A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
According to a UK university study of 5,000 subjects, it turns out couples without children are happier in their relationships.
Well. Bully for them. Perhaps someone ought to have mentioned this to me, oh I don’t know, seventeen months ago?
Just kidding. I love my daughter and wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world, and I’m sure my second husband will attest to having the same feelings about his own kids, too.
In all honesty, though, it’s not exactly news (or science) that marriage post-baby gets a whole lot harder. In fact, until we had our darling little V, I never really understood why our elders were constantly reminding us of how difficult marriage is. Now I’m beginning to get it. We are tired. We are stressed. The background soundtrack to our lives often features a fair amount of baby wailing. There’s always a list a mile long of chores we need to catch up on when all we want to do is sit for five minutes, undisturbed. If it’s not the baby who needs tending, it’s the dog. We are under-exercised, under-socialized, and over budget. Naturally, this leads to a fair amount of connubial tension. There are days when our communication is limited to back and forth exchanges of the following:
“Will you change this diaper? It’s your turn.”
Which is probably healthier than the days when our communication is achieved solely using the child as conduit. For example:
Me, to V: Sweetie, maybe dada will change this diaper since I did the last two!
Mr. P, to V: Well, if mommy wants daddy to go pick up dog food, she’s going to have to change it herself!
Romantic, I know. But really, beyond conception, what’s supposed to be romantic about having a baby? There is no better natural birth control than an infant. Think about it: both partners are sleep-deprived, vomit-scented, wearing the same sweatpants for three days despite being polka dotted with various formations of repulsive stains. It’s difficult not to argue about little things, like who knows better how to warm a bottle or what temperature the bath water should be or whose fault it was that the baby fell down went boom. I’ve had mom friends describe their relationships with their husbands as being like good friends who live together and also don’t like each other very much.
Ultimately—and I suppose ideally—we all get through it because we are thankful for our spouses and admire their abilities as parents. We can admit that perhaps we’re not exactly behaving as our best selves all the time, and these people with whom we’re partnered are enduring just as much as they are dishing out. We’re experiencing something challenging together, and the reason for and product of all that bickering and exhaustion and dry cleaning is pretty damn wonderful, albeit extremely noisy, demanding, and possibly a little insane.
Like a tiny, adorable, cherub-faced mental patient.
We may not have the time or energy or funds or ability to travel and wine and dine and sweep each other off our respective feet like those golden, enviable, carefree DINKs, but we’re sharing something amazing and miraculous and occasionally traumatic, and that’s good enough for now.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter at @NinaPajak!