Because you become the father and the mother!
It is one of the big decisions in a married life about when the couple wants to have a baby. If there’s a disagreement between them or if there’s a fertility issue in the process, it can take a toll on them emotionally. And after all the planning, waiting and the hubbub that pregnancy can bring in, it is a huge step when you both evolve from the husband-wife relationship to the father-mother role.
The new bundle becomes everyone’s apple of the eye. A tadbit more to the new mother! She’s with the baby day and the night. Feeding, nappies, weight loss, sleep – there’s so much she’s trying to cope up with now that her relationship with her husband takes a back seat. To add, in India, the mother and baby get to stay with the maternal grandmother for an extended period after the baby is out. This may, for some, spell a brief separation. When I returned back home a few months after my first baby was born, I felt as if I was going to begin a new life with H. I had imagined to revive the time we had missed in the interim, only to find myself even more engaged with the baby in the coming years. With time, I don’t remember when I had abandoned hand washing H’s shirt collar and cuffs or taking care of his white clothes or sorting out his clothes in the wardrobe. I used to make sure his clothes had no stain, he never ran out of clean handkerchiefs and his socks pair never went missing. With my son taking my priority, I slowly began to dump his clothes in the washing machine for the sake of getting the laundry done. And with two children now, I hardly take a peek into his closet, let alone doing his laundry. Not that I don’t care about his clothes, but I manage a lot many things around the kids and I expect H to live like a grown-up taking care of his own belongings. If you replace ‘clothes’ with ‘relationship’ in the lines you just read, that’s what I mean by saying after kids, the husband and the wife no longer exist, they become the father and the mother, instead.
I am not sure how it goes for a couple who live with the elders. For a nuclear family like ours where it is only the two of us to manage home and children, there’s little time to do things that meant for only both of us. I remember we’ve had midnight tea at Kodambakkam, we’ve played badminton together, we’ve done weekend swimming, we’ve been to a cinema hall directly from office, we’ve whiled away a sunday without cooking, without food and only lazying around with each other and we’ve drove on the ECR in the late nights. With a baby, we couldn’t possibly do any of these. The badminton court incharge wouldn’t even allow a baby inside. In the pool, it was either him or me for one had to look after the baby. Forget movie halls, midnight tea and late night drives. Sunday, public holiday or any day, there can never be a break to kitchen events because the little one has to be fed, no matter what!
Ofcourse, there’s a new-found joy with the addition of the new little family member. However, it can only create a new version of both of you, ending the old bond you had had until the day before the baby was born. You cannot go out to have dinner anytime you wanted to. You will have to check if it’s the baby’s nap time, baby’s poop time or the baby’s cry time. You cannot decide in a minute to take a leisure walk anytime as you did earlier. You will have to dress up the little one and carry all the stuff he may need during the walk. You cannot travel out of the town frequently. You have a small baby who can get prone to infections, who needs to be protected from whatever you can think of under the sun. You need to be alert now for the baby may catch a cold, develop a temperature, skip his pottying, put things in the mouth, cry, cry and cry without letting you know the reason for hours, refuse to take his meal – you both are no longer alone!
Irrespective of whether your marriage had a stress factor or not earlier, with the coming of kids, it is bound to happen. The first few months of sleepless nights either to one or both the parents can be overwhelming for you as a couple. Having to combat a crying baby in the dead of the night without really understanding how to do it isn’t a joke. If home chores sharing was a problem in your marriage earlier, what would you call the baby chores post the baby? Who changes the diapers? Who takes the baby for vaccinations? Who puts the baby to sleep? If you thought you will get over it past the first year, you are terribly wrong. The terrible twos can be miserable at many homes. You will realize that the crying baby waking you up in the midnight was way better than the tantrum throwing toddler who beats in the dead of the night for losing his toy car in the dream. It’s a new life; you’ve taken a new exit and you are on the path to explore the new route – all with a small life in your hands.
On the brighter side, the presence of a baby can bring in much warmth and reflections about love and life between the couple. A baby has the power to unite families. A baby can prevent divorces. A baby reminds the partners of ageing, of responsibilities, of financial security, of old-aged parents and of future. A baby can be an anchor to our lives in several ways. Yes, his/her arrival changes the way we meant to each other earlier, but it certainly lets us get into another dimension of a relationship where the everyday life becomes eventful and sometimes, maddening.
Did I miss talking about something important between the couple after kids? We’ll see it in the coming post soon.