I’m convinced the stork confiscates the social lives of new parents when he drops off the baby. It’s almost as if the newfound extra free space in his sack entices him, ‘meh, might as well take this back with me…they won’t need it anytime soon.’
It’s no secret that your life will change once your little one arrives. (It’s also no secret that everyone feels the need to tell you that…please know this one is different, I come in peace! I’m not fear mongering you, just offering an honest truth.) It’s an inevitable shift initially, but also one that you’ll VERY warmly welcome. In those first few weeks, IF you even notice the stork’s thievery, you likely won’t care. ‘Take it…keep it…it’s alllll yours.’ You’re in full on survival mode, and the only place you want to be is near your sleeping baby, preferably also sleeping yourself.
But… one day, you’ll feel your friskiness return. You’ll look in the mirror, really look at yourself, and realize… ‘I need something. Something’s missing. I need a date with my husband. I need an hour in a coffee shop- alone. I need to see my girlfriends. Is that a stray gray? I definitely need my hair done. Any of these will do, but I need something, and I need it now.’ Listen to that little voice in your head…that’s your sanity talking. She’s that hard-to-get-ahold-of friend, so if she’s calling, you’d better pick up!
Whether you’re still on maternity leave, you’re back to work or you stay home, there’s one simple strategy you can share with your spouse to help keep both of your sanities in check. It’s so easy, and seems so obvious…but it doesn’t come naturally to every household. It took my husband and I the better part of a year to really get it down, and there are still pah-lenty of days that we completely and utterly botch it! Try as we might, nothing is ever perfect. But once you get it down, it’s money in the bank…
The art of alternating.
This takes shape in various forms and looks different for each family, but once you get your system in place, it can be pure magic. Our favorite trick: alternating weekend morning duty. It’s been a GAME-CHANGER! For the longest time, we would both spring out of bed simultaneously at the first sign of squeals through the monitor…which gave us wonderful bonding time, don’t get me wrong. But…it’s a little different now. An occasional game of roshambo for “not-it” is a real thing. If it’s my day off, you better believe I’m cheering on the hubs to get a cup of coffee, tighten up the strings of his Sunday Super-Dad cape…and quietly close the door on his way out.
Alternating is a tactic that can be applied to just about every facet of parent life, from every day tasks at home, to your exciting re-introduction back into the wild (aka, stealing that social life back from the stork.) If you’re like me, you’re married to someone who has a demanding job that typically keeps him away from home during the week, which doesn’t give you much of a break. Whether he’s traveling or entertaining clients, if he’s home in time for dinner and bedtime routine, once or twice is considered a good week. And it’s on those nights that I really rely on him to alternate with me. Maybe it’s cleaning up dinner vs. running bath time, or handling the fur babies vs. the human baby in the morning.
We try to align a cause and effect relationship to tasks that can be done simultaneously, alternating anything that takes the same amount of time and effort. This helps ensure that our scales are always in balance. Sometimes the gestures are even greater than what can be weighed out daily… maybe it’s trading a tee-time with the guys for a mani/pedi with the gals. Keeping an eye on each other and recognizing when you (or they) need a break is key to maintaining that balance…and keeping the peace.
While alternating is something we’ve grown to depend on, it’s honestly my favorite when we don’t have to do it, and we can just partner up and crush it. <insert weekend brunch!> Sam’s favorite hobby is eating snacks in a highchair, so we’ve been a brunching force to be reckoned with lately.
It’s tough to get a night out together just the two of us unless Grandma’s coming to town, so it doesn’t happen all that often…but that’s totally fine for us right now. (And, real talk: who can actually afford to feel the affects the morning after a serious night out anymore??? Brunching is totally where it’s at for us. Unless you adopt the snooze-swap program…in which case, bottoms up and let your freak flag FLY, mama!)
The crazy thing about parenting is that it seems easier if you treat it like a game…but it’s only a fun game if you’re on the same team. Almost like tug-o-war, only rather than trying to yank the other side into the mud, the goal is to keep the ribbon stabilized, in the center. If you’re opponents AND you keep score, neither of you will win. Ever. This simple philosophy makes sure you’re both contributing to your new life together, your little one, yourselves, and each other. It takes work, but once you find your rhythm, you will be an unstoppable parenting team. And most importantly, comparison and resentment will always be on the opposite (and losing) team.
So in the spirit of the Olympics, congratulations on winning the gold medal in Synchronized Parenting. Now, get up on that podium and take a much deserved bow!