Have a bod. Be a mom. Boom. You have a mom bod. Like it or…
Disclaimer: This article is an account of my feelings. They are part of my truth, but not necessarily a reflection of unbiased facts. There are two sides to every story.
Another disclaimer: My partner Jeremy is an angel from heaven. He is kind, generous, caring, loving, considerate, and so much more. I, however, can be a monster. There. I said it.
If you prefer listening to reading, click here to hear Alissa talk about this experience on her podcast Myth of Motherhood.
Ok, I’ll just get to the point. Now that I’m a mom, my partner defers to me on EVERYTHING. Does yours do this too?
What snacks do we have? What are you having for lunch? What should I give the baby? Is there an outfit you want him to wear?
It feels like my entire individuality is gone. I’m a mom now. So I’m the mom of the household. Meaning I now know everything. I know if a forehead is warm, why the sky is blue, and why all of a sudden the dog barks more. And yes, I know a lot of things, but I’m a new mom. I’m flying blind! I’m over here throwing spaghetti at the wall praying for something to stick. Over and over again because everything keeps changing.
And I know. I gave birth to our son. We have a special connection. I knew him long before my husband did. So I’m the default parent. But hearing, “You’re better at this than me.” … Is enough to make any hormonal postpartum person lose their GD mind.
At what? Throwing spaghetti?! I’m over here trying to heal from childbirth, feed our baby, and get sleep at some point. There are stitches in my butthole. What have you done today?!
It’s the assumption that I can do it all. Figure it all out. Have a plan or answer for everything. It makes me want to scream, “Yes! I am a mom now, but I’m not YOUR mom!” (I warned you that I’m a monster.)
Now, I have to admit …I like being the boss. I like being in control. At the same time, I’ve worked really hard to empower my partner. Because I want this to be a team effort. And I don’t want my urge to micromanage to crowd him out of parenthood.
Because as I said earlier, my husband is an angel. He is always the one to walk the dog at night because I’m out of steam. He does ALL of the invisible chores around the house that keep our lives running smoothly. How every Sunday he cleans our mouth guards with Efferdent and replaces our earplugs.
He’s my person. I didn’t want to have a baby. I wanted to have his baby. And start our family. Which is why I have to step back sometimes. I have to stop criticizing. I have to stop commenting. I have to book three nights away by myself (kidding, but also not) to create space for Jeremy.
Because yes, I’m a mom. But I’m not his mom.
This dance of sorting out our roles hasn’t been easy. And it’s certainly created tension, which is the case for 67% of couples according to research by John Gottman PhD. Yup. 67% of couples report feeling less satisfied in their marriage after having a baby. That’s a lot. And it’s not shocking as sleep deprivation, an inequitable division of labor, so many hormones, and constant change at once become your new reality.
But! There is hope!
Gottman’s research also shows that intentionally connecting with your partner through friendship and intimacy, constructive conflict, and shared meaning dramatically increases marital satisfaction. There was a huge shift in my feelings of jealousy, resentment, and rage when I started telling Jeremy how I felt instead of what he was doing “wrong.”
Instead of snotty responses, passive aggressive behavior, or yelling at him, I told him how it made me feel.
Again, I understand that yes, I carried the baby and that’s definitely a thing, but when I’m deferred to all the time I feel alone. I feel unsupported. I feel exhausted from making every single decision, big and small. Every day. For all of us.
Because I shared how these things made me feel (alone, unsupported, worse) space was created for Jeremy to replace or rebalance things by doing things that make me feel seen, supported, heard.
He asks “could we brainstorm about this?” “Would it be helpful if I handle dinner tonight?” “I was reading that babies his age…” and I don’t care what the end of that sentence is. Because these efforts make me feel like we are partners. A team. In this together.
So what can we do to connect with our partners?
- Set aside time each day to check in with each other
- Speak honestly about how you feel
- Make a list of household chores and divide them up in a way that feels fair
- Plan time to connect physically. This does NOT need to mean penetration.
- During conflict remember it’s the two of you against the problem, not one against the other.
Something else I have to add is that while taking care of your marriage can feel like the last thing you have mental or emotional space for right now, it’s one of the most important things you can do for your baby. And if you’re wondering how to approach physical intimacy postpartum, read this article.
You are a team. There are two parents here.
And you definitely don’t want to feel like you’re his mom.