Q: Loved your response to the bored-out-of-their-gourds parents of the 1-year-old. I’m three months pregnant and a little worried in the wake of a recent dinner party. There were four sets of new parents there, and all the wives seemed to resent the hell out of their husbands. The husbands, predictably, seemed defensive and angry in response. My husband and I have a really great partnership, and I’d like to keep it that way. Are there things we can do to avoid the parental hate stage, or…fret, fret…is it an inevitability that comes with the stress of having a child?
— Baby On Board
A: Today’s marriage is reportedly a more equal partnership. For a lot of couples who become parents, here’s how that works: The woman blimps out for nine months, spends hours and hours in agony squeezing a huge thing out an extremely small opening, and then becomes a 24-hour milk dispenser and poo-slave for the better part of a year. The man holds her hand and says “You can do it, honey!” while she’s in labor, helps name the kid, and then, when friends come over to watch the World Series, picks it up and says, “Look what we made!”
Trophy dads aside, if there’s one area of parenting that breeds eye-daggers of wifely resentment, it’s unequal sleeplessness. Yeah, I know, according to The Beatles, “love is all you need,” but they forgot the small print: This is only true of people who are not suffering from sleep deprivation, which, by the way, is not only a necessity for tending to one’s newborn but a form of torture banned by the Geneva Conventions.
Sure, there are certain biological problems with sharing the nightly feeding duties. But, just because the booby with the drinks in it is on only one of you doesn’t mean there can’t be catering. In other words, Daddy can bottle-feed if mommy breast pumps, and nothing’s stopping him from diaper-changing. What matters is that Mommy and Daddy are going halfsies on sleeplessness. As a happily married male friend with a new baby puts it, it’s essential to “scrupulously share” wakeup duty, or a wife who used to look lovingly at her sleeping spouse may begin calculating how much jail time she’d get for smothering him with a pillow.
During daylight hours, a little time off for the stay-at-home mom, even for 20 minutes after Dad comes home, is a huge relief, as are playdates — Baby On Board one night a week for her to go out with friends and be a person instead of a big udder. Just a little alleviation goes a long way in showing that a husband doesn’t think women have babies and men have babies as props — Baby On Board to parade around Starbucks in a BabyBjorn, making all the hot girls coo, and then hand back to Mom until the kid’s old enough to be interesting: “Hey, little man, Daddy’s gotta read the newspaper and putter around the garage for six or seven years. Let’s talk when you’re big enough to throw a ball around.”
Q: I’m thinking I should wait until after Christmas to break up with my girlfriend of two years. She is planning on accompanying me to my family’s for the holidays and otherwise has no place to go. (I’m picturing her home alone, maybe calling her stepbrother she talks to once a year.)
— Not Jolly
A: When your thought is “I think we should start seeing other people,” it isn’t supposed to mean making your girlfriend spend a week with your grandma and 62 of your closest relatives. Although you’re trying to be kind, delaying your breakup is the wrong thing to do. You break up with somebody as soon as you know, which means they can lick their wounds and get on to somebody who does want them that much sooner. (There are exceptions to the immediacy rule, like if it’s two days before your girlfriend has finals or if somebody’s just died and she’s on her way to identify the body.)
Just think how what you’re suggesting could play out. In the weeks before Christmas, she’ll likely sense that something’s not quite right. She’ll gnaw endlessly on this with her girlfriends, and they’ll come up with the perfect solution…Santa lingerie! When you finally end it, she’ll likely drag out of you that you weren’t really feelin’ it — Baby On Board starting around Halloween. So, besides the painful emotions that accompany any breakup, you’ll be giving her the gift of humiliation as she replays the mental video of herself prancing around in a Santa hat and jingle bell pasties…on what turned out to be the biggest chopping day of the year.
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