The 1 thing your partner shouldn’t do when he gets home from work when you have a newborn…
On the weekend my lovely friend and I were talking about those early days of motherhood when your partner returns to work. It immediately took me back to the front room of our old house, pacing up and back holding our baby, peeking through the blinds while praying to any Goddess who might be listening that this next car would be my husband’s. I was lucky. Though my husband was away quite a lot, when he was home, he’d usually walk through the door around 5:30pm. If he stayed in the car to finish a phone call, dawdled by the letterbox or stopped to talk to our neighbour, I would be instantly on edge (see also: flash of rage). To me it was like being at the gym and someone counting down the remaining pushups, thinking it was funny to get stuck on 2 (“5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, come on you can do it!, 1”). I never found this technique amusing. My husband was confused the first time I was annoyed by his ‘loitering’. He reasoned (rationally) that it was only a few extra minutes and he asked whether it had been a really bad day. It was hard to articulate at the (sleep deprived) time but I recall thinking that that day had been mostly great and it wasn’t that I couldn’t hold our beautiful baby for another ten minutes… it’s just that the countdown had been on. For some reason being able to see him but not talk to him and/or hand over our baby when I’d been waiting all day to do so felt like a special kind of cruelty. I would hang out for him to get home. I couldn’t wait to talk to someone who would talk back to me. To have multiple conversations about whether our baby’s room was too hot or what tog sleeping bag we should use. To show him all the pictures I had taken. TO PEE ALONE. And to hand over our baby whose witching hour* (*not actually an hour) began around 5pm and lasted until 7 or 8 or 9pm many nights for a period of who knows how long.
I used to suggest to clients who were Dads to take a detour on the way home if they needed time for themselves - I felt like I would rather my husband home 15 minutes later and be completely ready to jump in and help, than I would have him home but need time to decompress before getting stuck in. While my friend and I talked, all the many, many nights my husband and I would tag team eating dinner came flooding back. While pre-baby I would decide what to eat based on what I felt like cooking or what recipe I wanted to try, the criteria for dinner at that stage in our lives was as follows: Is it microwavable? Can I eat it standing up? Can I eat it with one hand? When she went to sleep at last, we would flop on to the couch… and almost immediately I would consider going to bed too. I knew in a few hours she would be up again and for a while there, I started to dread the long nights ahead.
If this is you now, all I can say is that I see you. Go easy on yourself. Remember this will pass (though it might feel really bloody slow in the moment), and that one day you will be able to reclaim your nights.