Q&A: shifting expectations and newborn energysuck

R writes:

"I'm a band widow.  My dh is involved in two bands, both practice onceto twice per week.  We have been married for almost a year and have a two month old baby as well as an eight year old from a previous relationship of mine. 

Dh and I have several arguments over who is the most tired.  He works a very physical job and handles a lot of the physical things around the house because I have a back injury.  I had hyperemesis through the pregnancy, and midway through he decided we should also start our own business.  SO, a home business, two bands, work, and being a caregiver as well as parent, husband, etc and I think dh is a little over loaded.  When we finally ever get time to ourselves, we're both usually exhausted and spend the time sleeping on the couch watching movies.  For me, it went from hyperemesis to colic and dealing with a very sore back.

We went on vacation and I really wanted dh to have some fun down time, so I arranged for that to happen.  Just as he was about to leave the campsite to have some fun, I felt super resentful and tired and worn out (there's another blog topic, camping with a seven week old baby at an outdoor music festival).  He didn't get angry, but I know he was resentful that I had promised this fun time and ended up pulling him back into the tent to watch us sleep and keep me company.

I don't know if I should feel bad about being like this.  I'm glad dh has a life and interests and it's why I fell in love with him.  Over the past year I've lost my life almost entirely, beyond making sure this baby is healthy and happy.  I know he's worked hard to support us though.  The problem is, I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I did have time off.  My energy is still zapped from pregnancy and after breast feeding and soothing a colicky baby for 1/3 of the day, I don't think a night on the town would last much more than an hour.

This too shall pass is my mantra... but I'm pretty sure that beyond the colic and the back injury and the rest of it, I'll still be a band/extra curricular widow."

How much would I love to be able to work in a "one time, when I was at band camp" joke here?

You know how musicians all seem so sexy and righteous? Masters of their craft? In touch with the beauty and power of the universe? And hot? Totally. I've been spouting off lately to my RL (regular life) friends, "My forever husband is going to be a musician..." with stars in my eyes. The reality, though, is that musicians don't just sit around playing songs they wrote for you in between bouts of taking out the trash and selling millions of MP3 downloads. It's practice and rehearsal and gigging and traveling to gigs and setting up and breaking down and all kinds of other stuff that's a lot of hard work and not at all glamorous or particularly fulfilling (especially for the observer). And then there's no guarantee that they'll ever be able to make a living at it, either, so they have to take other jobs, which, if they're lucky, mean playing for other people, which is more rehearsal and gigging, etc.

But what you guys are dealing with isn't really about the bands. It's about two things: getting smacked in the face by having a newborn, and dealing with two people who both have needs.

I know you went through the first-time mom thing already, but you can forget a lot in 8 years, and it sounds like you're just getting smacked by the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and caring for a newborn. It's hard and it sucks and you need a break but at the same time you don't even know what you'd do with a break. (Does anyone else remember just walking slowly through the grocery store looking at the new products on the shelves because you didn't know what else to do when you had time away from your baby?)

At the same time, your husband has been smacked with extra physical and logistical demands, plus the freakout that can happen to men when they have a child.

So, to put it mildly, you're both engaging in your stress behavior at this point. And for some of us, that can quickly go down the road of misery poker. Misery poker, while fun, ends up being a game that no one can win, because you're disconnecting from each other and striking out from a defensive position. I know this game, and the resultant scorekeeping that happens even when things are "fine," all too well, and what happens is you end up siloing yourselves. Pretty soon you'll be living your life of resentment and he'll be living his life of resentment. Not good.

One of the things I've discovered the hard way is that you should really only have people in your life that you can be honest with. So if the people you're with aren't able to accept your honesty, then they aren't helping you be who you need to be. And if you're not being honest with the people in your life that you *can* be honest with, that's a problem you need to work on yourself.

It sounds like the camping trip falls into this category. You wanted to please your husband by letting him have his fun time, but you weren't being honest that you 1) need help, and 2) resent that he still gets to go out and walk around without a little person attached to him.

So let's recap: No sleep + physical demands + neither person talking about the stress with the other or possibly even admitting in to themselves + camping with a 7-week-old + too many things to do and not enough time to do it + watching your past life of fun recede quickly in the rear view mirror = major, resentful, ugly disconnection.

The path is clear: You need to figure out how to get connected again. It's my guess that the couples who maintain connection (assuming they had it in the first place) are able to share the misery instead of compete with it. Which means that they're a) admitting to themselves that it's hard and they're stressed and they can't really do things like, say, camping, at this point in their lives (although you will camp again!); b) admitting to each other that they're at the limit of their capacity; c) acknowledging whatever feelings the other one expresses as valid and earned; and d) giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

Ideally, you two would be able to work something out so that you get some down time and he gets some down time, too. And without question you both need to be honest with yourselves about what you need and honest with the other one, even if it makes you feel like the un-cool wife who won't "let" her husband go have fun. But don't forget that you're in the Red Zone here, that even a year from now things will be so different, and three and five and ten years from now you won't remember the actual events (unless you're holding on to resentment) if you can work through it together now.

Anyone with a good relationship want to jump in here with sympathy and/or tips?