The Courage Queen – Mumbler’s Agony Aunt’s February Q&A
Our Mumbler Agony Aunt is Rachael Alexander, better known as The Courage Queen. This month she was sent in a question about a relationship that has deteriorated after having a baby (a very common situation!). Her answer and advice is below. If you have a question for next month’s column please send it to her directly on firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be picked for next month’s blog!
Dear Courage Queen Since having our baby a year ago my relationship with my partner has rapidly gone down hill. We seem to be arguing more than ‘normal’ and we get irritable with each other on a daily basis. My partner has started to spend more time at work, away from us both, which makes me feel resentful. This then makes me feel guilty.
Yours tired and confused
Dear Courageous One Firstly thank you for emailing me. It takes courage to admit everything is not so rosy in the world of ‘parenthood’ and believe me when I say, ‘you are not alone”. I see many women on my workshops that feel exactly the same as you do. Taking off the rose tinted glasses and admitting how we really feel is the first step in being able to improve the situation. I applaud your courageous spirit – you truly are a Courage Queen!
Having a child is a big responsibility and on some level we can feel an enormous amount of pressure to get it ‘right’ and make everything ‘perfect’ for our child. Of course there is no such thing, however this makes us put too much pressure on ourselves.
We try and keep the new addition happy, feed them healthy food, develop their cognitive/motor skills and raise them to be physically and mentally strong with a positive moral coding – no wonder we get so tired and irritable! In reality all we can do is try our best.
So how do we ease the pressure that we place on ourselves? Taking our ‘Super Mum’ cape off for regular periods is important for our happiness. I learnt it was ok to have time off from being a mum, mentally and physically.
We need a break to remember who we were pre-baby and remember what our needs and dreams were. The more we can meet our own needs, the more we can meet our child’s needs. Putting yourself first is a priority. I hereby give you permission not to feel guilty about wanting some YOU time and putting yourself first.
So back to easing the irritability issue – remember since the new arrival, you are juggling three people’s needs: your’s, your partner’s and your child’s. You each have different needs which need managing. Meeting childrens’ need take time and energy
I personally believe gone are the days when childrearing is solely the responsibility of the woman. Women now work which means we can share the responsibility for running the home and caring for the children. I see too many women trying to hold down a job, be responsible for household chores and take responsibility for looking after the children – no wonder we are exhausted!
Personally speaking, I used to get so angry when my husband came home from work exclaiming how tired he was, talking about his ‘hard day’ commenting that he wished he had been at home all day playing with our son! Once I actually lost control and I erupted. I grabbed the first thing I could see which happened to be my son’s feeding bottle and threw it in his direction. I really regretted it though, as I had to re-sterilise the damn thing – another job to add to the list! Joking aside I was so angry and tired from being at home with a teething toddler all day and that he was failing to understand and hear my pain.
So here are my suggestions for getting your relationship back on track.
1) Work out what is actually frustrating YOU – What is causing the arguments? Write down how you are feeling and why it is hacking you off.
When I did this exercise, I identified that I didn’t have enough time to study, which was making me feel pressurised and I was starting to resent looking after my child.
2) Next, work out how you would prefer the situation to be. What would the preferred scenario be? If this situation were resolved to your satisfaction what would have happened?
I identified that I needed more time out to study and it would benefit Luke and I if he went into childcare for an extra morning each week. Those 3 hours saved my sanity and all resentment disappeared.
3) Identify what your child’s needs are, from having to have a stock of nappies to making sure he or she gets enough social interaction with others.
4) Ask your partner to go through the same exercise – what is frustrating him/her? What would his/her preferred scenario be? What would he like to be different in the current situation?
5) Plan a date with your partner when you can have some uninterrupted time to discuss all of your thoughts. The next part maybe the challenging part – you both need to sit down and really HEAR what the other person is saying.
It is not a competition of who feels the most ‘persecuted’. It is a strategy meeting for you all to be happier. Your aim is to work out how all of your needs are going to be met. The art of compromise is important.
If things start to get heated, have a funny password that you can say to call some time out or even put a note in the middle of the table to remind yourselves that you do love each other and you are sorting this out for all of your happiness – baby included.
Many parents with a new baby push the irritations under the carper and pretend that everything is ok. Of course nothing gets sorted this way. Having a child can be like having an old eccentric deaf incontinent great uncle coming to stay – frustrating, tiring and needs managing! The couples who stay happy are the ones who are honest enough to admit things need to be better and work together to improve the situation.
So grab a pen and a piece of paper and take charge of starting the process of getting YOU and your relationship back on track.
Rachael Alexander is the Courage Queen. She offers 121 mentoring and facilitates Courage Queen Seminars, helping women to find their passion in their life and put themselves first. Rachael is also the author of ‘I Can Handle Divorce’ – an easy to read guide to help you decide if divorce is right for you. Sign up to her newsletter on her website – www.couragequeen.com for more inspiration or contact her direct on email@example.com or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheCourageQueen.