The cliché of the changing relationship after a baby enters your life. How THAT much more amazing your relationship becomes and how it “bonds” you both with this magic being you brought into your lives. The words “complete” and “fulfill” and “bliss” get thrown out so casually one can easily catch the bug and believe this is the way family creation is. Not only did your marriage, or any union for that matter, “complete” you where you found your “soul mate”, but now another being is taking the same role of making you FINALLY whole and worthy on this earth.   I would watch movies, soap operas as a child, listen to wedding vows, along with women talking to me about how motherhood has changed them. I’ve even had women admit that amidst their relationship challenges, that they think that having a baby will be good for them. Trouble is, while they said that their constipated smile and hesitancy didn’t have me too convinced this was true.

6 ½ years into this motherhood gig, I couldn’t disagree more. I’m still married, I still love my husband, but I’m choosing D) None of the above.

There are the typical things women bitch about which are common and bound to happen. Let’s go through the list: Your body isn’t what it used to be, your boobs are being kidnapped by an infant, your vagina looks like a fruit roll up, you’re exhausted, emotions are high and ever-changing, and you just don’t feel sexy. No matter how many glasses of wine you have, you’re just not going to do it. I remember going to my joke-of-a-6-week appointment with my OBGYN and based on my healing vagina, she exclaims, “You’re perfectly fine to have sex!” Oh goodie! That’s the only credential to my husband’s boner poking my back as if to say “Hey there, in case you don’t remember, here I am”? No one checks that emotional state, which is KEY to sex for women. I could give him a cantaloupe with my face on it, along with a hole in it, and he’d have sex with it. Me, not so much. I need a lot more and honestly I wasn’t there at 6 weeks.

But what no one tells us is how we are going to feel about our partners when we walk into our home with our baby. No one warned me of the anxiety, resentment, anger, and sadness once he went back to work. I wasn’t told that I could feel anger towards him when the clock approached 11pm and I knew he was going to be going to bed soon and my night was just beginning. When I saw him leave for work every morning, I was jealous that he had a quiet commute in his car with his Starbucks. Jealous that he was able to talk to adults. Envious that he continued his career and I chose to end mine. I was angry at times that when he walked in the house, I had already felt like 2 days had passed and he was just picking her up with smiles and cuddles.

As women, we are traditionally raised to be the leaders in our home. We buy the clothes, the bottles, the toys, the books, the bows, the bibs, the latest gadgets, the formula, and the food until they are 21. We do the research on the latest trends, milestones, foods, activities, toys, and anything else our baby should be doing. There we are looking at daycare centers, preschools, researching public versus private when they end preschool, up until they head to college. We pack the pool bag with all the essentials. The diaper bag is full and there’s a system and there are items that must be in that bag or you cannot leave the house. She has to eat organic, what do you mean you just gave her any old strawberry? If he doesn’t have this exact positioning in his crib, he won’t nap well. Oh and he has to go down at exactly 10:25 or he won’t fall asleep. Don’t forget his sleep sac, he can’t sleep without his sleep sac. I need to do A,B,C,D,E,F before bedtime- and in that order- so… oh I’ll just do it, don’t worry about it. Oh and while you’re at Target, before you buy anything, send me a photo so I can make sure it’s the right food pouch. I’ll be back in an hour, are you SURE you got this?

“Getting my husband to understand that ‘invisible task list’- you know- all the shit that gets done without him even knowing… Dr appointments, meal prepping, social calendars, present buying, gosh even kids clothes shopping (who knew managing my son’s wardrobe was so stressful?!) and making sure he has enough weather-appropriate clothes for a full range of events/outings. Speaking of which, he just outgrew all his shoes so I need to go get him new ones today. It’s mostly my fault because I just naturally take ownership of these tasks. I wish hubs noticed it more, so that’s definitely a struggle for me.”

Resentment started to build towards my husband, but why did I continue to be a control freak when it came to Brooklyn? It wasn’t just with him; I created a 5-page timeline and list of details for my nanny before she started watching Brooklyn. She was a mother, in her 50’s, and as she read it, she chuckled and said, “Oh this is funny!” What do you mean this is funny? I finally got it when I recently went through my computer to clean up documents and I found the mighty instruction list I created for her. I laughed out loud, 6 years later. It was absolutely ridiculous! I did this to my mother as well, as if she had no idea how to take care of a baby. Meanwhile, I seemed to have forgotten she had newborn twins and myself, a barely 3-year-old, all by herself. I also seemed to forget my husband had already raised 2 humans, and it is his natural self to want to help and be a part of things.

Why do we carry all the duties, lists, research, scheduling, activities, school selection, clothes shopping, buying birthday presents for other kids, meal planning, making dinner, cleaning, laundry, emotional support and so much more on our shoulders? For me, it’s partly due to my perfectionist Type A personality, along with my fear of losing control. And looking like an asshole. I thrived off the comments such as “Wow, how adorable are her outfits?”, “That’s an amazing school, how did you decide on that?” along with “Brooklyn seems to be in so many fun activities!” I defined my success in motherhood with how much I could put on my plate without having a nervous breakdown. Even if I had a nervous breakdown, I wouldn’t show it nor tell anyone about it. If my husband offered to help, I’d immediately shut it down as if he had ZERO clue what raising a child was like. He would attempt to help without asking, ya know, to be nice and all, and I would stop him, correct him, and just do it myself. I would have to be physically AWAY from him and Brooklyn for him to be her father. When I was physically away, which wasn’t often, I would be checking in and thinking of all the things he was doing and how they weren’t how I would do it.

So when this continues, they eventually stop offering and asking. They just look at you as if you’re going to handle it. Because you will.

When you separate in parenthood, there is a shift in the marriage as well. Kids consume us. Not only do they consume our time, but our energy and mental wellness as well. Where are we then going to find the time, energy and stability to cultivate our relationship? I had zero desire. I trusted he wouldn’t leave and just went through the motions believing there would be an end someday. 6 ½ years later my time, energy and mental wellness is still being drained. Differently, yes, but I am still not giving what my husband needs. I keep hearing about the 5 Love Languages, it’s everywhere I go lately. Probably for a reason. You want to know what? I’m terrified to read it. I know he’s in that book. I know I’m in that book. I know we need to know one another in this way in order to be happy and give each other what we want. There will be changes, and that’s hard. Going through the motions and seeing the days and weeks just fly by into the months and years is easier. Being numb in a world of numbness is more comforting than feeling what you need to feel. On top of feeling it, expressing it and making changes from it.

More to come as this book progresses and I share more on this topic. There is oh so much more to all of this. I’d love to hear from you and your story so please share and let’s get this conversation out there so we can all begin to heal.

Thank you for reading & sharing,

Michelle Mansfield Blog

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