Shortly after my son was born my wife and I began to feel as though we were going crazy. This sounds terrible, but it wasn’t because of the screaming, pooping, not-sleeping-through-the-night little bundle of joy that we now had. No, we could handle that. We could handle the bouts of colic, which made him scream like he had somehow caught fire when we weren’t looking. This went on for several months, and we felt much worse for him than we did for ourselves.
My wife did much of the work of taking care of our son, although I helped her quite a bit. And throughout taking care of a newborn we still made time to be with each other. Though being both physically and mentally tired were now part of the daily routine, we somehow managed to get by just fine. We can handle a fair amount of stress, and for the most part, everything was OK in the Lamb household.
There was one particular area in our relationship, though, that had changed without our knowing it. At some point we started developing a habit of snapping at each other, sometimes going days without ceasing to bicker about mundane things like who was going to take the dog out this time and whose turn it was to find the misplaced TV remote. When the bickering started showing up, it sort of hovered around, not always obvious, but definitely always there. We should have named it Uncle Eddie, dressed it up in a snug-fitting, tacky green suit and parked it outside in a rusty, foul-smelling RV. You get the idea: the new guest was not welcomed, and it would not leave; because of it being there, which was a really nice addition the perpetual tiredness of having a newborn, it came as quite a relief when we finally figured out why we were bickering and how to avoid it down the line.
One day when my son was about six months old, my wife and I were having a conversation about Uncle Eddie and about how to get rid of him for good, when suddenly she said something that made perfect sense. She had observed that although we both took care of our son and although we made time for each other regularly, we had not allowed time to be alone; time for her to watch a favorite show and zone out by herself, time for me to play my drums and have some space to hear my own thoughts. It seemed like such a simple thing but we both had overlooked it until that point.
From that day, on, things have been different. There are still plenty of dirty diapers and occasional sleepless nights, and Uncle Eddie still comes to visit every now and again. The difference now is that when we hear the distant coughing of his rust-bucket RV announcing the impending arrival of a familiar but unwelcome guest, we’re ready for it. Yes, Uncle Eddie still pulls up outside, honks the horn and quickly makes his way to the front door to be let in. Sometimes he still manages to come in for an afternoon or evening. Sometimes he even figures out how to stick around for a day or two. Soon, though, we remember what to do, and it works most of the time.
We still have regular date nights, and we both share the task of raising our son. We also now plan time for each other to pursue our respective hobbies. My wife loves getting a fresh coat of paint on her cute little toes or going to the gym and making her muscles ache with “good pain.” I like having time to read and catch up on some drumming or writing. Making this time for each other makes a huge difference. It’s such a simple thing, but it helps the Lamb household operate much more smoothly. Uncle Eddie, you may not be welcome, but at least we’re ready for you.