Our resident advice-giver-outer Jenny True provides shouty, full-hearted answers to your niggling questions about pregnancy and parenthood in her column What The Actual. Warning: This is not a f*cking baby-and-me singalong, this is about yelling into the cosmos and actually hearing something back, sometimes in the form of an all-caps swear. Jenny isn't an ~expert~, but she has a lot of experience being outraged on your behalf. To submit your questions to Jenny, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My husband and I have had a running date night that we have tried to preserve through having our first child. My son is now six months old, and I'm exhausted all the time. Going out and wasting money on babysitters just so we can eat food together at a table that isn't our own dining table is just the last thing I can be bothered to do right now. How can I keep our marriage aflame (haha) without having to do anything? Truthfully, all I want to do is sit on the couch after bedtime — like I'm so relieved we have gotten to the point where there is a bed time, I just want to sit inanimately and listen to my husband or the TV. Can I ditch date night and also maybe get a foot massage without having to pretend I'm feeling romantic, and without dooming my relationship?
Dear Lazy Wife,
The first time my husband and I went out without the baby, we did not go to dinner because WHY PAY MONEY TO SIT ACROSS A TABLE FROM SOMEONE WHO LEAVES HIS DIRTY DISHES SPREAD ACROSS THE KITCHEN LIKE A SITE-SPECIFIC ART INSTALLATION RATHER THAN PUTTING THEM IN THE FUCKING DISHWASHER. Instead, we went to a friend's birthday party at a karaoke bar, with strangers belting out pretty decent renditions of Bon Jovi and N*SYNC. We had a couple beers, then drove home and made out in the front seat of the car, where I touched my husband's penis through his jeans, which he liked.
Still, this was a far cry from our pre-baby life. After shoving an 8-pound human out of my vagina, my sex drive and the sex drive of my husband plummeted. Mostly I didn't give a shit. I was tired, and some thoughtless friend had given me a white nursing tank top so when I looked in the mirror I looked like a fucking marshmallow. BLACK IS YOUR FRIEND POSTPARTUM NOT WHITE.
But when I gave a shit, I really gave a shit. Didn't I need to be nurturing my marriage? One friend said she and her husband kept up their date night starting THE WEEK AFTER THEIR BABY WAS BORN. Other people seemed to be researching birth control, which meant other people were having sex, or thinking about having sex. I searched the internet mommy boards, which is like stabbing yourself in the eyeballs, and wondered WHO ARE THESE BITCHES HAVING SEX AT SIX WEEKS and WHO ARE THESE BITCHES WHO AREN'T HAVING SEX AT TWO YEARS FUCK FUCK FUCK.
Panicked at the thought of dooming my relationship, I researched low-key group activities. I came up with the following, which you may feel free to use:
1. FIGHTING ABOUT MONEY
2. INSULTING YOUR HUSBAND'S FAMILY
Today, I have stopped adding "nurture relationship" to my ever-increasing to-do list, which includes arranging for daycare, figuring out how to pay for daycare, and KEEPING THIS FUCKING BABY ALIVE. HEY, HUSBAND. YEAH, YOU. ARE YOU UP EVERY TWO HOURS FEEDING THIS BABY? NO? THEN YOU NURTURE THIS FUCKING RELATIONSHIP.
Having a baby is like having Stockholm syndrome, wherein you are the hostage and the baby is the captor. A tyrant is pointing a gun at your head and telling you to rob a bank and all you can think is GOD HE'S SO CUTE.
Having a baby also is temporary, and it's really fucking hard. Until the baby lowers the gun (read: stops being a baby), it can be difficult to reconnect with your partner, not to mention yourself. (Hot tip: Safe surrender sites are not free babysitting! Do not attempt to leave your baby at a safe surrender site and then try to get him back after, say, three hours!) But moms need support for everything we're doing, not guilt and shame and anxiety about what we're not.
These are things I've done recently that have not helped my marriage:
1. Had a baby.
These are things I've done recently that have helped my marriage:
1. When I was in my third trimester, somebody didn't want to have sex with me. Well, nobody wanted to have sex with me, but I was grieved by the disinterest of one person in particular. When I asked him about his lack of sexual desire (REPEATEDLY AND WITH INCREASING DESPERATION, SOMETIMES SCREAMING, "WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH ME AND THE TUMMY GOITER"), he said, by way of reassurance, "I'm not having sex with anyone else." OK THEN. One afternoon I bought a sheer, teal nightie because my pregnancy boobs looked amazing in it. I didn't tell my husband, because I was annoyed at the idea of pandering to his base desires, à la "How to Spice Up Your Marriage" columns. OH THE IRONY. I hid it for days, determined that it was for ME NOT HIM. Then one afternoon, I let my husband find me folding clothes on the bed, including the nightie.
"What's this?" he said, picking it up.
"Something I bought at Nordstrom Rack," I said.
"Unh," he said. "Ooh. Mmm."
BOOM SHAKA LAKA. I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO PUT IT ON.
2. When the baby was five weeks old, we flew to Washington for a family vacation, and my husband's cousin brought a book of New York Times crossword puzzles. We had so much fun doing them together that, after we got home, she sent us our very own book. Since then, whenever we have a few minutes together after the baby goes to sleep, we lie in bed, and my husband quietly reads the clues, and I answer them because I am smarter than he is. It feels like intimacy.
GET THE FOOT MASSAGE. YOU GOT THIS.
Got a question for Jenny? Email email@example.com.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.