Friday, January 09, 2009

Which would you throw out with the bathwater: baby or spouse?

One of the parenting blogs I like to read,
Dooce, by Heather Armstrong, asks a question to mothers out there in a recent post. Is parenthood (presumably the baby part) harder, or is marriage?

I'm surprised how many people in her comments said marriage! I have a hard time understanding how communicating with a fellow adult who can speak full English sentences and has made a conscious agreement to commit his/her life to you can be harder than dealing with someone who screams their needs most of the time, has no idea who, what or where they are, and poops in their pants, to boot.

Before I had a baby I might have (foolishly) thought that marriage was harder, but now I look back at the most challenging times in my marriage (which are luckily few) with envy--they look like paradise compared to the hardest times as a parent so far.

I still am convinced that many, many parents, especially mothers, fear speaking the truth about how hard it is for fear of looking like a bad parent, as if CPS is going to turn up on your doorstep simply because you admit you--gasp--lose your patience with your child and yell, or for appearing ungrateful. Mothers are especially pressured to appear as if we never so much as think a bad thought about our children.

When I was pregnant, nobody told me about the difficult times ahead--I guess they didn't want to break the magic spell of pregnancy, that time of beautiful ignorance. The only thing that anyone told me about was the sleep deprivation, and even that was downplayed to suggest I might be just a little bit tired, as if I'd stayed up late reading. I didn't fully understand how serious SD was, that I would feel trapped in an eerie fog, stuttering (literally--I stuttered for 2 weeks after giving birth), stumbling and grasping at reality between feedings, while my husband hovered over spoon-feeding me like an invalid. It was only recently that one friend pointed out to me: even the Geneva Convention does not support sleep deprivation as a form of torture because it's TOO CRUEL :)

Still, maybe I'm luckier in my marriage than some, or maybe I just find it more challenging to be responsible for a human life than to express my feelings to my partner.



At 10:02 AM, Blogger Ms. Theologian said...

I always forget to read Dooce, and then have to catch up a month or two at a time.

My big thing in the new year is acknowledging how individual most of this life thing is for different folks. I think it's entirely probable that getting pregnant and staying pregnant was the hardest thing I ever did, but I think it's not a big deal for many people, hence they wonder what my problem is. Likewise with sleep deprivation or motherhood or marriage.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Samus said...

Parenting is so weird in that you literally do forget how awful things are. Old awful things are replaced with all new awful things and are balanced with so much joy. And then you forget about how horrible it is to never sleep or to look at a mess of shit and have no idea where to begin because there's that one day that he has a fever, and he's breathing so hard and his skin is bright red, and you're feeding him pedialyte through a dropper and weeping and praying and praying and praying that if he just gets better you'll live through a thousand more sleepless nights, no problem.

But yeah, I guess marriage without kids is easier; I guess I can't separate the two once there's a kid in the mix. Is it easier to deal with Mr. Aran or The Bug? Well, I can say whatever I want to The Bug and he believes me; as of now I'm still smarter than he is. Then again, Mr. Aran can have sex with me, which is nice.

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Steph: Well, some people have children that sleep, so that isn't an issue for them, and they're all rested and happy and cheerful each day :)

Samus: You have to forget. Imagine holding all those sleepless, frustrated, poopy, sick, memories in your brain--you'd combust. I agree that when my kid is in obvious pain, I always pray to take it away in exchange for even the worst night's sleep over and over again. We parents are full of contradictions.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Ms. Theologian said...

I think what I originally meant came out wrong in comments (and blogger has thwarted my apology since). I'm really sorry.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Maryanne Stahl said...

Sleep deprivation is the bottom line, isn't it? I told anyone who wanted to know how hard it was for me, but I don't volunteer too much because a. some women are lucky and their kids sleep and it's sort of pointless to try to explain how horrible it is to someone who hasn't experienced it.

but just so you know, I honestly believe that the kids who don't sleep are brilliant.

At 5:05 PM, Blogger Maryanne Stahl said...

oh--and since I'm are lucky in your marriage. I wasn't . My son didn't sleep. I mean, there were times he was up every half hour, times I started to cry when he did because I was just so exhausted and my husband would get angry at me because my sniffling woke him up.

then. when my son was 5 months, my husband had a horrible ski accident and I had an invalid and a non-sleeping infant to care for--and a prepubescent, resentful 11 year old.

to say my life was hell is to sugar coat it. and yet, and yet, I know that I didn't have it as hard as many women on the planet. I had enough to eat. I didn't have to work outside the home at that point. so...

I'm sorry to unload this on you. I love my children more than my life but I, literally, feel as though I gave my life to them.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Hi Maryanne. I love your candor--it's what I crave as a new mother and wish more women would feel free to tell the truth.

It's HARD. Sleep deprivation is a killer. I had no idea. Thought I was tough. Hahaha. Of course you gave your life for them. You did. And the rub of being a mother is that sometimes the only one who knows how hard you work is you. You can't really put it on your kids, after all, we decided to have them. It's not for them to know until they have kids of their own.

But I AM lucky in the husband I have, no doubt. He rarely even leaves the bed when the baby is fussing every couple hours!!

And though we were always on the fence about having more than one, the work of one has convinced me that one is absolutely all I can handle. Esp. as I started a bit later than most.



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