Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: I’m going through a spell where I can’t get it together enough to be nicer to my husband. I always apologize, but pretty soon an apology isn’t going to be enough.
We have a toddler and a 4-month-old, both work full time, and I haven’t slept more than three hours in a row for four months. I know I am stressed and overtired, but that’s not an excuse for sniping at him like I do.
It’s just, he drives me crazy.
Never miss a local story.
I never yell at him or say things that hit below the belt, but he sees my annoyance at every little thing he does, which is so unfair because most of the time he’s not doing anything “wrong.” I’m nursing, so can’t get away long enough to get some sleep/get my head together. Any advice?
Mean to Husband
I’ve said before that solutions are often embedded in the one thing we’re ruling out.
You HAVE to step away to regroup. HAVE to.
Pump or supplement so your husband can do some night feedings; hire sitters so you can get out or be home alone for the first time probably in months; set up a weekly date night, no excuses. Get screened for postpartum depression, too, as many readers suggested.
It can be tough to justify a break when you feel like you’re not doing a good enough job at anything, but your biggest performance-killer now is your failure to rest. Period.
And the thing you’re going to damage first is the institution you entered to provide lifelong, mutual support. That’s not just cruel to your husband and a poor parenting choice for your kids, but also incredibly self-defeating for you. Your husband seems like the safe place to dump your unguarded emotions but he’s not; he’s the one who needs your best.
And you think, “But he drives me crazy!” I say, the crazy is in your circumstances, which color your view of your husband.
Even if I’m wrong, there’s no downside to addressing the baby-exhaustion as if it’s your only problem. That’s because, even if there are other problems, you will automatically be coming at them better rested, which raises your likelihood of solving them from nonexistent to existent.
Again, you HAVE to do this. Picking at everything your husband does isn’t just “unfair,” it’s emotional abuse. You’re right that hectic times don’t excuse meanness, but go further and recognize hectic times don’t excuse a choice to do nothing about your meanness. Call in whatever reinforcements you need to get your rest.
One more thing: Picking at everything he does can put a young co-parent off the whole idea of shared child-rearing. This phenomenon can affect anyone but it tends to be something women impose on men – an, “I’ve got this, you do it wrong,” impulse of breastfeeding moms who for obvious biological reasons start off as primary parent but then never hand over the reins, refusing to tolerate the very learning curve they themselves were on only months before.
Patience is so important, especially for a strung-out parent who badly needs to delegate, to give the other parent a chance to become a veteran – but too often it’s the strung-out ones who seize vs. share the control.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.