Q&A: Losing Patience with Partner

Parenting is really hard. Anon writes:

"I just lost it on my husband. Like screaming at him while the baby is screaming her head off. Utter chaos. We're 2 months in with our first child and I have been trying so hard not to lose my patience with him. And he's a great guy. Helpful without having to be asked. Patient with me and with our baby. So what's my problem, right? Sleep deprivation I guess. But anything can make me furious — having to repeat myself, him asking me what he should do regarding XYZ (hello! This is new for me too! I don't know what I'm doing!), him sleeping soundly while I go tend the baby — even mundane stupidities like not washing the frying pan right away even though I know he didn't because it was too hot! I miss our relationship pre-baby. We were a great team. We had 10 years just me and him. And now it's like we have to learn how to be a couple again. I know I'm taking out my frustration, tiredness, anxiety, etc. etc. out on him and it's not fair. How can I make this better?? How can I make our relationship better?? Does it ever go back to "normal"? Or some semblance of the way it used to be??

Maybe it's not nice or fair to ask this of you after a divorce and I apologize if it's insensitive."

I almost started tearing up at that last line. Thank you so much for being so sweet, Anon, to be concerned about me! It's totally not insensitive.

I have some theories (ha ha ha, as if there was any doubt) about divorce, and one of them is that for couples who just disintegrate (like LOD and I did) it isn't because "the love died" or any of that stuff. I think there are lots of couples who just weren't right to begin with (raises hand) and we just get married because of some dysfunctional equilibrium, and once something shifts the balance is gone and it falls apart. If you had 10 good years together, I seriously doubt this is the case. If there's something to "get back to," then your situation is in no way analogous to mine.

In other words, at 2 months postpartum, all bets are off. Not only are you tired as @#$%^&ing hell 24/7, you (both) have completely lost your identity, and the one who gave birth to the baby still has hormone craziness (they don't really go back to pre-pregnancy levels until the baby has been out of you for as long as the baby was in you, so you still have 7 months to go). There is no way for this not to be a ridiculously stressful situation unless you have a lot of help.

So the good news is that I'm pretty sure that this is normal for 2 months post-partum. And couples get past it and go on to be the great team they were before they had a baby. The bad news is that it hurts while you're in it. That bruised, why-am-I-not-special-anymore hurt for both of you.

I have a few suggestions, and know for sure that many of the still-happily-married commenters will have more:

1. Be honest about it. Have a talk, and not in the heat of the moment when you're feeling rage, but when you're just feeling exhausted and normal, and lay it out for your partner. That you're scared and sad and confused and exhausted. And you can't be the one with all the answers because you don't have them. And that it feels like he's not helping because he's sleeping soundly. He is probably trying to do what he thinks needs to be done, and doesn't realize how you feel. So tell him.

2. Ask him for honesty. Men are supposed to be these unyielding sources of strength when the baby comes, but that's no more fair or realistic than expecting you to know all the answers. So ask him to tell you what he's feeling and what his biggest stresses are.

3. Call out the hormones. If you both know you're being held captive to mood swings for awhile longer, it'll be easier not to take the episodes for anything but what they are.

4. Look over on the left of this page, about hafway down, where it says "Download This," and download my "14 Tips to Prevent PostPartum Depression" sheet and keep all of that in mind. You're in a fragile place right now.

5. If you can hire or talk someone into babysitting, do it. A few hours once a week to spend just together will help out more than you can imagine.

Readers who have gone through it and are still happy to be with your partner? Lay it on us, please.

Life Keys Schedule Change and MP3

We had such a great discussion about Anger last Wednesday that Sharon and I rethought the order of the Life Keys discussions and have decided to do Expectations this coming Wednesday, June 1, and finish with Love next week, June 8.

Also, if you're interested in buying the MP3 of last week's conversation on Anger, it's here. If you want to hop in on the last two sessions (Expectations and Love), go here.

Q&A: Being there when you’re barely there

A, who is going through a painful and disillusioning divorce and now unemployment and financial troubles, asks:

"How can I be there for my son when I'm barely holding it together myself?"

Answer: Burn it down to what's really essential and let the rest go by.

You all know I've been through some stuff in the last few years. (Including being in eviction court twice in 2009 and sometimes having single digits to my name for a week at a time, which I never talked about because a) I didn't know how to talk about it (and still don't), and b) I didn't want to ask for help. I am still shocked and thankful when I can pay my rent on the day it's due and that I can buy my kids impulse items at the grocery store.)

In those days when I could not sleep for more than two hours at a time from worry and recrimination about how horribly I'd miscalculated and how off the track things were, the one thing I did that kept me from spiralling off, untethered, was making the deliberate decision not to roll over.

I thought about what my kids really needed. And what it boiled down to was food, water, clothes, a place to live, love, and security. They did not need a perfect magazine mom, who cut their sandwiches into shapes. They didn't need a mom who went on endless fun outings with them all the time and bought them fun toys. They needed a mom who hugged them a lot, who listened to what they said and paid attention, who took their feelings seriously, who showed them that they were important, and who waited until they were asleep to cry.

And they needed a mom who kept going.

So keep going. You will find another job. You will dig yourself out. You will be cupcake mom again. In the meantime, pay attention to your son and take him seriously and love him. The rest is fun, but if you don't have the resources he won't even notice.

You are doing the best you can, which is all he needs.

Who's been there?

Time Passages

(If you're thinking about joining the talk Sharon Silver and I are doing about Anger tonight at 9 pm Eastern, register before around 5 pm Eastern so we have time to send you the call-in info. And don't worry if your kids won't be asleep. Mine probably won't be, either. Sigh.)

Today's topic is time passages, and when I typed it I definitely had this guy in my head (you're welcome for the earworm).

Our kids are getting away from us.

They're growing up and starting preschool or Kindergarten in the fall.

Losing the diaper butt.

Doing it "myself."

Reading all the ads on the subway.

Not wanting kisses in front of their friends anymore.

My baby cousin is graduating from high school and starting college in the fall.

I don't know whether to feel old or to feel young, to watch it happen and wish I'd enjoyed those stages more when I was in them or to thrill at the way they get to experience those stages with the complacency of youth.

I mean, I know the answer. But it's hard not to get a little weepy sometimes.

I think I'll just put on my headphones and sing along with Al Stewart a little.



Infant sleep

Life Keys Tele-Seminar with Sharon Silver and me this Wednesday night. We're talking about anger this week. Scroll down right below this to read about it and sign up.

Lots of questions about wee infant sleep. I've really got nothing except: It's a crapshoot until at least 12 weeks. And it depends on your kid.

You hope it's going in a generally positive direction, of course, but it's sometimes hard to assess what that is. My older one was never much of a day sleeper anyway, and has always needed less sleep than other kids his age at any given age. But he was also always either asleep or awake (no "drowsy but awake" business for him), which may have tainted my perception.

My second was sleeping 7-8 hours in a stretch at night from a few weeks on. (I know. Seriously.) But then he started teething in earnest at 6 weeks and it all went to hell.

Having come out the other end of this twice, here's what I think helped me and has helped others (with "help" meaning got us through with sanity intact) more than anything else:

1. Don't ever (EVAR) compare your child to any other child. Not even your child's identical twin. As it says in the Desiderata, "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter." Totally true with infant sleep.

2. Instead, compare your child's sleep to your child's sleep at some other point in time. Let's assume you're keeping some type of accurate records of wakings or length of time it takes to go down or whatever your particular issue is with that kid. Compare within those records to see how things are going.

3. And don't forget to take development into account. There's not a thing you can do about the 18-month sleep regression (or the 4-month, 9-month, 13-month, or 24-27-month ones, either). So if you're looking at your records, those time periods really don't count as progress or lack of it. Nor does heavy teething, learning to crawl or walk, or any other major disruptions.

4. Once you've got some data, try looking at it another way. Maybe that "late nap" is really your child's body trying to go to sleep earlier than you thought it needed to shut down. If your kid wakes exactly an hour after going down every night, that could be silent reflux. Etc. When in doubt, there's some scientific reason that has nothing to do with your competence.

So, infant sleep. Who's got a story or lament from the age 0 to 12 weeks days?


Coming Up Wednesday: Life Keys with Sharon Silver

Wednesday night! Sharon Silver and I are doing a LIVE EVENT tele-seminar for the next 3 Wednesdays and we'd like you to join us. 

We'll address the topics below and whatever else crosses our minds. Then you can join the conversation to ask a question or share an opinion. 

Our hope is to create the kind of LIVE conversation that happens when several generations sit down and share as only women can do! 

Here is the line up.

May 25th ~ Anger

• Is anger a bad thing or an honest thing?

• Does your anger serve you or hinder you. You'll be surprised at the answers we have!

• How do you deal with the anger that springs up from having children?

• How do I spot my anger triggers or my child's triggers?

• Can anger be resolved?

June 1st ~ Love

• Did the idea of love change for you when you became a parent?

• Is your love any different now vs when your child was smaller?

• How do you navigate the forever changing landscape of love?

• Did you feel loved as a child? If your answer is, "Not so much," then how do you create love with partner and children?

• Has the love you have for your child ever gotten in the way of the love you have for your partner?

June 8th ~ Expectations

• Are your expectations motivating or debilitating?

• Has the infectious nature of expectations begun to rule your life?

• Has expectation inserted itself into your relationship?

• How do you release expectations?

Make a cup of coffee or pour a glass of wine and join us for a chat about Life, Love, Marriage and Kids and how Anger, Love and Expectations are the keys to it all.

Cost: $30 for all three LIVE Conversations. Register here: http://www.proactiveparentingstore.com/moxie_sharon_tele_semninars

Can't stay up that late, or don't like to take notes, join us anyway!

An MP3 of this Live Event will be posted for download no later than the Friday following the event.

Hear you then! 

Ignorance or prejudice

Last week my friend's 5-year-old son, who is African-American, came home from school and reported that a girl in his class, who is white, told him that "a peach girl can't marry a brown boy."

What I hope is that the girl just put that together on her own, and maybe the only couples she knows and identifies as "married" are couples in which both partners are white. I'm thinking about the chapter from NurtureShock called "Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race" that shows that kids put together patterns based on things they observe that may not be what jumps out as *us* as being the salient points of the situation. (If you weren't reading or don't remember, pop over to our discussion of it to get the quick-and-dirty.) So it's entirely possible that a little kid could live in a very ethnically-mixed community, but by the luck of the draw not know any white people who were married to people of color, and pull that out as a rule.

For me, it reinforced the idea that we need to be talking talking talking, verbalizing what our values are, even when it seems like it's overkill. And explaining the situations we see around us, the parent combinations in our kids' schools, etc.

Of course, it's also possible that the girl's parents told her that. I'd have thought that was unlikely, but then another friend a few months back was told by her daughter that a girl in one of her afterschool activities asked her, "Are you [Religion X}? Because my mom says I'm not allowed to play with anyone who isn't {Religion X}."

That makes me sad, both for my friend's daughter and for the little girl who has a rule enforced that is going to make it extremely difficult to be a fully-participating American. Think about not being allowed to play with anyone who wasn't just like you. And I get why subcultures want to stay together for protection and pride, but, as my friend said, when she was taken to task about objecting to her daughter having been told she wasn't good enough to play with, "I already know *why*, but none of those reasons make it right or fair to people on the receiving end." (She also taught me the term "Oppression Olympics," which I think is a nice companion concept to "Misery Poker.")

Being a decent person doesn't mean you have to assimilate. It does mean that you have to give each individual person a chance. Especially if they're a little kid! Both because being rejected based on something you have no control over is a brutal experience for the child who is rejected, and because rejecting people based on things they have no control over, without even attempting to know them individually, dehumanizes you.

Thoughts? Has anyone else been verbalizing values more since reading that chapter of NurtureShock? (I'm pretty sure my kids are tired of my talking about how they can marry any boy or girl they want to when they grow up, or not marry anyone.) Have your kids been on the receiving end of ignorant or prejudicial talk? How did you deal with it?

2-3-4 for naps for babies

Oh, baby naps. They never stop being a hot topic, do they? I unfondly remember the days of trying to figure out exactly when to try to put one of mine down for a nap, and how long it should last, to preserve bedtime (aka my sanity) and morning wake-up (and any wake-ups in between). I've gotten a few questions about nap schedules, and instead of addressing each one individually (because really, I don't know any more than you do), I thought we could review common trends in napping.

By "trends" I don't mean The New Nap Stylez For 2011, but instead, what tends to happen as babies age.

0-4 months: Chaos, with some regulation as the weeks go on. Your baby will start by not staying awake for longer than 2 hours, and may condense sleeping into either a bunch of 20 or 45-minute naps or three actual naps by the time four months rolls around.

4-5.5 months: Your baby's sleep could go all to hell from the developmental spurts (buy the Wonder Weeks book or app to have it all explained to you). Or you may be one of the lucky ones whose kid starts to nap more linearly.

5.5 months to around 8 months: For a lot of people this is a time of improvement, when your baby is taking three naps a day.

8-10 months: Developmental spurt. All bets off.

10 months on through toddlerhood (with sleep blip at 13 months): Your baby might condense down to two naps. If s/he does, you might observe a 2-3-4 pattern. This means that the first nap starts roughly two hours after waking up. The second nap starts roughtly three hours after the baby wakes from the first. And bedtime starts roughly four hours after the baby wakes from the second nap. Both my kids did it on their own, like magic.

How do you feel about my rough timeline? Did it fit your experience? Did your child do 2-3-4 in the two-nap stage? How did you make it though the nap battles?

Generational Life Keys through Conversation

(Scroll down for today's post below this one.)

Long ago, in a galaxy far away, daily life allowed women the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee and chat with several generations about life, love, marriage and kids. Life is too busy for that these days, but the need to connect, to learn from someone else’s wisdom still exists.

Moxie, from Ask Moxie and Sharon Silver, from Proactive Parenting invite you to join us for a 3-week Generational Sharing of Wisdom tele-seminar.

We will discuss how anger, love and expectations impact life, marriage and kids. You’ll hear Moxie’s point of view, the view of someone who is living what all of you are living. And you’ll hear Sharon’s point of view, the view of someone who has been there, done that and lived to tell the tale.

On Wednesday May 25, June 1, and June 8th from 9pm-10:30 pm Eastern (6pm-7:30 pm Pacific) Moxie and Sharon will host a live tele-seminar and share the honest truth from our lives. How we managed anger, the reality of love and the infectious nature of expectations. We'll talk about our experiences and the insights that clicked for us, then we'll open the lines up to hear what you have to say.

The cost is $30 for all three seminars. Go to http://www.proactiveparentingstore.com/moxie_sharon_tele_semninars to sign up today.

QandSomeone’sA: Birthday present etiquette

What do we do about "No gifts please" birthday parties?

I mean, for kids who are old enough to really know the difference, like, say, age 4 on up.

I was in this situation a few months ago, in which the invitation said "No gifts please," but my son reeeeeeally wanted to bring a gift (he had something very specific in mind), so we brought it, but then some other moms at the party expressed trepidation to me that they hadn't brought anything. And then I got a question from someone who wanted to know if "No gifts please" really means no gifts, or if it's just a courtesy statement.

I do think it's cultural. In NYC it seems to be a little bit of a courtesy statement or even a brag to say "No gifts please." Having said that, I do think I contributed to other parents' stress by bringing a gift, so it was a little assy. Except for the fact that the gift cost $6 and my son reeeeeeally wanted to give it. So maybe it was just a well-intentioned assy.

What's the scoop where you life? Do you bring a gift to a "no gifts please" party?

Bonus question: Do you think less of people who *don't* have a "No gifts only" party? It almost seems likea badge of (false) piety here, but it might be more literal in other places.