care of a new baby and try to remedy whatever I perceived as upsetting my husband. But that didn’t stop me from trying. It resulted in me being even more tired, emotionally drained and bitter. I should have been prioritizing my baby and myself, period. Anything else that would take focus away from my ultimate goal – including my husband – should have gone out the window temporarily.
If I was able to do it all over again, I would start by communicating with my husband at every step. And be a lot more selfish. Because, while my husband absolutely mattered, as the parent who had just given birth and was feeding our child with my body, I mattered a little more.
It’s time for moms to get selfish, if not for ourselves then at least for our children. Selfish moms are happier moms, and our babies benefit from having a happy and healthy mother.
A well-rested father is of no concern to them...regardless of how much our husbands and partners might try to convince us otherwise.