Not too long ago I met a friend of a friend and had a refreshingly honest conversation with her. She’s in her early 30s, has been married for two years and doesn’t have kids; she doesn’t know if she wants them. I appreciated her honesty about this and how she was so willing to open up about a topic that can be hard to discuss. Her openness allowed me to be comfortable opening up to her. It’s interesting how openness breeds openness (but that’s another post entirely! Back to the conversation).
This woman is pursuing an impressive career, which causes her to move around quite a bit right now. She loves her husband, loves the work she is doing, and loves her life. She and her husband are not sure if or how kids fit into the picture. I told her I didn’t blame her, and said that kids will not only rock your world (in good and not-so-good ways), but they can also rock your marriage.
Though I’d met her less than three hours before, I told her that my husband and I had a fantastic relationship for eight years. And then we had our first son. And it wasn’t good for a while (longer than I’d like to admit).I shared that our relationship, which had been so strong, loving and fun had pretty much turned to shit (from my postpartum perspective, anyway).
I opened up to her about the night that I told my husband that I thought having our son was a mistake. I felt like our relationship had been ruined. (I’m tearing up as I write this because there is no way that our son was a mistake- we tried for him, he was wanted and loved, but in those dark moments after he was born, I felt like maybe we made the wrong decision). She appreciated my honesty.
She told me that’s what she was worried about with having kids: her relationship. She wondered if that’s what most people experienced, and I had to say that while I didn’t know how many people’s relationships suffered in the beginning, my hunch was that a lot of them do. I also told her I think that though women experience this, not enough are willing to talk about it. And this, I think, is the problem.
The problem is not that our relationships start to struggle; of course they do- you go from a family of two to a family of three or more overnight. You’re redefining yourself and your roles. Love (and hormones) are racing through your body, and chances are you are sleep deprived.If you’re also nursing, this can add another layer of complexity. So, it’s no wonder that the relationship with your significant other changes, possibly quite dramatically and quickly, and this can be very unsettling. The fact that we don’t talk about it is what needs to change.
More honest conversations about how hard it REALLY is might help prepare new parents for the fact that shit WILL get hard for a while. But chances are, it will also get back on track. If you know that this is normal, maybe you’d get back on track quicker.
We need to know that we’re not alone in how we feel; we need to be able to talk about the fact that relationships get HARD. And, I think we can help others be better prepared by being willing to share with not-yet-parents about the nitty-gritty reality that parenthood can be. I know it’s not like this for everyone, but I also know my perspective is not the minority, thanks to my fantastic mom-friends who have also been willing to open up.
I know in the moment when I shared my experience, my new friend appreciated this honesty. Though I may have confirmed her fear, I also think I was able to calm it by helping her understand it’s normal and that you can get through it. It’s not to say we should lay it all out there to anyone who will listen, but if you have a genuine friendship, or sense that someone is looking for honesty, don’t be afraid to give it to them.
Whether this woman decides to have kids or not is up to her and her husband, but I’m glad we were able to have an honest conversation about it. As moms (and women) it’s easy to feel like we have to handle everything well, and if we can’t, then maybe we should just keep doing what we’re doing because eventually it will work out. And, it’s too easy to stay quiet and feel like we’re the only ones dealing with this. I’m here to tell you- you’re not alone. In any of it. So don’t be afraid to reach out, or to speak out- there are huge benefits for both talking and listening. It may be scary, but give it a try.
What would you share with others about parenthood if you were being totally honest?
Originally published on Get Mom Balanced.