I have to wonder if at least a portion of pre-marital counseling these days includes scenarios like:
How do you feel you might be able to work together when you are taking turns catching projectile vomit from a toddler at 3 AM?
Or when your child is throwing a full-on tantrum in public and you are caught on the spot together figuring it out, how will you decide the best way to handle it?
Nothing tests a relationship like having children. Nothing.
You think you really know someone when you marry them. But down the line in survival mode when you are both dog-tired and at your wits’ end with so many split -second parenting choices that keep the children alive and make your partner happy, you see what you’re made of and especially who you really married.
After the bouquet is long thrown, the dress is all boxed up in the attic, and the honeymoon is quite literally, over. It’s go time.
Pre-children, my husband and I were laid back and easy-going, yet short-tempered if we were tested. And that was just small stuff. Now we look back and still have no idea what we did with all of our time before our lives were consumed by little people. And we have far more tolerance and patience for both big and small things now, but we didn’t come by that easily.
I will never forget the days leading up to going back to work after being on maternity leave with my first baby. He was 4 months old, and I was dreading leaving him every day. Because it was no longer guaranteed that I’d be home in time for bedtime, I had to prepare early to stop nursing at night.
I started night-time pumping a few weeks before going back to work, and I had my husband try to put him to bed at night instead. I waited, heartbroken in the next room, trying so hard to be of help yet not interfere.
It was a disaster.
Our son screamed and screamed at bedtime. For hours. My husband tried everything after feeding him — rocking him in his arms, rocking him in his carseat, laying him down in the pack-n-play, swaddling him in his crib. He even took him on car rides until he fell asleep, but as soon as they’d come back in the house, it would start all over again.
Our baby was used to being nursed at night in my arms as he fell asleep, and no matter what my husband tried, he simply wasn’t me.
I watched in a tortured state. I hated hearing my son cry, but at the same time, I felt my heart swell with admiration for a man who would try so hard night after night after being essentially rejected by our baby. He kept at it and he was gentle and loving. Day after day he mentally prepared for what he knew would be a hard night and stuck it out.
I remember him telling me one night that he was just so tired. So tired of the screaming and how nothing seemed to be working. It was so hard for him, but I told him that I admired how gentle and loving he was in the circumstances and that I was sorry I didn’t start preparing for the change sooner. And he kept at it.
Then just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel and quit and stay home and figure out the finances later, it got better. It wasn’t easy, but my husband was finally at a point where he knew he could handle it. And in the last few days before going back to work, I knew it would be okay.
They soon became best buddies, and dad learned that babies like places where there is a lot of stuff to look at, so they spent a lot of time in the aisles of Target, the lighting department at Home Depot, and the Cracker Barrel gift shop.
He just wanted him to be happy. He’s the one that picked out Little Einstein DVDs from the library, new toys, and an activity bouncer.
Sometimes a tough, burly man’s man turns out to be a big softie underneath a meat-and-potatoes exterior. I knew that stuff was in there, but having kids really brought it out in him. And at the same time, he even took great care of our beloved labrador retriever who developed canine diabetes and needed insulin shots every day.
All parents get frustrated in raising children and running a household, and we are no exception. But when I look back at all that we’ve been through with kids (and pets) already, I think about how my husband was there with me both when it was beautiful and when it got just plain gross. He was there to help give sick kid cuddles, spearhead vomit cleaning and potty accidents, and show love in tense parenting moments, and I’m so happy I get to see who I really married.