After our daughter was born, I started hating my husband like he was this evil asshole who only cared about himself and his needs.
Our bundle of joy was more like a bundle of tangled Christmas lights. I was trying to figure out which end was which and had no clue if I was making progress untangling it while he stared in awe at the pretty lights.
Oh, so pretty. As weeks went on, I grew more comfortable as a mom; however, my hatred towards my husband became this brewing, bubbly, dark, thick resentment that permeated the air whenever he came home from work.
Every minute he was late, the resentment grew exponentially. My internal struggles of accepting my new role as this nurturing, caring, selfless person would become so apparent every time he was with our daughter.
He didn’t need to go through the physical changes of pregnancy. (My hips have permanently widened and I have this muffin top that no number of side planks or sugar-cutting habits can get rid of, although Pinterest seems to think it’s possible.)
He didn’t need to go through the pain, the scarring, the emotional and hormonal roller coaster, the loneliness of breastfeeding, the mom eclipse (where mom duties completely overshadow everything else…is that in the Urban Dictionary yet?) while trying to maintain an identity of self.
He was at work doing his usual routine and he comes home to a happy baby, home-cooked meal, and a wife (note that I didn’t say happy wife).
I would get frustrated with him because he couldn’t understand her different cries. He didn’t have the instincts to take her from me when I wanted some time to myself. He would struggle with tasks I thought were simple. He would be in awe of her “new” behaviors (ones I had seen all day already…eye roll).
I was annoyed that he needed help with things I had been doing by myself like carrying her from the car seat to the crib without waking her up.
He would be on his phone when I wanted him to pay attention. I wanted to control all aspects of the way he took care of her. I wanted him to read my mind and do what needed to be done without me asking.
Speaking of mind control, as human evolution does its thing, maybe pregnancy will start to alter the woman’s genes so that after giving birth, they gain telepathic abilities. Moms will eventually be able to read their newborn’s mind (you’re crying because you just discovered your feet and they scare the shit out of you… ah, that makes sense) and control their partner’s thoughts (I need a sandwich now, light on the mustard, you fool!). That would be a pretty decent incentive for a woman to go through childbirth (aside from the whole creating a human being thing). Perhaps it will be Mother Nature’s way to ensure population growth continues? Hey, a girl can dream and digress at the same time…
Anyway, resentment is very difficult for me to pinpoint at the moment since it often manifests as other emotions, like anger, annoyance, hatred. It breeds invisibly and the only way to stop it is to express, empathize and accept him — something that was difficult to do postpartum when my hormones were completely out of whack.
I needed to understand what he was going through and he needed to understand what I was going through every day in order to ease that resentment. I expressed my feelings to him — my fears, guilt, sadness, and anger. I told him I resented him and why, but that was just part of the solution.
Around the time our daughter was 3 months old, I told him I wanted him to take the last month off with her so I could go back to work early. In Canada, we are entitled to one year of maternity leave and parental leave. I said, “I don’t know how I will feel when she’s 11 months old but I need you to do this even if I say I don’t want you to at that time.”
I find empathy is a term that gets used a lot nowadays. What does that really mean to me? I don’t think it means, “What would I do if I were them?” but rather, “Knowing what I know about that person, why do I think they are the way they are and why do they do what they do?” and if I don’t know the answer to that, then I ask, “What do I need to find out about that person in order to fully understand why?”
Because if I don’t know why, I will continue to assume he’s doing what he’s doing to intentionally piss me off. Then I’ll get angry, and the resentment builds.
My husband had an entire life — 30 some odd years — before meeting me. His childhood, his adolescence, life experiences, and relationships all shaped him as the man I met many years ago. So in my journey of curbing my resentment towards him, I learned more about him than I had in the time before we had our daughter.
As I was busy figuring myself out as a mom, he was doing the same thing as a dad, but my journey was taking a lot less time. I was at it day in, day out like a crash course in motherhood. I realized I cannot have the same expectations for myself as I do for him. It wasn’t fair to him, and it drove the resentment. I needed to develop different expectations that reflected his experiences and who he was.
I asked myself, “What will happen if I let him have control? What will happen if I was always in control?” My worst nightmare would be to have a partner who did dick all and had zero knowledge of what’s going on with his kids because I was a control freak who got mad at him every time he didn’t do things the exact way I wanted him to do them in.
That vicious cycle of anger and resentment would drive me over the edge. I would hate myself, him, and our life if that were to happen. We needed to learn to share control.
I learned to let go, allowing my husband to discover himself as a father (this is an ongoing process). This wasn’t a “teaching” situation where I’m the expert and he is the newbie. We were both students, and we had different learning styles. Yes, that meant watching him struggle with diaper changes, feeds, and baths. That meant no judgment, no control, no unsolicited advice in the way he takes care of her.
Basically, I needed to drop my ego in being the “supermom.” I’d say, “Let me know if you need my help” instead of “This is how you do it.” The more I turned a blind eye and acted as his peer rather than his manager, the more confident he grew into the role and the less I resented him.
We started to learn from each other and tackle the parenting job as a team, supporting each other when times got tough. If I bossed him around, correcting him every step of the way, watching him like a hawk, he would view it as a job, and no one likes being micromanaged.
I needed to accept that we will always have differences in the way we take care of our daughter, but as long as we commit to the same philosophy, she will become a happy, strong, confident woman.
I married him because of our shared values and our parenting philosophy stems from that. I needed to believe that the foundation of our marriage will allow her to flourish. That meant continuously working on our relationship, maintaining a level of trust between us where we have confidence in each other as parents.
So during that month when I went back to work and he stayed at home, I fell in love with him all over again, but this time as the father of my child. He fully embraced being a dad and truly enjoyed it. And he was damn good at it too.
It was one of the most relaxed times I’ve ever seen him. Whenever I came home from work, I could sense the bond that was growing between him and our daughter. I am extremely grateful he made my transition back to work seamless. And it started by taking a breath.