After surviving the first year of motherhood it has occurred to my partner and I that having a child can take one's relationship to the brink of ruin, pour baby puke on it, and leave it as dead as the iPhone your toddler just threw in the bathtub. I realize this statement may ruffle a lot of feathers (and you may want to withhold this gem from your newly pregnant friends) as most people prefer to wax lyrical about the rewards and sheer elation of parenthood. Yes, there are certainly many moments of this, but I'm a realist -- my glass can be at any time full, empty or end up with a crack down the side of it. It's made of glass, what do you expect?
Before I launch into it, my mother guilt must explain that I love my son. Wait, that's an understatement. I worship my son and couldn't imagine a world without him. So this is not a question of love or loyalty to one's progeny. However, one thing a woman quickly realizes post birth is that there is very little divide between motherhood and... well, anything else. You are a mother now first and foremost; some hospitals even stamp this across your forehead in indelible ink. This trumps you as a singular person not to mention you within a partnership.
Suddenly you find yourself on an island; a very loud, messy, isolated island steeped in profoundly exhaustive (and often irrational) emotion, and it dawns on you that this new, almost unrecognizable version of yourself is staring back at the mainland where the rest of the world -- including your old self -- is getting on with their lives. Their fun-filled, rewarding (I'm generalizing here), selfish lives where they only have themselves to think about. Isn't narcissism fabulous?
As it turns out, due to the nature of our genders, no matter how much women think that we have evolved, the daily grind of childrearing fills up our plate much more than our partners. In becoming the nurturer and caretaker of this new little being, one realizes that there is much less room to take care of oneself, let alone the needs of one's partner. (Let's be honest, men have a lot of needs; merely keeping their keys and phone on their person requires a chaperone.) Unfortunately, you find yourself with no time for those fun, spontaneous moments you used to share as a couple. Now your moments are not only far and few between, but they are fraught with exhaustion, bickering, and inane questions that many parents obsess about: Why is my child not sleeping? How did baby food get on the ceiling? Why am I so damn tired (oh yeah, I haven't slept for the last year)? Why are you so annoying when I'm this tired? It's your turn to do x, cause I did y yesterday, damn it! You know, those fun pithy things that weigh down a relationship that used to be light and airy and filled with long mornings in bed and spontaneous sex in public places.
If I'm being honest -- and today I am woman enough to admit this -- the biggest problem for my partner and I has been that this new version of myself has thrown me for a gigantic psychologically challenging loop. While I'm filled with love and adoration for my son (justify, justify), I'm simultaneously less patient with my partner (he'd want me to underline this sentence). I'm also slightly resentful that he gets to go to a paid job where he can pee without fending off a toddler trying to grab the toilet paper, not to mention jealous that his life has changed less than mine. I know, it's not pretty, but I warned you that it wouldn't be. In truth, while I love my current life, I also miss my old life, specifically that person that used to walk around in it fully showered, was able to write whenever she chose, and didn't feel as if her brain had melted out her ear.
This unfortunately is one of the unmentionables in life. As a new mother, you're allowed to say that you are tired; you can even say that you are finding it difficult (although most women do not want to kill the mystique that we are naturals), but to say that you think this new version of yourself is a dreadful, tired bore that is downright mean at times, well, people would just brand you very bad at your job. (Who am I kidding? Most don't regard motherhood as proper work in the first place.) Moreover, you certainly cannot exclaim that you miss the old you because that infers that you do not like the new you which includes your child. BAD, BAD Mommy!
So what does one do about their relationship in light of all this? I've been told that I need to work harder and make more time for us as a couple. Um, okay. While I want to be incredibly positive (in keeping with my realism of course), I'm trying to figure out from where this time is going to come, not to mention where to find the energy to work harder. (I have a toddler who likes to run, destroy, and eat mud while I am still trying to maintain a home, a blog, and continue writing screenplays, and it is very likely that most nights I will be passed out by 7:00 P.M. You do the math.)
I suppose the bright spot is that my friends tell me that as kids get older, some things will get easier (emphasis on some). Especially when my son becomes a teenager and decides that my mere existence is repellent. By then I'm sure my partner and I will have plenty of time to shower each other with love and adoration, and, hey, maybe we can even find a public park to christen. Here's to the future.
Anthea Anka, daughter of singer/composer Paul Anka, is a blogger and screenwriter who resides in London with her partner and their young son. She has several projects in development, one of which is in preproduction with Alison Eastwood set to direct. Anthea has four sisters and was raised in Northern California. To find out more about Anthea and her work, read her blog on Red Room.