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I Wish I'd Known This About Marriage In the Baby Years

Photograph by Twenty20

Motherhood all but consumed my life for the first year. I read mom blogs. I read parenting books. I read reviews about various kinds of baby gear. I watched for baby milestones. I kept a journal about my impressions as a first-time mom.

I was breastfeeding round-the-clock.

I was also taking care of our home: cleaning and cooking, all while getting very little sleep. Back then, everything was more visceral—I cried at commercials depicting mothers or news stories involving babies. All my emotions were all magnified: love, worry, happiness, exhaustion.

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It was an intense period in my life.

There's one person whom I didn't give enough credit to while this was all happening—my husband.

At the time, I thought of our respective parenting roles as existing distinctly from one another. He didn't know what I was going through. His days were so different. He had ample time to himself without even realizing it. He had a quiet commute to work. He interacted with adults all day.

Meanwhile I was home in a new town with no friends and a baby.

But as hard as some moments could be, I had amazing ones too. I was there when our daughter laughed for the first time. I had quiet, contemplative swaying in a sunset-filled nursery and a baby filling my arms. I was there when she crawled and took her first steps toward me. We had sleepy mornings in bed with baby books and tea.

Those moments of transcendent love are what reinvigorate a stay-at-home mom. They're some of my happiest memories. And I couldn't have done much of it without my husband.

Here's how I know I married a good guy: My husband didn't complain. He just did what needed to be done.

While I was busy being consumed by new motherhood, I hardly paused to think about what my husband was going through in his new fatherhood.

His paid leave ended and, from that day on, he ventured out into the world each morning. It was hard for me when he had to go back to work—but it was hard for him too. I worried about our budget, but he was the one who bore the financial responsibility. I took our daughter to the pediatrician for all those checkups, but it was with health insurance that he provided our family. He'd come home in the evening, when I sometimes couldn't wait to hand the baby over. He'd hold her—the first time he'd held her all day. I was too busy thinking of what I was making everyone for dinner or dreading the bedtime struggle to really stop and notice, though.

Ultimately, I wasn't the only one who'd made sacrifices.

“He'd be working anyway!” I sometimes thought to myself, when I was feeling particularly alone. But in fact, working a job that provided us with stability was a choice too. For some time he'd been wanting to pursue a new career move. But that got put on hold, because a risky upstart wasn't exactly the best environment in which to bring a new baby.

Here's how I know I married a good guy: My husband didn't complain. He just did what needed to be done. Meanwhile I complained fairly often. My emotions were all over the place, remember? My decision to be a SAHM sometimes garnered praise. But I don't think anyone ever high-fived him for being the “stay-at-work” dad.

Not even me. Because it's just what dads are supposed to do, right?

We've been through a lot, together. We're in this, together.

But the decision to be the sole income-earning parent was a commitment just as much as my own decision to stay at home after we had our daughter. We had different responsibilities. But they were not separate and distinct. Each role supported the other.

I regret not coming to this realization while I was in the throes of new motherhood. If I had, I might have felt less isolated. Maybe some of the stress I imposed on myself (as being the "primary" parent to our baby) might have relaxed a bit. Because SAHMs aren't alone—you're one half of an important partnership, which in turn is the foundation of your family.

We're in a different place in parenthood now. I started working. Our daughter's in school. My husband finally got the chance to make that career move.

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We've been through a lot, together. We're in this, together.

I thanked him recently—out of the blue, in our kitchen, after our daughter had gone to bed.

“Thank you for everything you did, which helped me have so much time with our daughter when she was a baby. I'll remember those moments forever, and I wouldn't have had them without you looking out for our family the way you did.”

“You did so much," he replied. "But thanks for saying that.”

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