Sadie wants a child and I believe she would be a great mom. But I also believe Jessie is a great mom — and terrible partner. I am fearful about going down the same path with Sadie, and so I am stalling on preparing for parenthood. How do I know that Sadie won’t turn out to be Jessie once we spawn together?
— Pre-Postpartum Nerves
Pre-Postpartum Nerves: Ew. Word-flinch on “spawn.”
Sadie won’t be Jessie because Sadie is not Jessie. I get what you mean, but do stop. Oversimplifying people and staring at them mystified when they’re struggling is a pretty reliable way to ensure that struggles become insurmountable. View people instead as complex individuals with multiple possible sources of their distress, and you’ll navigate those struggles more effectively.
So, Jessie’s shift to “terrible partner”: Postpartum depression is one possible culprit, yes. (So Sadie might not be different.)
But Jessie’s own closed-mindedness may have hurt, too. (So Sadie might be different.) I can’t tell you how many difficult situations get upgraded to impossible due to the refusal to consider treatment.
And speaking of … I won’t minimize how lonely and hard it was for you to keep the household together. But it also sounds as if you fault Jessie entirely for your having to do that? Not to mention pre-faulting Sadie. And really, seven months is hardly a scandalous maternity leave.
U.S. standards on this are shameful. A body forms and births a human, must repair itself (never fully, by the way), goes through hormonal mayhem, and we’re supposed to hop back to work at six weeks? Three months? There’s a reason actual, civilized societies provide a year of leave or more. It’s not soft, it’s humane.
Yet the drive-through birth has become so normalized, you can be forgiven for not understanding how utterly foxed up that is — but in the end we still have the fact that Jessie suffered for a year, within the range of normal, and you held that against her. And still regard it as her fault. When it might not have been her choice.
So. You don’t want Sadie to Jessie you? Then learn from Jessie. People who have babies and become their primary caregivers may take months, a year, more, to recover as partners. And you may have to carry way more than you want to — or would have to under saner conditions: Support for co-parents needs to be a million times better, too.
It’s a long game; prepare accordingly. A chat reader suggested honesty with your wife and therapy for your anger over this, which is advice I endorse.
More from Carolyn Hax
Answer this week’s reader question:
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