Carolyn Hax: Tough years don't last forever

March 17, 2014 

Carolyn: My husband and I always wanted children, and six months ago we were blessed with a wonderful, healthy baby girl. I love her to pieces, but whenever someone asks how I am "enjoying" motherhood, I guess the answer is … not all that much.

My husband and I had such a great life before this, and now I feel sucked into this vortex of constant, constant care that is mentally and physically draining. Yes, there are moments of joy, but most of the time is just a grind, mixed in with intense bouts of worry.

I do stay home with her full time and work from home part time, but my husband is extremely hands-on, and we have family nearby who will happily give us the occasional break. I know how lucky I am, especially to have a healthy child, but I sometimes fantasize about an alternate life of just my husband and me, traveling, going out to dinner, enjoying life as a couple for the rest of our lives.

I guess I'm just surprised that actually having a kid isn't what I expected. Does this change as they get older? What is wrong with me that I don't seem to be enjoying this?

BLINDSIDED

Your feelings are totally normal, and I'm sorry you haven't found someone you can confide in. It's hard. There's little that's easy about having someone depend on you completely.

So that's the first thing I'd suggest - finding a sympathetic ear anywhere from old friends to a new mom's group, by putting out feelers to see if you can safely talk about this.

As for your other questions:

• Change is guaranteed - and yes, generally for the better. What an infant gives back to you is often very abstract. What a 10-year-old gives you is conversation, belly laughs, a new view of the world (and stinky socks and scares from which you think you'll never recover, but typically more of the good stuff than bad).

• What is wrong with you? Nothing, most likely. You may be among those who prefer older kids to babies. People of all age preferences can be good parents, as long as they remain committed through their non-preferred years.

So hang in there. Travel and dinners aren't dead, they're just on hiatus. Meantime, take those family-offered breaks, and savor them.

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

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