Parenting is many things. It’s amazing. It’s educational. It’s challenging. It’s exciting. It’s also inconvenient. That’s just part of the deal. Many — all? — new parents have no idea what they’re doing. And the inconvenient truths of parenting often sneaks up on them. Here are a few to note.
Your child wants to ruin your marriage. This might sound like sacrilege, but it’s true. Your child wants 100 percent of your time, attention and love. This doesn’t make them bad — it makes them human. But the cost is high for a relationship, mostly because we love our children and we want them to be happy.
You have to win the battle against your children if you want your relationship to survive. You have to allocate an appropriate percentage of your time and attention and love to your partner, if you have one. This is hard when your child is a baby. It’s surprisingly hard again when your child is a teenager. But the best thing you can do for your kid is model secure attachment to your partner. Don’t let them ruin your marriage.
Dads don’t babysit. Memorize this sentiment. Tattoo it into your consciousness. As a man, it offends me to think that parenting is somehow the woman’s job and that men are somehow doing women a favor when they watch the children. Dads don’t babysit. They parent.
Here’s a message for dads: Learn how to change a diaper, feed your kid, put them to bed. Learn how to carry the parenting load, even though you work hard all day. Get good at it. Get smarter about it. Reject the notion that you are second-string. Be a starter.
The second best way is not a terrible way. Here’s a message for moms: When your partner doesn’t do it the same way that you would, that doesn’t make them an idiot. It doesn’t make them careless or disrespectful. It makes them more connected to your child and it gives you an opportunity to turn your attention elsewhere.
Parenting is a long road and it should be based more on values than tactics. Moms have an advantage in parenting because the whole parenting industry is tilted toward the assumption that they’re the primary caregiver. But if they have male partners, they need to allow them to carry their part of the load in their own way. It’s not terrible. It’s just different.
Intimacy and intercourse are not the same. Intimacy is complicated and way bigger than sex. It’s also emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Intimacy comes by taking walks together, cooking dinner together and maybe even going to the bathroom with the door open. True, holistic intimacy is woven throughout the entire relationship.
For new parents, it’s critical to develop intimacy skills that are not limited to the bedroom. Your infant will treat Mom like a food machine. Your third-grader will unapologetically knock on your door. Your high schooler will be embarrassed by the idea that you have sex. There will always be obstacles to intercourse. But there will will always be opportunities for intimacy.
It never gets better. Parenting is amazing, fun, life-giving and sweet-smelling. It’s also challenging, maddening, soul-sucking and stinky. It doesn’t matter if your kids are 3 or 13 or 23 — your job is to be the best version of yourself in order to help them become the best version of themselves. It would be great if parenting just kinda trailed off, but it doesn’t. I’m 44 and my mom is still trying to figure out how to parent me.
These things aren’t necessarily good or bad, or right or wrong. They’re just true. They’re also inconvenient but they can help you survive the adventure that is parenting.