I knew something was off when a single cough made me want to punch him in the face. Turns out hating your husband after you have a baby is a thing.
Her diaper is changed. My diaper is changed. I basically faint onto my pillow after a full shift as a walking milk dispenser. Finally time to sleep. Silence for 20 sweet, sweet minutes as I drift off into…
I sit up and scream, “NOOOOO!” in slow motion in my head. Baby starts wailing. I look to my left to ream out the culprit of this callous crime.
(*Husband snores in restful slumber)
Adrenaline courses through my veins. Pretty sure actual smoke comes out of my ears.
HOW DARE HE?
Keeping the Husband vs. Wife Score
This was a recurring pattern the first few weeks after our daughter Sunny was born. The smallest things my husband did would send me into fits of rage. I was the one throwing temper tantrums.
Don’t even get me started on the times he looked at me and said he was tired. REALLY? YOU’RE TIRED?
I started resenting his ability to go to work and have real conversations with people. The fact that he got to shower and poop in peace made me shake my fist. I was stuck singing the alphabet to Sunny while she stared at me the whole time.
I developed a mental scoreboard and started keeping track of who was doing the most work. Sure, he took out the trash, but I changed eight diapers. He earned the money, but I breastfed every three hours.
I spent half my time praying he would jump in and give me a break, and as soon as he would, I’d want her back.
That’s not how she likes to be held. Those socks don’t match that onesie. AAAAARRRRGH!
After hearing my friends vent about how they hated their husbands when their babies came along, and reading numerous threads on my baby forums like “Husbands. Ugh” and “I Want to Kill Him,” I started wondering if this was a thing.
Clinical social worker from Guelph, Ont., Ashley Mariani says it definitely is.
Cha cha cha changes
She says the unprecedented chemical changes that women go through during pregnancy and postpartum are partly responsible for the mood swings.
First obvious culprit: Hormones.
“Overstimulation of your nervous system can also lead to higher irritability,” Mariani explains.
And she says if something got on your nerves before baby, it’s going to explode postpartum.
“If you were like, ‘Ugh, I wish my partner didn’t leave socks on the floor,’ when he gets to go to work and live an adult life and you’re sleep deprived, sacrificing your identity and have been talking to a crying baby all day, those socks on the floor are what set you off.”
Another huge culprit: Sleep deprivation.
“We have to think of sleep as a nutrient and when our bodies are deprived of a nutrient, we’re not functioning at full capacity,” Mariani explains.
She says the problem is we stop thinking as a team and start thinking it’s every man for himself.
“If mom’s not getting enough sleep, that’s going to affect the entire family. You have to try your best to learn and develop empathy for each other.”
What to Expect
Aside from the physical changes, Mariani says expectations play a huge role in the rage.
“When we start to form resentment towards people, it’s usually because we have expectations that they’re not meeting,” she explains. “The problem is, we don’t usually express what our expectations are until we’re heated and in the moment.”
Mariani suggests couples come up with a relationship agreement–a clear outline of who will be responsible for what when the baby arrives. “That way you’re not leaving anything up to assumption.”
NOT in the Mood
In heterosexual couples, Mariaini says the husband’s resentment usually forms in the intimacy realm.
Body image discomfort, sleep deprivation and resentment are just a few factors preventing mothers from wanting to be sexual with their partners.
“Your physical touch bucket is already full,” she says. “Your baby is meeting all of your touch needs. When your husband wants a little somethin somethin, your bucket will overflow.”
She says a chicken and egg pattern develops. “The woman forms resentment and they’re like, ‘Screw you. I give so much all day long, the last thing I care about is whether you get your rocks off.’”
Communication is Key
Mariani says the resentment piece won’t go away on its own. “It’s going to fester and puss and get worse.” Especially if another baby is on the way.
In her experience, the couples that are going to therapy, trying to understand their patterns and where they could be better to each other are the couples who end up seeing some kind of resolution when the kids are old enough to be independent.
“The couples that don’t try to understand each other’s experience are the ones that struggle for years and years after.”
The Calm After the Storm
Now that my daughter is walking and talking (back), my hormones seem to have settled down. I get (slightly) more sleep, and when my husband coughs, I just roll my eyes instead of turning into She-Hulk.
I have to remind myself that without him, my world would crumble. He puts in just as much work as I do, just in different ways. Watching him with Sunny now turns my anger into gratitude.
There really is no one else I’d rather hate.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.