Culture & Entertainment

Supermom: Super spouse? Really?

By: Jennifer Gruden
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Supermom: Super spouse? Really?

By: Jennifer Gruden

...apparently to be a supermom, you should first be a super spouse -- or so says an article in the Toronto Star this week. ("Great partners make great parents") I can't decide if this is good, bad or indifferent news in general. But I know I am worried about new parents reading it at a vulnerable moment. On the one hand: Duh. People who have good skills at partnership, like active listening, are probably going to have a leg up in qualifying for the supermom championships. And since I've been married 18 years, which presumably makes me at least a quasi-decent partner (although...who knows right?) maybe I'll design that supermom suit right now. On the other hand, having kids felt like it threw a grenade into my then-11-year marriage, and if this study had come out when my eldest was two years old I think I would be lying on the floor despairing for my son's future mental health. (I was a little neurotic. This may have contributed to the grenade aspect.) My husband and I had never argued the way we did those first two years. And, in case you are wondering - we have not since, either. I know lots of people make the transition to parents together without it ruffling their marital calm. If you are one of them, please tell us about it in the comments, because I really want to know! But I personally did not. And it was okay. Really. I summarize the difficulty this way:
  • There was no weekend. My husband and I always reconnected and recharged on weekends together. Once we brought my eldest son home, there were no longer any weekends...not in the sense of lying together on the bed sharing a New York Times over croissants. For either of us. For a little while, I think we were both waiting for the weekend that never came. And for a thankfully short period of time, I think we were blaming each other for why we couldn't get a weekend. (Take the baby...please. Please.)
  • My husband didn't get it (and neither did I.) No, he didn't get how missing the nap window would destroy the day. Or how a slightly too-undercooked-carrot was a lethal weapon of airway obliteration. Or maybe I was a little neurotic, see above. But the fact was: I took the mat leave. I was home Monday-Friday making all my parenting mistakes in secret. He, on the other hand, got to make all of his in front of me...and I had perfected my passive-aggressive sigh. I was subtly (and perhaps not-so-subtly) looking for superdad rather than allowing him to be the perfectly good father he was (and is.)
  • Stylistic differences are hard. Before kids, my husband's laid-back nature was a really nice match for my slightly more anal-retentive tendencies. After kids, it really is too...at least, now that both boys have survived infancy I can say that. In between, though, we had to renegotiate what felt like everything. Bedtime routines. Dinner expectations. The point at which frostbite becomes likely if you do not lower the shield on the stroller. How many flashing lights makes a grandparent gift recyclable.
Yes, we all want to be supermom and superdad. Because parenting feels like a really high-stakes pursuit these days. And from the depths of my entire 7.5 years of experience of parenting (*cough*) I will say yes, it is also important to be a good partner before and after kids. But guess what: It's okay to not be great all the time. It is okay to have arguments when you are transitioning to parenthood. It's okay to feel like organizing date night is completely beyond your sleep-deprived ability to find the phone...that you dropped when that diaper overflowed...and is somewhere under the stack of clean laundry that has been hovering around the couch for the last two days. Don't add this "I have to have a great relationship to be a great parent" worry to your list of parent angst. If you really get down past the headlines to this study, you'll find that the critical element was responsiveness. Kids (and partners) do need us to be present and attached and caring. That's all. No biggie. Just don't wait for the weekend to give your baby - or partner - a hug, eh?        
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Supermom: Super spouse? Really?

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