Parenthood changes everything.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been with my wife for over 18 years ( 13 married) , we have an 11 mos. old little boy ( who is great) , my biggest problem seems to be that we are constantly fighting about money to issues such as why I did not remember to do certain things around the house. I know that a lot of times I procrastinate to do things for her and other times I do things for her that she did not ask such as dishes, laundry etc.

We have talked about a second child and I understand why she would like our son to have a brother or sister ( god willing ) , and she constantly reminds me that she does not want to go back to work ( hates her job) and wants to stay home and raise them.

There have been times when I came home from work, she gets mad at me walking in the door because I distract my son from eating ( he is happy to see me ) or when she is breastfeeding. If I get up to use the bathroom I am distracting him

There are many times that I feel I would just like to walk away to avoid a conflict ( which sends her to the roof) or hop in my car for a little drive to calm down because she gets me so mad…which doesn’t help the situation…and this doesn’t solve the issues we have …..I have on numerous times told her that she is driving me nuts …will not let me fall asleep at night at times because she says she wants the problem solved …and of course just for peace of mind and 6 hours sleep I will agree or apologize to end the issue. ( sometimes after a fight she will apologize to me and then ask if I am sorry as well ….to keep the peace I will say it as well )

I know I push her buttons … she says I am very argumentative and I nag her … If this means that sometimes I relate to things in the past and bring it as ammo in a fight …then I am guilty …or because she says I will say the opposite “she says black and I will say white.”

There is also some issues that we have with my family and us that do not help the situation. My mother has come to visit maybe 4 times in 4 years ( lives 1.5 hours away ) , my sister and brother-in-law hardly ever come by ….I have asked my wife during a bout that maybe she needs to get away from me for awhile to give her and myself a break ( I cannot breast feed so our son would have to go with her ) and visit one of her sisters ( we can afford the plane ticket ) or I offered to go away for a couple of days as well to give us each maybe some breathing room….( that is not going to happen any time soon ) .

I have asked her on numerous occasions if I can take off for a couple of days camping to just relax a bit ( she knows that is my escape and I love to camp ) …and her answer each time is “what about me?” “what am I going to do” ? “I cannot just take off like you.”

What I find in myself in the last couple of years is that I dread the fact ( at times) going home each day expecting a fight or some form of verbal confrontation with her ( weekends make it more difficult ) ….do not take me wrong I do love my wife and my son – (my job she knows I do not like it and am trying to change it ) as long as I am making a certain amount of money to support all of us, but it makes me feel I am at this point in my life that I cannot handle the fights anymore and want out period …please help if you can —thanks

A: You’ve given me a ton of troubles. But you know what? I don’t think you are looking at what is at the center of it all. You are in your forties. You and your wife have been together 18 years. And you have an 11 month old? All the things you mentioned as possible sources of trouble (money, chores, family) have always been there except one: Your little son.

It looks to me like neither one of you was quite prepared for how your lives would change with parenthood. Your wife is acting anxious and insecure — and in love with her baby. I suspect that if you were honest about it, you are feeling pretty overwhelmed yourself. You are trying to solve emotional issues by either responding to the content of what she says or by using various methods of avoidance — which only make her more anxious and insecure. You’re both missing the point. Having children is a major, major life change. You two need to figure out how to shift from being a couple to being a parenting team.

Take a big step back and talk about your goals now that you are a family. What roles do you think you should each take in making the family work? How are you going to handle money, chores, childcare, and family involvement now? Probably most important, how are you both going to give your baby time and attention and love and still have some time and attention and love for each other? If you have some older and wiser friends who have been successful parents, they might be a resource for you. If not, I think you should look for a family therapist to coach you through this important transition in your lives.

Going into separate corners won’t help you learn to be a family. I hope for your own sakes and for the sake of your little boy, you and your wife find the courage to give these issues the time and effort they deserve.

I wish you all well,
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Sep 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Parenthood changes everything.. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/09/24/parenthood-changes-everything/

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