A Hand Grenade Thrown into a Marriage?
January 22, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a specifically male perspective here: what do you wish you'd known before having kids that would have made your relationship better?

I consider (and would like to continue to consider) my relationship with my partner the primary relationship in my life. I would not be having a child if I were in a different relationship, and I've never really had the desire to be a parent in the abstract. We are both on the same page about preserving our relationship and prioritizing one another over our parenting roles as much as possible. That being said, I am pretty worried about how parenting is going to affect my relationship with him. I've been reading, researching and seeking advice on my end in order to prepare myself. A lot of what I've read is aimed at a more specifically female and feminist audience (Adrienne Rich's "Of Woman Born", "The Masks of Motherhood" etc) and while some of what I'm seeing here is alarming, I'd like to share this information with my partner, though I'm concerned that due to the writer's assumed audience, this may not be optimally accessible to him. Wise Mefites, are there things you wish you'd realized earlier that would have helped strengthen your relationship with your co-parent? Were there books or other materials that helped you prepare? Hope me.
posted by Kitty Stardust to Human Relations (49 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
We have a two-year-old, and the catch phrase for my husband and me has become "We're a good team." Literally, we say that to each other as we close out a fun, but also exhausting and challenging, day. We take care of each other and support each other as parents - I find that the more I look for ways to help him, he looks for ways to help me. Because at the end of the day, he's my best friend, and I'm his, and we both want the other person to be happy. I don't know what my advice actually is, but I feel that this aspect of our relationship has truly emerged because of being parents.

The other thing I will say is that the single hardest thing for me of having a newborn was feeling I would never, ever get to see my husband again or spend time with him alone. We staggered sleep schedules, so I'd literally get a small number of hours during the work week where we were both awake and home from work. Very, very hard. It gets a lot better, but prioritize getting some date nights as early as you are able.
posted by handful of rain at 10:25 AM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

If you have kids, you pretty much have to make your kids your priority. The Sears approach of attachment parenting has worked well for us. For me, personally, Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree defines what it means to be a parent.

As a father and as a husband, though, the one thing that I wished I had known more about is how much things change with a baby in the house, and how much of those changes are based purely on biology/instinct/hormones.

I wish I had known that it takes about a year to achieve equilibrium.

But the secret to happiness with children is to put the children first.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:29 AM on January 22, 2013 [15 favorites]

I think having older couples around who have successfully done this to mentor you and your partner through (especially) the early years is KEY, better than any book or blog.

There is something about cultivating those relationships, it's just so important.

I'm sure others will pop in with books. I wanted to throw this option out there because some people prefer face-to-face interaction over authorities who write books.

This is an alternative to getting the guidance you will need if your partner doesn't prefer reading.
posted by jbenben at 10:30 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: IANAParent. But I read a piece on the Hairpin written today entitled That Baby Wants to Break You Up. While it's not a studious book on parenting and relationships, the author has an interesting take on it.
posted by kimberussell at 10:31 AM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm a father of three (11, 9 and 6). Here's what I can offer.

We are both on the same page about preserving our relationship and prioritizing one another over our parenting roles as much as possible.

I don't think that this is generally realistic. Unfortunately, I can't tell you why; I don't believe that it's the sort of thing that can be explained or understood in the abstract. Until you actually are a parent, there are simply some things into which non-parents do not have visibility. The instinctive prioritization of your children above all else is this sort of thing, in my opinion. I know that my children take a higher priority over me in my wife's mind. To me, that is as it should be.

I wish that I'd had a better appreciation for how exhausted that my wife was going to be. I knew that she would be tired, but I was not prepared for HOW tired she was going to be, and for how long. As a stay-at-home breastfeeding mother, her mental and emotional resources were severely taxed. I wasn't ready for how taxed they were.

I wish that I'd been prepared for what the presence of kids mean to the general dynamic of our day-to-day relationship. The arrival of our first child made it much more difficult to be spontaneous about anything. Going out for dinner with a child reduces your choices of where you can eat, and you have to be prepared to abort at any time if things go badly with baby. Simple pleasures like quick trips to the library or just talking a walk around the neighborhood become more complex with a baby. Any plans you make or any decisions that you make must now necessarily account for the tiny third person in your life.

I wish I'd had a crystal ball to prepare me for the changes in our sex life. This does not manifest the same way for every couple. The changes in energy level, the changes to general lifestyle, the addition of the mother role to the partner/lover role, etc. can all bring changes about in a couple's sexual relationship once a baby arrives. Anyone who says "that won't happen to us" is fooling themselves because many of these things are out of our rational control. Don't assume that this part of your relationship will simply pick up where it left off and be exactly like it was before. Odds are that it won't.

Happy to answer specific questions in MeMail, if you like.
posted by DWRoelands at 10:41 AM on January 22, 2013 [44 favorites]

I was just coming her to recommend That Baby Wants to Break You Up - it's funny because it's true, so I'll second it.

But really, to answer the subtopics in that post: Figure out how each of you are going to get some rest; find time to have actual conversations about things that are not the baby; try to have a cushion so you're not broke on top of being exhausted and deprived of your previous quality of life; understand that your former ideas of "fun" will change, but still try to have some; watch your short tempers and be kind to each other; remember you love each other; and remember that you love each other. It sounds simple, but those things are very, very hard.

DWRoelands' answer is probably what my husband would write, and he is very, very right about it from that perspective - but I'd amend it to say that your simple pleasures change, and you may not mind it. I always knew I loved fresh pajamas, a nice bed and a good book - I just didn't know I loved them so very, very much.
posted by peagood at 10:48 AM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: How about "and baby makes three"- the book about how parenting impacts marriage by the Gottman institute? I like that it is based on scientific research.
posted by steinwald at 10:53 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would not be having a child if I were in a different relationship, and I've never really had the desire to be a parent in the abstract.

So, you want to have kids in the concrete now...because of him, I'm thinking. He wants kids?

I think, to answer your question, I'd want to know if I really wanted to have kids and I'd want to know if my partner felt the same. This makes all the difference. I wouldn't want to deny or make my desire to have or not have kids subordinate to someone else's no matter how much I love them or desire to please them.

When you have a kid, they'll need attention more than your partner. They're dependent on you two pretty much for everything. It's just a de facto prioritization. Ask yourself if you can really accept that reality.
posted by inturnaround at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

I wish I'd had a crystal ball to prepare me for the changes in our sex life. This does not manifest the same way for every couple. The changes in energy level

Interestingly (in the context of this AskMe), the change after our second child was positive - for some reason, things improved (after that "year of equilibrium") happened.

DWRoelands' comment really matches my experience as a husband and a father.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:59 AM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: Here's the thing that I would have liked to have internalized (I'd been told, and seen it, but knowing is one thing, experiencing is another) better going in:

I consider (and would like to continue to consider) my relationship with my partner the primary relationship in my life.

That's going to change.

The good news is, the change doesn't have to be bad. In fact, the change can be good. I now have three important and fulfilling relationships to the one I had before, but I know that my wife and I are no longer the single most important person in the others' life. I'll go as far as to say that our relationship is third among equals. Just because we're the adults and can take care of ourselves. So we share the spot, and quite frankly that took a lot to get used to. Especially since at first, we just didn't have the time or energy to remind each other that we are still one of the most important people.

Also, one of the reasons I like jbenben's advice is because the first little year or so of the kid's life, your field of view gets very very narrow. So it's nice to know people that not only have been through what you're going through but show that it's going to end, and that you can come out of it and still have a relationship with your partner that isn't just about figuring out the best way to divide up the maintenance of a poop factory.
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:17 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

IANAP, so feel free to ignore.

My parents always prioritized their relationship with each other over their relationship with us kids. Not to say that they were negligent -- far from it. But if the house was burning down, they'd rescue each other first. I'm okay with that- because they have an awesome relationship and accordingly I grew up in a house with an abundance of love and affection. When my youngest sib left for college, they were happier than ever. After 35 years, I'm relieved to know that there's so much more to their relationship than raising kids together.

You might want to check out Ayelet Waldman's essay on this topic. Unsurprisingly, she caught a lot of shit for it.
posted by murfed13 at 11:21 AM on January 22, 2013 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I am writing this from my kindle while rocking a fussy four- month- old while a fussy two- year- old is eating a yogurt in a high chair six feet away. I am not a male perspective, so feel free to ignore my bit, but my fiance is and at this point of my relationship I am pretty well aware of his feelings and perspective.

The above advice is mostly right; the child WILL be the first priority, and yes you can still make your relationship a priority as well, but it will take purposeful effort and emotional maturity (which we, by the way, didn't have - at least for the first year or so). All the doomsayers are right, to a point - the baby comes first, the baby needs a lot, things will get chaotic, tempers will get strained and wills tested, things that used to come easily and naturally will now take planning and forethought and energy that you may or may not have and a great deal of flexibility and patience. If you (or your partner) are a personality who does not deal well with stress, or noise, or need 9 straight hours of sleep not to be a royal crankybutt, or place a high priority on things happening "naturally" or being "in the mood" just right or having your partner intuitively understand your feelings and anticipate your needs - well then boy, are you in for a rude surprise. If you are (or can become) a couple who can be patient with each other, wait out the hard times, roll with the punches, see the worst days through a slight sense of humor and grain of salt, be ok being the bigger person for a bit when the other person is not necessarily "pulling their weight" (not that you should accept this as a permanent arrangement, mind you, just that it WI'LL probably happen here and there) and if both of you are good at being very explicit and direct about your needs and feelings - in that case, you will probably be ok. I think the hardest thing for my partner is that he tends to be a rather passive, reserved personality and he is not particularly good at expressing when he is unhappy with a particular thing or making steps himself to change it... rather he gets withdrawn and distant, expecting me to read his mind or "draw him out" which I frankly don't have time or energy for. If either of you is like that or thinks romance is somehow spoiled if it doesn't flow naturally, then that's something you need to work on before the baby comes and not after. Doing it after is just waaaaaay less fun, please believe me.
posted by celtalitha at 11:24 AM on January 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

Father of two here (ages 11 and 8). I don't think there's anything I could have been told beforehand that would have made things better, simply because telling is not at all the same as experiencing. I mean, I read and I listened, but hearing something like, "your wife's hormones are going to be 'in flux' not only throughout the pregnancy but also throughout the year of breastfeeding that follows" doesn't really tell the whole tale. Everyone is different, and each person's body is different, so it's only possible to generalize. Pregnancy and parenthood will change you, your body, and your relationship with your husband. Those are facts, but the specifics vary wildly.

In my case, I wish I had known just how physically and mentally tired my wife was going to be in the first 8-12 weeks after our first child. As she put it later, "there was a time immediately post-partum when I felt like (our baby) was still a physical part of me, even though he was now outside my body. I can't explain it, but it was as if I were now two people, and one of those people required constant attention." So, maybe that's something to share with him....
posted by mosk at 11:32 AM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm a father to a 17 month old boy, so I can't offer years of experience and insight, but I can tell you about our first months as a family, and how life has changed.

A baby is not a +1 in your life, it becomes your life, and it changes your relationship to your partner from early in your pregnancy, and it only gets more intense after the baby is born. While you're pregnant, you can do most things you're used to with your partner. You can have a lively, active life, living by your own timeline.

After the baby is born, you are living by its needs and requirements. Pretend otherwise, and you'll be miserable, and it most likely won't be great for your baby. But the burden doesn't have to be solely on the mother.

I've heard fathers laugh about how easy babies are, because the mom takes care of them and lets the fathers sleep through the night. To me, that's being a shitty partner. There's not a lot your partner can do for you when you're pregnant, but he can help out a lot with the baby. It takes a few weeks for you and your newborn to figure things out, and no one sleeps well then. This is the time to have family and close friends come over and watch the infant while you and your partner get things done, or sleep.

If you choose to be a stay-at-home mom, non-baby obligations can largely shift to your partner. If you get someone to care for your kid, you can share the baby and household chores. Don't let your partner slack off, because everyone needs a break. It's not always fun, but it's all part of having a tiny, new person under your care.

Your time as a couple is largely over, and your time as a family has begun. You can get someone to take care of your kid for a dinner date, or if they really like you, for a night away. But not many people want to deal with feeding an infant in the middle of the night, so you and your partner will be together, or you might rotate nightly duties, or some other arrangement, but you're in it together. During the day, you can't get too far away from a quiet place, because little people need to sleep during the day, plus they need to be fed and changed pretty often, requiring that you lug around a lot of gear. No more spontaneous outtings.

But there is no way to describe the feeling you have for your little person. There's stress and sleepless nights, but also love and joy, happy surprises, and the excitement of watching a tiny ball of goo become their own little person. My wife and I wanted a kid, and we were both worried about how we would do as parents, how it would change our life. We're a lot more home-bound now, but to us, it's completely worth it.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:42 AM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Just a bit of clarification in response to inturnaround: barring any third-trimester misfortunes, Baby Stardust will be born in May. My partner knows my feelings well on the matter.

Also, we've both read Waldman's essay and agree with her perspective.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:52 AM on January 22, 2013

As a father of 21 and 25 year-old, I think I can safely say the following...
• Once you have a child, your previous life is over. You may be able to cling to a few crumbs, but this event marks a whole new life for you.
• You will always love your child. However, there will be moments where you don't like them very much. This, too, will pass.
• There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Don't even try to chase that breeze. You will make mistakes. Some small. Some huge. Most of the time, though, you'll do fine.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:55 AM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Thanks to Thorzdad for reminding me: my mantra for the first ~8 months, whenever I was furious with our little guy being a tiny terror in some way: "This, too, will pass."

And whenever you're freaked out about how you could ever be a parent: "Everyone was once a baby." It helped me to put things in perspective, when I was handling a tiny proto-person and worried I'd mess up somehow.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on January 22, 2013

"there was a time immediately post-partum when I felt like (our baby) was still a physical part of me, even though he was now outside my body. I can't explain it, but it was as if I were now two people, and one of those people required constant attention."

Wow, that's so perfectly exact.

Ok, so, the deal is; you spend a year or three in Babytown w/ each kid. Babytown is a tough place. You never have enough sleep, you worry, you talk about and monitor poop to an unbelievable degree, and you find out your spouse probably would walk over your twitching body to take care of the kid if they had to. And worse: you would do the same. This is difficult. But you adjust.

Much like boot camp, Babytown ends, and you are transformed. You realize you are probably not going to accidentally kill the baby (although you can't completely let down your guard because even five year olds will do the stupidest things if you don't pay attention). You have a routine of sorts. Your house is never really clean and often looks like toy-stealing squatters live there. You have another person's life to run along with your own and you find yourself making lots of choices based on whose life is getting priority at the moment, and it often isn't yours.

But slowly, over time, more of it gets to be yours again. Never all of it again...that is something you say byebye to....but more of it. And that increases as the child grows up, though I don't really think you ever get back to 100% self-interest. Maybe when senility strikes.

You can't really prepare for it, any more than you can prepare for your house burning down or winning the lottery (having a kid is kind of like both at the same time). You just muddle through. You try not to be a giant jerk. You spend money you don't have on a babysitter so you can get out of the damn house and never regret it. You learn how to have conversations while still listening for crying or glass breaking. 5 years or so in, you are pretty much a war veteran, and then you get to start worrying about puberty.

It will test you both. You may think a lot more about divorce or just running away than you ever thought possible. But if your relationship is good going in, and you are able to cling together instead of push each other away, you will be fine.
posted by emjaybee at 11:59 AM on January 22, 2013 [12 favorites]

Parting thought: a baby is not a hand grenade to a marriage, it is a good shaking to the etch-a-sketch of your plans. Work together, and you can all come out ahead. But if you don't communicate your issues, concerns, and annoyances with your partner, things can get ugly. Don't let baby stress become relationship stress. If you do have issues communicating, now is the time to work on it, before you have a sleeping baby in your arms and chores to do, except that baby doesn't want to be put down in its crib, so you feel like you can't move from your current location until the baby wakes up.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:05 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

We are both on the same page about preserving our relationship and prioritizing one another over our parenting roles as much as possible.

Why are you setting yourself up to fail?

You're really setting yourself up to fail with this desire because, with a kid, everything changes. I'm the new dad of the greatest, most perfect, most wonderful six month old the world has ever seen. When unicorns dream of the perfect kid, they dream of my little guy. But, even with that, everything has changed. I'm a dad now, not only just a partner in a relationship.

There's a difference between keeping in mind that your relationship with your partner will change and doing-all-that-you-can-to-panic-about-it-changing-so-that-when-it-does-change, your world ends. That's what you're doing here. You're putting too much pressure on your future relationship - pressure that just won't hold the new reality. Because you're going to have a little one who will cry. And their cry is biologically designed to get your attention. And it will, every time. Your relationship won't have a priority over that cry. And as it gets louder, at 3 am in the morning, you're going to then start throwing pillow/pulling covers/trying to run and hide from the baby and getting your partner to take care of "their child" at that point. Your relationship is no longer a priority then. Sleep is. But you'll get up anyways and be a parent because that's what you do. And it's awesome.

Instead of trying to stop the relationship from changing, let your partner know that he should head into this new phase of life as if he's riding a new wave - and there's a new flow he needs to engage with. Let it change. Let it get messy. Let sleep deprivation drive you nuts, give you colds, and cause you to forget your own name. And, as long as nothing major happens, just let yourselves be a parent. I found the change in my relationship with my wife jaring, jolting, exciting, and it's still taking time to work out. But, I think, because I let it change, mourned the things we lost (say, spontaneity, or the opportunity to go out to eat like we use to) while embracing the new things (rolling around on the floor as a family, watching him stare at himself in the mirror), and utilizing the spare moments once the kid is asleep so we can have a dance party with my wife in the living room before we pass out from exhaustion - fun can still happen. It'll need to be purposeful and thought out - and hard to come up with sometimes - but putting too much hope that NOTHING WILL CHANGE or ALL WILL BE AS AWESOME AS BEFORE won't work. Things will still be awesome - just in a completely new, and tiring, way.
posted by Stynxno at 12:05 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]

I don't have kids, and I asked a similar question here. The responses were generally positive -- you can do it! you're life will be amazing with kids too! -- but they were probably talking more about the whole process of having children, not babies and toddlers. I'm enjoying reading these responses.
posted by 3491again at 12:13 PM on January 22, 2013

You may be able to prioritize your relationship with your partner over that with your child, but the kid's needs will almost always come first.

One of the things I loved about my husband was how he took care of me when I was sick. Soup, Kleenex, ice cream, naps, he made sure I had everything I needed. Now he takes care of me by making sure the kid is clean, fed, happy, and out of my hair while I get my own bowl of soup.

Imagine life as a big plate of cookies and Brussels sprouts. The cookies are the things that make you feel great- vacation, movies, dinner out. The Brussels sprouts are obligations and stressors- bills, the DMV, work. After you have a baby suddenly there's three times as much food on your plate. When your partner's down and you want to make them feel better you want to give them cookies. Most of the time, though, you can't, so you just eat some of their Brussels sprouts for them, and now that's good enough.
posted by that's how you get ants at 12:17 PM on January 22, 2013 [17 favorites]

I think you preserve the marital relationship by acknowledging and accepting that your lives now revolve around the baby. The baby needs to come first, and if you both operate with that as a given, you can work the rest around that. Your life will change completely when the baby comes. Resistance is futile.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:24 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a dude and a dad, you need two books which I read and liked but don't remember as I was in an early childhood daze but they were perfect for the time. My wife and I are expecting number two in May.

Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs and Michael Lewis's Home Game.

I think it's Michael Lewis who talks about how the Dad is like the second string quarterback. My advice is to make sure the Dad feels like he is first string as soon as possible.

Also get a good babysitter early on. Date nights help a lot
posted by akabobo at 12:37 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

. Wise Mefites, are there things you wish you'd realized earlier that would have helped strengthen your relationship with your co-parent?

The plan you have before the birth is probably not the plan you will have after the birth.
This is not good or bad, it just is.

I think if more parents realized this _before_ the kid arrives, the entire first couple of years would go much more smoothly.

You may want to co-sleep and have a kid who won't sleep next to you.
You may plan on breast-feeding but have a kid who won't latch.
You may have a kid who can't stand to be in a stroller while all you want to do is to walk to the grocery store.
And yes, you may plan on prioritizing your husband but become completely infatuated with your child.

The point is that none of these things are good or bad, they're just what you got, and how you deal with it determines how smoothly the early years will go.
Locking yourself into a plan or method, be it attachment parenting, husband-first, Ferber, etc, with no room for flexibility is a sure road to agony.
posted by madajb at 12:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

A lot of people describe having children as when their marriage really started because cooperation and team work was optional prior to that time, but it absolutely essential henceforth. The most immediate challenges after having our first child was that it was hard to have a conversation end-to-end. The needs of the baby interrupts everything and you learn to put your thoughts on hold and return to them later. This skill remains useful for many years.

The other immediate challenge is fatigue like none other I've ever known. It messes with your emotions and it can make the most kind-hearted get short tempered. The best antidote I know of is to repeatedly say with your partner that "we are in this thing together" and live it. Acts of kindness during the first three months and a sense of solidarity are the shining points in an otherwise traumatic ordeal.

My final bit of advice is to give each other a pass on some standards you may have upheld prior to having a child. It's okay if the serial cleaner leaves socks on the floor. He or she knows it, but will appreciate being reminded that some stuff will slip for a while. In the thick of it you can't imagine returning to normal life, but it stabilizes after a while. There are a lot of things in the former life that get crowded out. As best as you can, make peace with it in order to let the experience of parenthood take root.
posted by dgran at 12:53 PM on January 22, 2013

Best answer: Get a babysitter lined up NOW. Someone you would trust with your life. Someone who will not mind being bossed around and second-guessed and checked up on by you every 20 minutes (because that is what you will almost certainly do the first few times you leave your baby with someone, and that is okay). You will find it nearly impossible to have even a few minutes alone together outside of the house if you do not find an excellent and reliable babysitter.

Figure out NOW who is going to help with cooking, laundry and housework for the first three months after the baby is born. Pay someone, beg someone -- just get someone to do this, because otherwise you guys are going to argue over which one of you isn't doing enough of of the housework. YES you are going to argue. I don't care how sunshine and roses your relationship is now; when neither one of you has seen a full night of sleep in two weeks and the baby cried for four hours today and there's no food in the house for dinner and the sink is full of dishes, you will argue about whose fault it is (answer: no one's, probably, but that won't even matter). So make sure you won't wind up in that situation.

Talk to your husband NOW about what his expectations are for his role in day-to-day care of the baby. If you will be nursing, you are going to be exhausted. Nursing a newborn is literally a full-time job. The ideal situation would be for him to take care of everything practical that is not nursing -- all the diaper changing, all the snot wiping, all the spit-up cleaning, etc. If he does not have a lot of experience with babies already (from caring for siblings, nieces and nephews, whatever) have him get some experience / knowledge NOW. It has been my experience as a parent and friend to many other parents that men in our society just flat out tend to have less experience with small children than women do (because they weren't expected to help care for younger siblings as much; because they mowed lawns instead of babysitting for summer cash when they were teens, etc.). This can make new dads nervous and make new moms frustrated. So if your husband is one of those guys who has pretty much never done more than hold a baby before, get him to get himself up to speed by reading books / taking classes / practicing on friends' babies, whatever, before the baby is born so he won't constantly be asking you what to do. Because, let me tell you from personal experience: feeling like you're the baby boss and your husband is the baby assistant-in-training is hellishly annoying, most especially when you JUST WANT TO HAND THE SQUALLING CREATURE OFF TO A COMPETENT PERSON FOR FOUR HOURS WITHOUT ANY INTERRUPTIONS SO YOU CAN PRETEND YOU REMEMBER HOW TO SLEEP, and your husband is all like "But what do I do if X? And what about Y? And should I wake you up if Z?"

Make sure both you and your spouse are taking off as much time from work as you can reasonably afford. Time-- particularly for sleep-- will be much, much more precious to you than money in those first few weeks, so snatch up as much of it as you can.

Talk NOW about your basic ground rules for parenting this baby, and make sure you are on the same page. Do you plan on co-sleeping? Putting the crib in the same room? Putting the crib in a different room? When are you planning to introduce solid foods? Are you using a pacifier? Will you give the baby Tylenol for a fever, or not? Of course, all of your plans are going to change because the baby will hate at least one and possibly ten of the things you have your heart set on doing just a certain precious way, and because also you will discover that, on second thought, you actually don't give a damn about cloth diapers (or you really, really do care about cloth diapers). So discuss your parenting plans in detail, but be fully prepared for them to change.

What people mean when they say you will protect your relationship by putting the child first is this: assuming you are normally wired human beings, you will both come to love this baby so much that taking proper care of the baby WILL BE a big part of taking proper care of your partner. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. Loving parents are very, very unhappy when they feel their kids are not well-cared for and safe. I never feel more in love with my husband than I do when I see him taking excellent care of our kid.
posted by BlueJae at 1:09 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Ok, my kids are both asleep now, I've had a shower and am on my third cup of coffee (toddler has a cold and was up half the night) and am going to attempt a more thoughtful response.

I don't completely agree with those who are saying that you need to accept that your life is going to revolve around the child and the child will always come first, and that's just how it is, and you just don't understand yet because you aren't a parent. As a former skeptical non-parent, and a current skeptical parent, I find this astonishingly patronizing.

Nor however do I agree that you can, by super great planning and preemptive discussion and book-reading, ensure 100% that you guys' marriage will always remain as-is and unchanged, and this darn baby WILL NOT CONTROL YOU. I can almost hear Muse playing in the background as pregnant women all over the country bust out their self-help articles and magazines about Keeping the Spark Alive and Get Your Pre-Baby Body Back in Six Weeks, as if they're setting themselves up for war. This does not need to be a competition, people. Babies are not The Enemy of your marriage. Your spouse is not The Enemy of your nurturing instincts.

Let me rehash the basics: Yes, things are going to change. No, you are not going to become an entirely different person. Some of the strengths and weaknesses you already had (as individuals and as a relationship) are going to be thrust into the forefront of your life, essentials or dealbreakers, that you were previously able to ignore or brush over. If you have ever struggled through any other significant life challenge, this is not a big mysterious process. The journey of challenge, growth, assessment and more challenge and growth are basic human universals, parent or non-parent.

My point is, the narrative that Babies = Marriage Death/End Of Your Life has become such a HUGE narrative in modern western culture, that I believe it has become self-reinforcing. Babies are babies, and lovers are lovers, and both are equally important and should be prioritized as such; you do not HAVE to feel like they are mutually exclusive. You do not have to view your child as an attack on your spouse, because whether intentionally or not, that attitude is going to come through to your child and the spouse both in insidious ways. Sometimes the baby's needs will be more urgent, as a mature adult you will understand that, and sometimes your relationship with your husband will need an extra big dose of TLC and hopefully you will understand that as well. You have to see each other as a team, and the baby as a precious task or quest that you are on together. Competing with each other, or viewing the quest as a problem in itself, makes no sense. You will muddle through and you will find the balance. Read the advice books, if it makes you both feel more prepared, but don't allow the books to encourage you to think catastrophically about what is to come.
posted by celtalitha at 1:11 PM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

I guess we got lucky. Ours slept at least 6 hours a night and any crying stopped immediately if we turned on the ceiling fan. Eating out was never an issue if we could get seated by a window with people going by. Yuck Jr. never had gas and breast feeding went without a hitch.

Sounds great, right?

Well, before everyone else on the thread starts throwing things at me: We didn't have sex for 7 months. We talked about it a couple times, each worrying that the other was concerned about the celibate nature of our relationship. She was concerned that my witnessing the birth changed my opinion of her vagina and I was concerned that she thought I wasn't interested. Sex led to this helpless baby and we were both kinda shocked and awed.

Everything shifted. Our primary relationship was with the baby. You just roll with it.

It'll be ok, and you really will miss that early phase when baby starts crawling and getting into stuff.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:15 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and as an aside datapoint, our sex life is FAR FAR better after two kids than it was prior to having them. No sex after kids is totally and completely not a necessity at all, and one of my biggest pet peeves when people say "oh, you won't care." I did, and do, so ymmv.
posted by celtalitha at 1:18 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To clarify something:

There's a huge difference between putting the immediate (and for that matter long term) needs of the kid first and no longer being committed to your relationship with your partner.

There's also a huge difference between your relationship changing and your relationship ending. Change is life.

To put things in perspective, I started dating my wife when I was 17 and she was 16. We've changed quite a bit in those 13 years. Our relationship has changed quite a bit in those 13 years. We've gone through: going to separate colleges; living together; being married; her going to grad. school; moving half way across the country; moving back; counseling and two different prescriptions for depression; who knows how many crappy jobs on my part; two dogs; pregnancies; two kids; being dirt poor; being not quite dirt poor; and on and on and on. Each and every one of those things has changed our relationship. Not a single one has lessened the how important we are to each other.

You can love and value your partner as a person and still realize that the screaming baby has to be taken care of before you can do whatever small gesture of affection you were about to do.

I think if you look at what the fathers in the conversation, the people whose advice you explicitly asked for, are saying you'll see that we're all in agreement: The thing that we would have wanted to know in advance was how much the relationship changed.

The other thing that I'd like to have known is that the change isn't necessarily bad, no matter how draining the first year may be. I appreciate my wife in ways that wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't seen her being a mother, and she appreciates me in ways she wouldn't have if she hadn't seen me being a father. Heck, we have NEW ways of showing our appreciation and affection. I mean, her telling me "go buy a beer, take your time, you need to get out of the house" Sat. afternoon isn't anywhere near as sexy as her telling me "wait five minutes and then come see how little you have to take off me," but it's what I need, and I appreciate her being tuned into that. The fact of the matter is, that sometimes, like BlueJae says, just taking charge of "gross baby related things 2-4," when you're only responsible for 2 is showing the other person that they matter.

So it's great that the two of you have a commitment to your relationship with as something other than just raising the kid together, but it's important to remember that the part about the kid is going to change things, for both of you. Realizing this will strengthen your relationship.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:28 PM on January 22, 2013

We didn't have sex for 7 months. We talked about it a couple times, each worrying that the other was concerned about the celibate nature of our relationship. She was concerned that my witnessing the birth changed my opinion of her vagina and I was concerned that she thought I wasn't interested. Sex led to this helpless baby and we were both kinda shocked and awed.

As someone following these answers closely, I think you are dancing around what could be a helpful insight into the male perspective post birth (at least one male, anyway). Were you, in fact, uninterested in sex after viewing your wife's vagina in a non-erotic way?

There was an uproar a few years ago when an obstetrician wrote an article arguing that men shouldn't be in the delivery room. I don't necessarily agree with that, but I do wonder if men have difficulty viewing their wife post birth as both maternal and erotic.
posted by murfed13 at 1:30 PM on January 22, 2013

I am in an unfortunately unique position here. I am the father of a 17-month-old daughter, and two months ago, my wife was diagnosed with metastasized colon cancer. She is no longer able to act as a mother, and in all likelihood, will not be with us at all by the end of the summer. I don't point this out to be a downer, but to point out that no matter what you thought would happen, things can change.

The first few weeks with your new baby are very much a stressful blur. Imagine what the men on the ships in Pearl Harbor felt when out of nowhere, Japanese bombs started falling on them. It's a bit like that. But you will get it together, and understand what to do, and six or eight or twelve weeks in, you'll start to get a handle on things. And in the months that follow, you'll realize that your little baby is less and less a baby and more and more a kid, with her own thoughts and feelings and opinions and more and more the ability to act on her own, which means less constant handholding by you and your spouse.

What I'm saying is that, at a year-and-a-half in, I can already see the amount of work I need to do on a daily basis decreasing because my daughter gets a little more self-reliant every day. What you might try to keep in mind, is that you haven't signed up for 18 years of caring for a newborn. Newborns are exhausting, but they don't stay newborns for long. They only get easier as time goes by. Try and remember this when you're feeling really frustrated with yourself or your child or your partner -- it gets better.

But realize that no matter what you think right now, things will probably turn out differently than you expected. And that's going to have to be OK. My wife expected that she'd still be breastfeeding right now, but we had to wean my daughter in a hurry a couple months ago to start chemotherapy. This actually bothered my wife more than my daughter, who's perfectly happy to eat blueberries and scrambled eggs and apple slices and pulled pork and everything else instead. We hadn't planned on hiring help to watch our kids for us. My wife was going to be a stay-at-home-mom. That didn't work out, and I still have to work, and so we've had to hire full-time child care which was an *enormous* financial challenge.

I don't mean to imply that you'll have the same challenges and derailments that I've had, but you will have some (hopefully smaller ones), and you're just going to have to prepare to adapt, and realize that every day, your child will get a little bigger, and a little smarter, and a little more self-sufficient, and a little more awesome.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:37 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

This is a mom perspective. I'm pretty much "in it" right now, with a four year old and a 14-month old. Here are a couple of suggestions of simple things that help:

(1) My partner and I completely agree with whoever said that men who let the mother deal with all the night-time stuff are just being bad partners. Find a way to share this burden that works for both of you. You will be physically taxed from the birth, breastfeeding, etc. He'll need to understand that you WILL feel bitter if you are the only one getting up at night, and arguing that "I need to be fresh for work" is just crazy talk. Going to work is far more restful than being home with a newborn. (He may already be planning to do this, but some men are not...)

(2) My husband changed pretty much all the diapers for the first month or more of my kids' lives (when he was around), and it was a very sweet gesture. We used to joke that I was responsible for input (my kids were exclusively breastfed) and he was responsible for output.

(3) Another sweet gesture - if you plan to nurse, ask your partner to get you a big glass of water every time you sit down to do it. You will need to hydrate to keep your milk supply up, and it is a way for him to show with a little action that he understands that you are doing all the rest of the work feeding that kid.

(4) As soon as you are able, find a babysitter you like and schedule a REGULAR date night - that is, get on that person's calendar for every second Saturday, or whatever schedule you can afford. This removes the barriers of (a) deciding on a day/time, and (b) scheduling the babysitter. We've taken to going out for dinner and drinks at the same damned place every two weeks because it is just so lovely not to have to think about it at all. I wish we'd done that earlier.

(5) Both of you, try your hardest to recognize that, even when everyone is giving 100%, there's still more to do. Trying to figure out "who is doing more" is a futile activity that only leads to bitterness.

(6) n-thing the comments about sex life.

Good luck. Prepare yourself for falling in love with that baby - they really do sweep you right off your feet.
posted by bigd at 1:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also, factor your current ages into your expectations. For example, parents in their 20s are much more resilient to the physical stresses (late nights, constant shlepping), but might not have the emotional tools or self-confidence that they have 10 or 15 years later; parents starting at 40 are less likely to get rattled by the unexpected, and may have worked out their "teamwork" skills, but will get their butts kicked by the amount of energy that a young child requires day in and day out. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and both put different kinds of strains on you and on your adult relationship. But of course, all such challenges can be overcome with will and patience...
posted by acm at 1:46 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Parent of teenagers here seconding what emjaybee said:

"Ok, so, the deal is; you spend a year or three in Babytown w/ each kid. Babytown is a tough place. You never have enough sleep, you worry, you talk about and monitor poop to an unbelievable degree, and you find out your spouse probably would walk over your twitching body to take care of the kid if they had to. And worse: you would do the same. This is difficult. But you adjust....Much like boot camp, Babytown ends, and you are transformed."

Don't try to force ideas/relationship paradigms that are more appropriate for couples with older kids and teenagers onto Babytown. It's very hard to recognize when you're there that it isn't going to ZOMG BE LIKE THIS FOREVAAAAAAAAH! You do come back, better and stronger, but the couple you are when you have noony-suckers and knee-biters isn't the couple you will be with bike-riders and Minecraft-players. Be flexible about your expectations with the knowledge that things are constantly evolving. Like other posters have pointed out, you may find that the things that you think reinforce your commitment to each other as a couple may change in ways you just can't anticipate.
posted by SinAesthetic at 1:52 PM on January 22, 2013

One of the things that was hardest for my partner was not having solid techniques for soothing a baby. We both felt like nursing was the only comfort technique that worked consistently, and it was so frustrating for all of us. I recommend learning some other comfort techniques (the Happiest Baby on the Block, DVD or book, is good for this) and practicing them from day one, so the baby gets used to them as quickly as possible. In the early days, especially if the mother is breast feeding, mama is all the baby wants. It could be good for you and your partner to discuss now what his role in the parenting team might be.
posted by linettasky at 2:18 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (Dad here, of 3 mo. old)

Coming out of a queerish liberal background of "F*ck Breeders!" and "ZPG" and "Babby will RUIN EVERYTHING", I wish what I had heard better were:

* This is an opportunity for wonder and joy. Newborns are such strange and fascinating creatures. Most of us don't have experience with newborns until we have our own, and it can be scary, but you will do fine!
* I am allowed to fully enjoy my baby, without shame. Anyone in my life who feels otherwise is no longer welcome in it.
* Every day brings new chances to see your partner behave awesomely and save the day. There will be chances to see failures too. Downplay them.
* You will be an average parent, and average is good enough. Stimulation, food, shelter.
* You will still be you after the baby comes. If you weren't cool before, you won't be after. You aren't handed a minivan, passes to disneyland, pornography panic, and GO AMERICA bumper stickers as some weird afterbirth.
* So much chance to hang out with my partner! Our relationship is the best it has been since the very beginning.

(Onto more specifics: Newborns are pretty easy to go out with... they mostly lay there! We go to movies at our local 2nd run, get cofffee and breakfast, and still have active social lives. It is a grind, and exhausting, but actually easier than the TOTAL UNENDING MISERY I was expecting. I still play guitar, go out, read books (eBooks now). I go to bed early, and alcohol is stronger. I hate traveling for work now.)
posted by gregglind at 2:21 PM on January 22, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a dad of a rambunctious 2-year old boy. Before him, I had literally never held a baby in my life. Here's a few takeaways on my relationship with my wife that I've had a chance to think about in my short 2-year tenure as a father:

1) You don't get to choose your baby. My wife and I like to joke that having a baby is like putting up an ad on Craigslist for a roommate and then blindly picking the first person who replies. Oh, by the way, that roommate won't pay rent, will eat your food, and will keep you up at all strange ours of the night. You can't evict this roommate, either. As we realized this, my wife and I have realized that until this roommate can get a job, we're going to have to work together to make the best of the situation, by any means necessary. As a result, we're a much stronger team and feel like we together can take on anything.

2) My relationship with my wife not only changed, but it evolved. Yes, the first few months involved a lot of poor, sleep-deprived decision making, but for the most part things are much better. I've fostered new and deeper feelings for my wife as she grows as a mother and as a person. Seeing the joy and love that she has for our son and then realizing that it's the same kind of love and joy she has for me was quite the epiphany.

3) I'm glad that we worked out a lot of relationship issues before we had our son. Those tools were indispensable when we were getting impatient with each other due to various baby-related stressors. Your relationship will be stressed. Poor sleep, disrupted schedules, and bad eating does that to a couple. Be prepared to have some relationship skills to fall back on.

4) The more I could do, the better. I, too, was unprepared for the amount of fatigue that my wife would have. She was ordered to bed rest for 2 weeks. I had to learn very quickly how to take care of the new human being. In doing so I realized that I was giving her the time she needed to recover and to get confidence that she could have the strength to do a good job.

5) You need to take time to take care of your relationship. My wife and I did a very, very poor job at this. When it was just us two, the relationship was pretty much set on auto-pilot to a degree. We didn't go out on a date until about 2 months after our son was born. That was way too long. After that we waited another few months. Waaay too long. We're getting better at this.
posted by photovox at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Your parnents were idiots with their first one, just like you are. Children have remarkable resilience. Do you best, love them, but above all, (yes, this is a paradox)... put your partner first. To do otherwise is to ensure self-centered children.
posted by brownrd at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2013

Your relationship will change. What I wish I had known? Had I known the joy I have had I wouyld have become a parent earlier.
posted by Postroad at 3:01 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the response earlier which outlined a number of things to do and ways to prepare BEFORE the baby arrives is a good one.

But in saying that you also have to be realistic. You are not going to be able to prepare for everything. The time where we left the hospital with our first born, strapped him into the baby seat/recliner seat in the car, and drove home, really brought home how much my wife and I hadn't done, or hadn't thought of doing.

We got home, had our son and looked at each other with a bit of a "what now" type of look.

What I'm saying is that all the planning in the world isn't going to address everything that is going to happen with your baby. Similarly, all the planning in the world isn't going to address everything that is going to happen to your relationship.

I have always been a person who like structure and a bit of certainty. Our firstborn utterly, completely, shattered it within days - he ended up unable to feed properly due to lactose intolerance and got quite sick.

No amount of planning prepared us - as parents, or our relationship - to cope with this. We had to wing it a bit - especially when it came to working it out was a lactose intolerance (something a couple of GPs couldn't do) and doing something about it.

We got that one right. But we didn't get everything right all the time, though we did OK in the end. And our son survived, thrived and is now a beautiful, intelligent and loving 5 year old readying himself for school.

Of course our almost 2 year old daughter is providing a whole heap of new challenges! But we seem to have things under control and going well there.

Winging it isn't something to be afraid of. And making mistakes isn't something to be afraid of (and that goes for both parenting, and in your relationship at this time).

Maybe the best bit of advice I can offer is this - you aren't going to be a perfect parent or relationship partner during this time. And you should be under no illusion on that. You will make mistakes, you will do or say things that are ill-timed or misjudged.

Prepare yourself for that. Don't aspire to perfection - aspire to doing the best job you can. And if you make a mistake, or doing something that is ill-timed or misjudged, try to be honest about it, and address it as quickly as possible before it unnecessarily becomes a bigger issue.
posted by chris88 at 3:55 PM on January 22, 2013

Mom of a 2.75 yo and 10 week old.

I wish I had known how hard it would be for my husband to actually handle a newborn and how I would have to jump into the equally uncomfortable breach because he essentially threw up his hands and surrendered. I harbored a lot of resentment towards him that he got to get out of repetitive, thankless tasks of newborn care while I was stuck with it because he was so wigged out by the whole thing. Many of my female friends experienced the same thing - hubby all of a sudden not being an 'equal' partner to the extent that they had either promised or vaguely hinted that they would be once confronted with the reality of baby care, even if mom wasn't breastfeeding exclusively.

It required a lot of examination on my part about what my expectations of him were and some cajoling to get him to take on more responsibilities. He can change a diaper now like a champ but this problem came up again when our daughter was born in November. This time, though, I was prepared for it to happen, even though I still (!) didn't expect it to be as pronounced as it was. I'm walking a fine line of not pushing him so far that he shuts down but also getting him to take on some of the harder tasks like getting her to sleep after she has a crying fit. It's exhausting on top of all of my other responsibilities.

That being said, our relationship still is paramount to both of us and while we love our children absolutely, we also make time to spend together just the two of us. Date nights are incredibly important and we have no qualms about leaving the kiddos with a trusted babysitter so we can go have a nice dinner, even if it is to discuss mundane topics.

tl;dr: give up your expectations of both yourself AND your spouse and keep a good sense of humor. You'll need it at 3am when the kid has just blown out the diaper and gotten poop on every surface imaginable.
posted by Leezie at 7:20 PM on January 22, 2013

One thing that I have had to work on, as the mom of a new baby, is letting my husband just do his thing with our son. I'm the main stay-at-home caregiver, and early on I got to have a lot of little routines and "baby hacks" that I relied on but my husband didn't really know about. Consequently there were moments where the little guy was upset or refusing to go to sleep, and Dad was in charge but having a hard time with endless bouncing and soothing that seemed to go nowhere...and it was really easy to say, "oh, let me take him again," just because I thought I could get him to sleep when Dad couldn't. I have to make myself step away and not be either a mom-martyr or a know-it-all. Being able to do that has made us much more equal partners, and made stressful baby moments less angsty and less likely to result in hurt feelings.
posted by daisystomper at 7:51 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I do wonder if men have difficulty viewing their wife post birth as both maternal and erotic.

I was in the delivery room for all three of my kids' birth, and I physically caught them all (blood and goop from my fingertips to my elbows). As far as I'm concerned my wife is an amazing mother and the hottest woman that ever lived. :)

Side note: I will never ever ever forget the look of shock and surprise and wonder and amazement and joy on my wife's face when I lifted our firstborn up from between her legs and placed him on her belly. That look is my most treasured memory.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:03 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dad of an almost-5-year-old and an almost-2-year-old here.

There's a lot of good advice in this thread, and you've highlighted much of it. I'll just add the following personal anecdata:

I wasn't 100% sure about having kids, but was at the shit-or-get-off-the-pot moment (my second was born a few months before I turned 40) and we decided to give it a shot. I was not a baby person, I am still not a baby person, and I was really worried about how I would deal with that. I discovered, though, that I'm a kid person, and the older they get the more I love spending time with them.

When our first child was born, I was at a bit of a loss and expected my wife to tell me what to do all the time. I was available, and doing what I thought was the best at the time, but I didn't realize that she didn't know what to do either. Sometimes in the middle of the night she wanted me to get up just so she didn't have to. Even if the baby was still crying because no breastfeeding soother. By the time #2 came along, we dealt with it a lot better.

One other thing that I did that she really appreciated: After I went back to work and my wife stayed home (we're in Canada, so we had a year of Maternity Leave), she told me not to expect a clean house and a hot meal when I got home. I told her that if both of them were alive when I walked through the door then I would consider that day a success. That took an immense amount of stress off her, and she said made things much easier.

Things I wish I'd known before I had kids:
- How good of a father I was going to be, even though I never really had much of a "paternal" instinct.
- How the spontaneity disappears from your life. Want to stay after work for a couple of drinks? Better plan that 2 weeks in advance.
- Your relationship changes, but it's not worse, just different. We realize that no matter what happens, we are stuck by a bond that will be with us for the rest of our lives, even if we go our separate ways - this has helped us be more compromising and forgiving with each other.
- You don't get to do nearly as much together any more. We both ski, we spent a lot of time doing that together, now we alternate days, or go up together and one of us hangs out at the lodge with the kids and other families while the other gets some turns in.

I could go on and on, but I think my point is made. Life is different - I can't do things I used to enjoy as much, and that kind of sucks, but at the same time I get to see and be part of 2 amazing individuals growing up.
posted by sauril at 10:36 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mother of an 8 month old. My perspective is new, yes, but I'm in the trenches, so this is what I can offer.

- It might suck at first. It might suck horribly. You might feel as if you've made a mistake. You might feel depressed. She might feel depressed. You might spend a lot of those early weeks feeling scared and miserable and sad. THIS IS NORMAL. This is a normal, valid way to feel. IT GETS BETTER.

- IT GETS BETTER. Don't forget that. No matter what.

- Our relationship was very bumpy at first. It got better in stages. It's great again now, but it was rough going for a bit. But one thing that really helped? My husband stepped up as a partner and a father. He took the baby some nights and weekends so I could sleep. He took her out for walks so I could get a break. He sings to her and cradles her and rocks her and so obviously loves her that it made me fall in love with him all over again.

- A baby is not OMG THE END OF YOUR MARRIAGE. If I thought that, I would have never wanted a child. Things will change, but they don't have to change for the worse. You have to be conscious of this though. Don't become a passive player in your marriage.

- Get a babysitter and go out at least every two weeks. On the off weeks, we trade nights in so one of us can have a guys/girls night. I love my daughter AND I'm a better parent when I have time away from her to hang out with my friends.

- Your baby will get more fascinating with every single passing month. Every month, I think it can't get better than it has. And then it does.
posted by elizamina at 10:51 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

As someone following these answers closely, I think you are dancing around what could be a helpful insight into the male perspective post birth (at least one male, anyway). Were you, in fact, uninterested in sex after viewing your wife's vagina in a non-erotic way?

Sorry, I was offline for a bit. I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to take questions on someone else's askme, but it is a an elephant in the room.

That was not a big deal for me. I've seen my share of animal births.

It sure was an issue for some of the other dads in our parenting class. And almost seven years later, none of those dads are still with the moms. Unscientific and weird.

The scar tissue from the epesiotomy was a big problem when libido returned.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:37 PM on January 24, 2013

I don't think you should look at the Waldman article as a "perspective" in the intellectual sense but rather as a representation of a certain emotional inclination and/or lifestyle choice that is atypical. I think her greater love for her husband than for her children (as she herself puts it) is unusual (as she herself admits) and from my perspective not normal because logically it implies that her love for her children is not total and limitless. Why does she feel that way? I have no idea, but I would say that her relationship with her husband seems obsessive. She is with him all the time because they also work together. I know very few couples who would want to be together all the time like that. I do certainly agree that it's very important for children to feel they are a product of a loving relationship, but I believe most people would be very hard put to say they love their spouse more than their children (just look at these comments in a recent thread about what parents like so much about their children and you'll get a feel for typical love parents have for their chiildren). That being said, I think the framing of the question is unfortunate because it really should be about who needs you the most. A spouse benefits from your love and support, but a child absolutely requires your love and support...to survive, to grow, to learn, to be physically and mentally healthy, etc. Being a parent is a huge responsibility and commitment. And people separate from and divorce spouses but children are yours for keeps. Looking at it from that perspective, I'm not sure it's a good idea to go into a parenting situation with the belief that the spousal relationship is primary and the parent-child relationship is secondary.
posted by Dansaman at 10:27 PM on January 25, 2013

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