Photos courtesy of Robyn Wong-Niamkongkit
The first year of parenthood was a big shock to the system for my husband and I.
Firstly, we definitely expected that having kids would bring us closer together. Turns out, within the first month, our newborn needed me 90% more than my husband, and that took away 90% of my attention and focus from most things that were not her.
I didn’t even notice that he was feeling isolated, useless and distant from me as he navigated this new dynamic alone, while I was completely immersed in my new responsibility. This was something we only talked about after the most stressful months had blown over.
Our baby created a lot of tension between us. I took the lead, because in the first few months, I was the one who formed our new routines and did most things (except bath time – that was his thing), since I was always home and felt naturally more inclined to parenting (breastfeeding was, of course, exclusively my thing).
This was exhausting for me, and my husband, who felt much less confident than me with the baby, was unable to "take over" as often as I needed a break. Situations like that made us frustrated, though not necessarily at each other at the time.
But inevitably, we did end up taking our stresses out on each other.
It took many conversations, often revolving around the same topics, to get on the same page about the division of labour, what priorities we felt strongly about and what compromises we each had to make.
This took extra effort from my problem-solving husband, who hates circling around topics without ending with practical conclusions.
For me, talking it out usually brings clarity and resolve. For him, these open-ended conversations felt pointless – though he never stopped trying for my sake, which I am grateful for.
AND THEN THERE WERE TWO
As we added another child to the family, our biggest contention was whether or not to get someone to support me in caring for our kids. In our family's case, we don't have the support of in-laws or grandparents, so hired help seemed to be our only option.
The problem was, we had agreed that I would be a stay-home mum, and I didn’t feel comfortable with live-in help. I enjoyed the privacy of my own home and looking after the girls myself. I just needed a break once in a while and therefore wouldn't need help every day.
Finding part-time help was not a good alternative either, as I did not think our two very young children would be comfortable with someone they only met once in a while.
Then there was the issue of child abuse by adults trusted by parents, of which we knew too many cases.
But four years into being a full-time caregiver, I admit that I'm itching to take on some other projects of my own again. This means the expectation to take care of the kids lands on my husband.
This isn't easy when I schedule time off and he happens to be having a hard time at work, or with his part-time school work piling up, topped off with stress from family matters. What happens when we both want a break?
That's when everything blows up again and we are back to this conversation about getting a nanny.
PARENTING IS A PARTNERSHIP
But in this long-drawn challenge with no immediate answer in sight, the two of us have realised we actually agree on many things.
Ideally, we both really want me to be the one caring for and guiding and teaching our kids. And as it was before the children came, we still agree that we want to avoid leaving our kids with others as much as we can because we want peace of mind.
I have to remind myself that my desire to pursue other things can wait for the moment. This is my season to serve my family, trusting that my husband – my partner in life – will do the best he can within his capacity. Parenthood has required and continues to require a lot of sacrifice and selflessness.
Every couple has to sort out how they want to do things and what works best for them and their family. You probably won’t agree with everything you’re reading because your solutions will look different from mine.
Our end goal is to stay in love despite all the pressure and intensity that parenting in the early years brings. I believe that’s how this season will actually bring us closer together – as we envisioned from the start.
This isn't so much about adoring the wonders of our offspring together, but rather, having faced and worked through these challenges as a couple. I have experienced a lot of love from my husband this way, when he refuses to give up or tap out.
Robyn Wong is a 30-year-old stay home mom with two daughters who are 4 and 2 years old, with a third child on the way. She loves making videos for good causes as well as singing and jamming with friends.