Carolyn Hax: Adaptability will help with baby

Carolyn Hax:

June 10, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I'm pregnant with my first baby and deciding whether I will return to my job after the baby is born. I'm the last among my friends to start a family, so I have seen friends choose both paths.

No one seems totally happy. My friends who stay home are bored, strapped for cash and fighting with their husbands. My friends who work are busy, stressed and fighting with their husbands. I love my husband, but who knows how parenthood will change our relationship?

GRASS IS GREENER?

The fighting-with-spouse aspect of child-rearing is not inevitable. These aspects, however, are:

You will be tired.

You will have responsibilities (diapers, feedings, play) that are boring, repetitive, relentless, mildly irritating, rewarding mostly in the long term, and of great consequence to your bond with your child.

You will be faced with things you have no idea how to handle.

You will not agree with your husband on everything.

You will disappoint each other.

Daunting, yes, but not hopeless as long as you both agree to put everything you've got into this.

When both of you can plainly see that neither of you is taking advantage of the other, then you can use these other, highly effective fight pre-empters:

- Recognizing the other person is tired, too.

- Occasionally giving the other person time off, even when it's technically your turn.

- Admitting when you're faced with something you don't know how to solve.

- Apologizing when you let your spouse down, and forgiving when he lets you down.

Parents who support and appreciate each other tend to like each other more, of course, but so do those who adapt under pressure instead of martyring themselves. If you believe the workload is out of balance, then revisit your choices; don't just wear them down into ruts.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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