Parenting with a partner is not for the feint of heart. The first few weeks of your new baby's life can be the hardest, to, since there are so many adjustments to make and things to learn. Chances are only one of you has sufficient parental leave, and that can create problems. One person is getting a crash course in parent life, while the other is simultaneously straddling new parenthood and their old life. Today I want to talk about things that'll never come out of a loving partner's mouth during your maternity leave. Look, both situations are difficult and deserve compassion and understanding but I'm going to level with you: the parent on maternity leave has it harder during this particular postpartum period. Their adjustments are bigger, their breaks are fewer, and they're most likely recovering from birth.
Maternity leave is a weird time for a new parent. For starters, it's weird that you just had a baby and now your whole world is completely different. But it's also a bizarre little window while you're learning everything about your child that you can before having to go back to work and establishing a completely different routine than the one you've created, relied on, and probably started to get used to.
So partners of parents on maternity leave, you're required to step up in other areas. You're going through significant changes as well, too be sure, but at a slower, probably more manageable pace. So this one is for you. Please be advised on all these points moving forward, and keep the following out of your mouth:
"You're Not Eating For Two Anymore"
In general, unless you're expressing appreciation for another person's meal ("That smells good!" or "Oooh! I love that dish!") commenting on what someone else is eating is probably rude. It's definitely rude if you're implying that a new mom should be watching her weight. What she chooses to eat is not your business in any case, least of all when she's just given birth and is dealing with the stress of a newborn, postpartum hormones, and physical recovery. And if she's breastfeeding? Yeah, she's still "eating for two."
"I Don't Want To Have To Share The Boobs"
If your partner is breastfeeding and you're getting all huffy about the fact that the baby is "hogging the boobs," please remember that they're not your boobs, they were never your boobs, and you are not entitled to them in any way, shape, or form.
Grow the f*ck up, dude.
"It's A Mess In Here"
Keeping the house spotless is way down on the ol' list of priorities for a mom on maternity leave, and necessarily so. After all, taking care of your baby is a round-the-clock job that leaves little time for anything else (including taking care of yourself which, incidentally, should be way above "taking care of the house").
"What Have You Done All Day?"
Hey, see how the baby is alive and healthy? See how your partner is alive? That's what she's been doing all day, and she did a damn good job.
"When Can You Start Exercising?"
If you keep not-so-subtly hinting that your partner needs to lose weight so soon after giving birth, her first exercise is going to be to run away from your shallow, passive aggressive ass.
Look, exercise is great! It's good for you and there's a lot to recommend it in regard to boosting a person's mood and improving their energy levels. I get it. But, for one, if your partner is still on maternity leave they're still healing. Their body has been through a lot and exercise is likely the farthest thing from their mind. Secondly, she'll start exercising when and if she feels like it. Your lives are both very different now, and it's very likely plans are going to be taken one day at a time for a while.
"Must Be Nice To Have So Much Time Off"
Is it nice to be able to bond with your baby? Of course. Can it in any way be considered "time off"? Absolutely not. Maternity leave is work, just not the kind of work we're used to acknowledging as such because #misogyny and #capitalism.
Acting as though your partner is just bumming around on an extended staycation is condescending and inaccurate.
"I'm Not Doing [Childcare Task] Because That's Your Job"
Are you also this child's parent? Then it's your job, too. Your partner has been home all day doing her bit, sir, so you can contribute once you get home as well.
Seriously, how do you think this is supposed to work? One parent stays home and cares for the baby all day and all night while the other parent works outside the home for eight hours a day, only to come home and relax? You're both parents, which means you're both going to be working (or at least on call) basically every hour of every day for the next 18 years at least.
"How Long Until You Don't Look Pregnant?"
I don't know. How long until you stop sounding like an insensitive jackass?
"This Isn't Rocket Science..."
OK, sure. Caring for a newborn isn't generally complicated, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard as hell. Downplaying that difficulty is undermining and awful.
Anything That Compares You To Other Women
"You know, after my sister had her baby she was serving Thanksgiving dinner to 50 people the next day!"
"My mom had seven babies in five years! Do you think she let that slow her down."
Even if all that is true, you probably don't know the toll this took on either of these women. And even if it didn't take a toll on them, that doesn't invalidate someone else's experiences, needs, or limitations. Everyone is different. Your partner isn't your mom or your sister (I mean... probably... unless you're a character on Game of Thrones in which case they almost certainly are) and you can't expect them to experience someone else's recovery.
Anything That Pressures You Into Sex Before You're Ready
Even if your partner's care provider has given her the green light to do the deed, that doesn't necessarily mean that she feels physically or emotionally ready for postpartum sex. Also she's probably tired and touched out. Be respectful of her feelings and space and, for the love of God, don't try to push her when she's obviously not there yet.
"Maybe You're Just Not Mommy Material"
Oh. You. Did. Not. Just.
Never suggest to a new mom that she isn't cut out for motherhood. Becoming a mother is a huge adjustment and it takes a while for anyone to get the hang of it. Moreover, this is so many new moms' biggest fear and, the truth is, if you're self-aware enough to worry about it, it's probably a good sign that it's a baseless worry. So don't make the mother of your child panic for no reason.
"How Come You Can't Make Them Stop Crying?"
Ummm... because I'm not a powerful genie?
Neither you nor your partner can make a baby do literally anything. On top of that, babies can't really communicate their needs: they cry for pretty much everything and sometimes it takes a while to figure out why. Sometimes they're just screaming for the hell of it.
"I Wish You'd Take Care Of Yourself"
There's a huge difference between, "Make sure you're taking care of yourself" and, "I wish you'd take care of yourself." The first communicates, "Hey, girl: you and your needs are important in this process. I know it can be easy to lose yourself when you're so wholly committed to caring for another person. Let me know how I can help you." The second says. "Your yoga pants and top knot make my boner sad. Wear something that makes you look hot."
Opt for the former.
"I Don't Know Why You're Complaining When You're The One Who Wanted A Baby
Just because your partner is complaining doesn't mean she regrets having a baby. It means that having a baby is tough and she needs to vent. Let her. Hug her and reassure her and let her know you want to help whatever is troubling her.
We know this is an adjustment for you, too, new parent. Your new baby is probably occupying a lot of your time and thoughts right now, too. But remember to pay attention and care to the mother of your child: maternity leave isn't easy, and she needs you.
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