I made it from my observations, and its purpose is to help you avoiding some hurtful remarks that can damage your relationship. It does not mean that you have to stay silent when something is wrong – this is toxic for any couple. Discuss any issue that arises. Only make sure you do it in a constructive way, instead of injuring each other with the implication you never even meant.
I agree: the question “Whom do you love more: your husband or the kids?” is in itself unfair. However, some people may ask it. My husband once did. He was a breadwinner, while I took care of our firstborn AND tried to proceed with my freelance from home. In the evening, he was expecting some time together, for bonding and chatting, but I could not even get my hands free, because of our daughter’s colic. And believe me or not, being high on oxytocin and feeling this huge responsibility for the life you have brought to this world, you can blurt just that: “Of course I love her more!”
Being a primary caregiver is very absorbing, so your partner may feel neglected and lonely, especially if he was not quite ready to become a parent. For you, it is a no-brainer, but your partner may need some elaboration. Babies need love and care. They are helpless and depend on us in every way 24/7. They need you – the both of you. Ask your partner to help you, explain how exhausted you sometimes feel. Team up and share the cares. This way you will cement your relationship instead of ruining it.
If your partner does not seem willing to be involved in parenting, maybe it is because you discouraged him without even knowing it. A quick quiz: did you ever rolled your eyes at his pathetic attempts to change a diaper? Criticized, pushed him aside saying, “I’ll deal with it twice as quick and without sprinkling the entire room with baby powder!”, “Thanks for nothing!” or “You only get in a way!”?
I have said something like that a couple of times to my husband, when I was particularly anxious, depressed (I suffered from a severe postpartum), sleep-deprived and irritated. All you have to do is to admit to being all that and say: “I am sorry. I really appreciate your effort. Let’s do it together this time”. Alternatively, you can give him some tip on the go, but be careful not to over-explain. This brings us to next one, namely…
In other words, momspaining and controlling everything, as if you were leaving your child with an even younger child. Being an anxious new mom, I used to do it a lot. I showed my husband how to unfold a stroller every time I sent them to have some fresh air. Moreover, I tracked their route with GPS location app on my iPhone because I had my own strong opinion about places suitable for my daughter. Sounds too weird to be true? Yes, I am that mom.
Your partner is a competent adult and a new parent – just as you are. He can handle tantrums and invent fun activities in his own way. Of course, his techniques may differ from yours, but it does not mean they are worse.
I was not always thrilled by my husband’s parenting style, but guess what? Our daughter was! She loved how her dad was being… well, dad – and seemed to enjoy the freedom he gave her. My husband is not as overprotective as I am, and it only made our daughter more determined and independent, to say nothing of the lots of fun she had (even if at the cost of a half a crayon eaten up or a knee scratched).
As flattering as it may sound in some circumstances, too many parents use it as an accusation. Your toddler is impatient? Messy? A picky eater? Throws god-almighty tantrums? Blame the other parent! This way you will kill two birds with one stone: hurt your partner’s feelings and cripple your child’s self-esteem. It as if you were telling your child, “You are inherently bad and there is nothing you can do about it”.
Let’s admit it: such accusation are less than helpful. If anything, throwing in a phrase like that is an acknowledgment of your inability to handle the situation. Alternatively, a way of getting on your spouse’s nerves at the expense of your child. It hurts your partner, but it also hurts the child, when he or she grows old enough to understand your words. Therefore, it’s better to get rid of this habit as soon as possible. Say “(S)he got if from you!” only when your little one shows persistence in building a particularly high tower of bricks or wild imagination while drawing an awesome piece of art!
These toxic phrases are classic examples of gaslighting – an emotional abuse that is hurtful and belittling. You discard your partner’s feelings and opinions as insignificant or even non-existent. Again, as a young first-time mom, you may feel overwhelmed with responsibility. Parenting duties are all new to you and you can be desperate for a break. In comparison, pretty much everything seems to be not that big a deal. Nevertheless, try to be considerate enough to understand your partner’s perspective. Believe me, it means a lot!
The challenges each young family faces are unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The important thing is to be on each other’s side and handling it all together.
What phrases do you regret saying to your partner? How did you fix things? Share in the comments!
Originally published at onmogul.com