Anyone familiar with my posts so far will be aware of the low points I have had and how totally against fatherhood I was.
In the last 9 months and 10 weeks since I first found out I have battled to come to terms with the responsibility that comes with bringing a new person into the world and so far I think I’ve done ok, not perfectly I am sure, but as we speak I am in a good enough place to be positive about the future, and I have to say a lot of this is due to the help, support and advice of people who I have met on Twitter. Just having these people, in fact complete strangers, who are not in the thick of the situation and are prepared to listen, without judgement, has been more therapeutic than I could ever have imagined.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been contacted by people in similar situations who have turned to me for advice, a fact of which I am extremely flattered about, and it has got me thinking about how I could point others in the right direction.
Before I go any further, I think it’s important to say that I only have my own experience to go by, so I am not suggesting that I have all the answers, but if I can offer any advice that helps that I want to do just that, But, if I have learnt anything from this, the one thing that’s stands above everything, is that you have to learn what advice works for you, sift through everything you are told and relate it to your own situation. There are no rules set in stone here.
This is also the first post that I consulted with my partner on, after all, this has been a team effort and I wanted to know how it has been for her dealing with this situation. It can’t be easy knowing that your partner didn’t want children and constantly wondering and worrying if they are going to stick around day after day!
So what would be our advice to anyone else going through this?
This is the key word for me. Most of the arguments or frustrations that have arisen in this situation, or between me and my partner directly, have been due to misunderstandings, both of us second guessing what the other one is thinking and getting it horribly, horribly wrong.
Let me give you an example, one that I think I may have mentioned in the past but is relevant to the point I want to make here.
When the baby was born I threw myself in head first and went down the “new age man” route of doing everything, and I really mean everything, if I was at home and something needed doing I would offer to do it, anything I could do to make life easier for my partner. I felt so compelled to look after her as well as our new arrival. In hindsight, I now know I was overcompensating for the fear etc. of becoming a father and, I suppose, I was trying to reassure my partner that I was sticking around and was in this for the long haul. This route would have been hard enough and tiring enough for someone who had planned kids, let alone someone who was totally against the idea!
So in a very short space of time I burnt myself out and broke down as previous posts will explain. At the same time the resentment built that my partner got to stay at home, see family etc.
So that was my side of things but what about my partner? I thought she was just happy for me to take all this off of her and sit back, relax and enjoy life which, looking back now, was and is a ridiculous thought. So what was going through her head? I now know that she was scared to interrupt me, thought that I wanted, or even needed, to do all of this to bond with the baby and it never occurred to her that it was more likely to drive a massive wedge into the relationship between me and my son as i became more and more tired and resentful.
It was only when it all reached a peak and we sat down and TALKED that we saw each others sides. This allowed us to forge a plan together that split the duties more fairly, taking into account my working hours, and we started to make some sort of sense of things.
Honesty in this communication is paramount as well. By talking things through we both are starting to realising when the other needs a break, to know when the other needs to just step away for a moment, and can accept that they are finding it hard without it upsetting the other. But at the very beginning we kept telling each other what we thought they wanted to hear, back to second guessing again, and, yet again, we kept getting it wrong.
Know your limits
There were plenty of days, and still are, where one of us was feeling stronger than the other and we have begun to recognise this now. But at the time we were so panicky about making things fair, we got it wrong on many an occasion.
A short example to make this point was when she found me sobbing in a heap on the bedroom floor because he was crying when I tried to put him down for the night. At the time she was downstairs clearing up, doing a bit of dinner etc.and I had been upstairs for longer than expected which made her come looking and that’s how she found me. Now, with hindsight, I was the wrong person to be putting him to sleep that particular evening, he wasn’t doing anything wrong or anything different that day to any other night, he was just being a baby, but it was me that was the problem. Things had been getting to me and I hadn’t said anything as it was my turn. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the same reaction if I had been doing the dinner that night and she had put him to sleep.
So my point is, don’t worry about point scoring, it doesn’t matter who has done what and when in a day or how often, it matters over a long period of time I suppose, but not on a day-to-day basis. Things will level themselves out, today you may not be the one to change a nappy for example, but don’t feel bad about it because the next day you could end up doing them all! It’s a team effort and every team needs to play to its individual players strengths for the team to succeed.
This is what I have learnt so far and the main constructive advice I can offer ut as i say it is early days and I will keep you informed as we both learn more, if you are going through something similar I hope it has helped.
As always, if you want to talk further then contact me directly on Twitter, I can’t guarantee I have the answer but I will offer an understanding ear. There will be good and bad days but its recognising that the bad days are just that, days!
It does get better!