The way your relationship with your partner develops during the first days, weeks, months and years after the birth will have a lasting impact on yours and your children’s happiness.
The first thing for me was to work out our roles and our priorities. My role and my priority has always been my children’s emotional and physical health. My husband’s has always been to put a roof over our heads, clothes and shoes on our bodies and food in our bellies. Even though I have always been a working mama my work has not been the main income. Understanding these roles has enabled us to work as a team but not to feel put out by the lack in the other for where we stand with parenting. It has enabled us to appreciate all that the other person does within our family unit and created an equality in our ‘work’ even though what we do isn’t the same.
My husband works hard – we aren’t rich but we have our needs met even if we have many wants.
At times I felt that I was the only one ‘bringing up’ the children but I soon realised that is where our roles lie. I am a feminist but equality doesn’t to me mean we are the same – we are not; we are different, but our needs and our contributions are equal.
I am the one responsible for cooking, washing, doctor appointments and parent teacher stuff. I deal with the emotional side of things and the organisation which was a biggie with 4 children aged 6 and under. I do the shopping. I did night feeds and day feeds and school trips. I chose schools and organised birthday parties. I am the taxi, the confidante, the friend, the jury and the judge. I cut toe nails, brushed hair, did dentists, dressed them and washed them, held them when they cried, patched up wounds and mended toys. I planned holidays, helped with homework but I also taught antenatal classes, trained to be and worked as a midwife. I am now a doula and follow a holistic calling and could do this because my husband worked and supported me both financially and emotionally.
My husband had a different role with the children. He makes up wonderful stories and always has done. He is the humour and the calm within the chaos. He teaches work values and is the get up and doer. I feel that is a great role model for our children. He feels his duty it to continue working until he retires to fulfil his role. He is also a modern man and tidies and hoovers the house (I know I am lucky but I trained him well!), does the garden and attempts to grow veg for us, but most importantly he supports me to be the best mom I can be.
When the children were small his work meant he wasn’t around most weekends and that may have looked like he wasn’t ‘around for his kids’, he also needed his leisure time but for me I felt that that was his reward for the effort he puts in to ‘bring home the bacon’. Do I feel my kids missed out? Of course not – they have the Dad they have always known – he loves them and they know it – Dad is as Dad has always been and that is normal to them. His time was quality not quantity.
I feel as well that one of the keys to maintaining a good relationship with my husband through the trials and tribulations, the triumphs and joys of parenthood is to acknowledge our different stress strategies – I need to talk and to cry, my husband needs to be alone and go cycling or do gardening. Understanding the difference enables us to cope with all that life throws at us.
It has taken me a long time to realise that we work well together as a team. There were times when I felt resentful of the lack of time he spent actually physically helping me with the children but I now see that when they were young my roles were intense and at times stressful but now it’s easier and more relaxed. I am reaching my ‘retirement’ much sooner than my husband – the bulk of my workload happened all at once and my husband’s is over a longer period of time!
And my top tips are don’t dwell on the negative aspects or lacking in your partner but focus on the positive and what they do well. Be kind to each other. Communicate and establish roles, don’t compare your family life or relationship with anyone else’s and only measure your family and relationship against your own personal happiness.