I’m not a veterinarian, but I live next to one which is pretty much the same thing. A few months ago we were bringing down our property value by drinking on the curb. That’s what 30 something mommies do. We can’t always commit to a “mommy night out” but we can commit to “Hey lets drink rum and cokes on our curb after we put our wee ones to bed”.
It was 8:30pm and we were partying like rock stars on my front lawn, much to the horror of my HOA. Which is okay, because I think they hate me anyway. Everyone must have the one neighbor who lets the grass grow too long or leaves their camp trailer parked on the street for more than the allowable 48 hours. If you are wondering who that person is in the Miramonte subdivision—well it’s me.
A couple of rum and cokes down the hatch and my neighbor breaks down kids and marriage through a veterinarian’s perspective. “The thing is—we do to our husbands exactly what caged dogs do to each other!” She declares with finality. I take a sip and imagine all the things caged dogs do to each other. I can’t recall doing those things with my husband, so I take the bait and ask for clarification.
She sees it all the time in her clinic. The story goes something like this– there will be two dogs that are best friends, always get along, and never turn on each other. Until one day, they are happily playing in their yard and another dog comes trotting along on the other side of the fence (enter The Newborn). The new pup isn’t trying to antagonize them, but somehow his seemingly harmless influence disrupts their delicate ecosystem. They bark, they snarl, they grrgrrgrr at the unfamiliar dog, but they can’t reach him on the other side of the fence. They get frustrated at the pup’s behavior and don’t even understand why. And in the throes of frustration these best pals– turn on each other. They bite, scratch, and tear each other up. An hour later the dog owner is sitting in my neighbor’s clinic with her two (usually) loving dogs saying “I don’t know what happened… they’ve always gotten along so well together.”
Immediately I related to the unfamiliar dog frenzy. There are times, especially when caring for my newborns, that I was exhausted and frustrated and I didn’t have a good place to target my negativity missiles. Where do I shoot this mess of pissed-off-ness? I can’t be mad at this perfect little pile of baby that we just brought into the world, can I? She’s lovely and innocent plus I’d be terrible to blame her—right? So I launch it at the next best thing- my husband. My pal that I usually get along with so well. We bite and scratch, some wounds run deep, simply because we are on the same side of the fence.
It happened just recently. My one year old was stumbling around our backyard in her usual drunken chubby sailor way when she fell and was hurt. We can’t blame her for falling, so logically we blamed each other. It was his inattentiveness, my over-attentiveness… it was caused by something we did or failed to do. However none of this was true. We just have a toddler that stumbles more than a Santa at the Pub Crawl. We can’t turn on her, but we also should not turn on each other.
It still happens with our 3 year old. Recently she was determined to make us late to an event, which is a frequent objective of hers. She kept taking off her Dora shoes and throwing them. As we became more and more late my aggravation steamed like a volcano. But because we can’t maul our young, I blamed my husband for not helping get the kids ready. He then blamed me for being too soft on our daughter. Is this sounding familiar to anyone? Within minutes we were blaming each other for the inevitable failure that will be our parenting career, while our daughter had switched out of grumpy toddler mode and back into her usual sunshine and cupcake self. She wanted her Dora shoes on more than anything in the world, but my husband and I were still snarling at each other.
Once I understood that often we attacked each other because we can’t, um, attack the kids—then I knew I needed to put those feelings in check. He is my partner, my mate on the same side of life’s fence, and I can’t lash out at him or he towards me. Try, try, try to recognize it when it’s happening. Identify when we are nipping at each other because we can’t snarl at the new pup, and turn it around. Sometimes I’ll even say it aloud “Are we snapping at each other because we can’t snap at our kids?” And just saying it– dissipates it.
We have to remember—raising babies is hard—hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I was the kind of person who sought out hard stuff to do as hobbies (this was b.c. — before children). But now I met my match—parenting. Holy hell it’s hard. But as everybody will say, and I too will echo, it is remarkable and worth every sleepless night, every missed meal, and even the occasional dog fight.