Three things are almost guaranteed to ruin a perfectly good relationship between two people in love;
Getting married, travelling by budget airline to Rome, and having a baby.
And of these, the Big Mama is the one in the nappies.
According to a recent survey of new parents by http://www.care.com, 43% felt their relationship with their partner had changed after they had a baby.
To which I say,
“Where are the 57% who are lying?? Show yourselves!” and “I assume when you say ‘changed’ you meant ‘decimated’.”
Fairy stories, songs and baby-clothing manufacturers all tell us that ‘having a baby cements a relationship’.
And it does.
But the part they sneakily miss out is that when the cement dries you realise you’re 200 miles apart and facing in opposite directions, while trying to kill each other with cast-iron frying pans.
And if you’ve ever tried that you’ll know how hard it is. (I think they’re in cahoots with the baby-clothing manufacturers, but that might be the cynic in me talking.)
The truth, as our newly-with-child Young Royals are about to find out, is that a baby is to a relationship as a bull is to a china shop on Red Rag Promotion Day.
Sure, it livens things up a little when the china shop is having a quiet day of trading, you’ve completely run out of things to say to each other and that clicking sound your partner makes with his mouth is getting so irritating you feel sure you will have to shoot him during an ad break unless you find something to distract you….like…like….Oooh I know! Pick me, pick me!
Like wiping poo off a baby’s bottom twenty times a day for three years!
Clicking sound? What clicking sound?
But as well as providing endless riveting conversation starters, such as,
‘Look darling, the baby is looking at the ceiling again’, a baby leaves a trail of destruction and financial disaster in its wake.
In fact, it’s not the baby itself that causes the relationship problems.
Most of the time babies are really rather sweet, make cute bubbling noises with their mouth and giggle helplessly every time you reveal that, whaddayaknow, you hadn’t vanished into thin air but were…hahaha…just hiding behind your hands AGAIN.
Look, there you are! Oh it’s so FUNNY! Again again!
No, the Relationship Grim Reaper wields its Scythe of Doom in a far more subtle way;
millions of knowing parents around the world held their terrified breath as Kate Middleton handed her cherished new baby to her husband outside the hospital this week, and waited, in united lip-biting tension, to see if she if she would slice their relationship in half with That Look.
The look that says, ‘Don’t. Screw. This. Up.’
Which is Universal Mother Code for, ‘If you don’t do this MY WAY I will kill you with my primed Oestrogen Bomb.’
Luckily for William he managed not to
a) drop the baby
b) make the baby cry by sticking his fingers into its eyeballs
c) asphyxiate the baby with the blanket
d) choke the baby by wrapping a previously unseen length of guy-rope around its neck six times and then tightening it
e) fall into a 200-ft-deep man-hole filled with rattle-snakes while holding the baby or
f) use the baby as a shield against an incoming meteor shower, before going to the pub.
The world breathed a sigh of relief.
William did an internal air-punch.
The fact is that all new mothers are armed with an in-built warning system that triggers a deafening maternal klaxon every time a new father so much as looks as if he might be about to Go Near The Child.
This biological trip-wire tells her that a new father is highly likely to do any of the above, and worse, unless he is supervised constantly, offered constructive criticism accompanied heavy eye rolls at every turn , and helped along with calming phrases like,
‘No, not like that, like THIS’ and ‘Why are you holding the wipes like that?’ and ‘I don’t think you’re looking at him the right way.’
The final explosion comes when, after irritatingly doing everything quite correctly for several days, despite not possessing the crucial second X-chromosome which entitles the user to be Correct In All Matters of Parenting, the mother finally cannot stand any more of this male competence and child-care help, and steps in with the phrase that will hail the beginning of her life of put-upon misery, and his freedom to go out with his mates:
‘HERE,’ she will say, taking the bottle away from the perfectly content baby.
‘I’LL DO IT!’
And that, as they say somewhere, though nobody has ever discovered exactly where exactly, is that.
From this moment on all child-care duties are hers; and all failure duties are his.
And it’s very hard to have a successful, loving relationship when one party’s place is permanently in the wrong.
To rub salt into the relationship’s now festering wounds, She Who Is Right will proceed to complain for the next decade about how little He helps with the childcare, and how she is left to it all.
‘I KNOW!’ her mummy friends will say, huddled round the third bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. ‘He deliberately does it so badly that I HAVE to take over and do it all. It’s so much quicker if I do it myself. I have no choice AT ALL. Any more wine in there..? ’
And thus the cement begins to set.
It’s a shame. I wish more new mums would leave dads to get on with handling their own child their way; let them make their own mistakes, find out what works best for them, and bond with their baby properly, without the Mummy Helicopter whirring overhead, snipers at the ready.
True, I have seen many a new father offer no help whatsoever, as if still living in a Century when childcare was the preserve of The Women, and Real Men would hold a their babies like rugby balls, if at all.
I have also seen new dads attempting to get a baby into a car seat, while having to breathe AND think at the same time, and failing utterly at the severity of this multi-tasking challenge.
But I’ve seen just as many dads as mums do a fantastic job with their new baby, and more fool us for assuming they can’t do it just because they don’t have the stitches in their perineum to prove their right to parenthood.
Parenting is a partnership. It takes working together, but leaving each other alone to do things differently to one another.
A lot of cast-iron frying pans and relationships would make it past the tenth anniversary if we learned to back off a little, and let our partners fall down a few man-holes once in a while.
Not all of them are full of rattle-snakes.