I spent all of yesterday evening with a few fellow first-time Mothers of 1 year olds. Babies stayed at home with Dads and/or family, and we went out on the town. It was really nice to be able to hang out and chat, and I was quite surprised that only about half the conversation centered around the kids. Although a good chunk did revolve around the husbands and their involvement (or lack thereof) in all things household-ish.
But while it was nice to be able to sit there and chat and compare notes and just be able to eat and drink in peace (no, I don't really get to get out much), I was also quite surprised and saddened to realise that there was a lot of feelings of unfair work splitting between the spouses. As usual, it really seems to be a case of misplaced expectations. I mean, even if both spouses are planning to contribute 50/50, unless you explicitly discuss what that 50/50 means, there's bound to be some disappointments. For example if the mother nurses, meaning she takes care of the majority of the feedings (if not all), should the father take on more diaper changes? What is "fair", really?
As always when it comes to relationships, the answer is communication. Being able to express your wants/needs is the first step in making sure their met. Well, actually, the first step is probably figuring them out in the first place - that's probably the hardest part. Ideally, all that stuff can be sorted out before the baby comes into the picture, because once (s)he is here, time an patience are at much more of a premium, and long, quiet and composed discussions can become a thing of the past. Communicating in shorthand is usually all that can be afforded.
In our specific case, DH and I had spent a lot of time prior to BRs birth figuring out the split of responsibilities. Not because it was a hard one to figure out (me- take care of all things baby, DH- pitch in around the house, take care of cars, work and long-term planning), but because we wanted to make sure we were both comfortable with it. Because we knew it's hard to go back and renegotiate those things when sleep deprived, overwhelmed and overstressed.
Still, there are things that crop up now and then that threaten to topple our carefully built pyramid of domestic bliss :) In a society where the old divisions of labour no longer apply, and new divisions have to be negotiated for a true and fair partnership, sometimes you have to renegotiate. And sometimes that happens in the most inopportune times.
That's the train of thought I embarked upon after our long and therapeutic conversation. I mean really, who needs to sleep at midnight anyway?