EXPECTATIONS PART 1:
Expectations are the seeds of resentment.
We all have expectations…for ourselves (more on that tomorrow), for others, for the future. Today I want to address expectations for partners. When preparing for a new baby, there is often much conversation about room decor, safety, clothes, toys, baby care and birthing plans. Often what is missed is conversation about what the expectations for everyone involved will be after the baby arrives. This is most true for first children, though it can sometimes dupe second or third time parents who become too confident in how smoothly their routine runs prior to baby.
A mom (or dad) struggling after baby is born can sometimes have those struggles compounded because the expectations they have for their partner are not being met. The first thing I ask a mom who comes into session upset because her partner did not do the dishes/laundry, get up with the baby, change the baby’s diaper or any number of other complaints is, “Did you ask him/her to do that?” The answer is usually “no” followed by a statement to the effect of “why should I have to ask him/her to…” or “if I know it needs to be done then he/she should too.” My answer is almost always the same…We are different people who think of priorities differently and make observations about our surroundings differently.
No one is a mind reader. Just because the dishes or laundry are important to you or are on your To Do list, does not mean your partner will automatically think of them or know they are important. You have to tell them what is important and ask for their help. This can be difficult when you are sleep deprived, sad, foggy headed or anxious. But your anxiety about “getting things done” can be lessened by delegating tasks. Why then do we insist on expecting our partner to come up with the grand plan on their own? Why do we push ourselves to “do it all” just because someone else did not notice what needed to be done?
These expectations are the seeds of resentment. For soon, you are “doing everything” and resenting your partner for not doing more or doing “the right things”. Moms will resort to hints or waiting “to see how long it takes” their partner to figure it out and these types of tactics will backfire by failing and increasing your resentment or causing an argument. How to avoid this…talk, talk, talk. And start early. Talking when you are sleep deprived, depressed, anxious, and can’t think clearly is not likely and if it does happen, it won’t go well. Talk before the baby comes. Ask a therapist to help you make a postpartum plan including sources of support, anticipated tasks, chores, or obligations, and how to set up a schedule and request assistance. Let your partner know directly what you need. Say “I’ve changed 10 diapers today, can you change her this time?” or set up a plan that your partner changes any diapers they are home for and you do the rest. However you decide to work things out, start by talking. Don’t assume they will know and don’t expect mind reading. 🙂