Note: This is the fifth post in our series entitled “On Being a Dad.” For more posts from this series, click here. Stay tuned tomorrow for the final installment of this series!
My roommate, and senior project team member, and I woke up the morning of graduation, put on our caps and gowns, walked over to the Taylor Building at SBU and handed our CIS professor a box containing the final draft of our senior project. My professor smiled and said “congratulations, you just graduated college.” The wild, two week countdown to my wedding day had started with an epic last-minute race to finish our senior project on time.
My wife and I were scheduled to be married two weeks after graduating college. No big deal. All we needed to do over the next two weeks were find jobs, find a place to live, and hope her 1992 Chevy Beretta did not break down. My wife and I learned early on how a good working partnership better equips you to tackle life’s challenges together.
After a whirlwind two weeks, we made it to the wedding day. We had one job lined up, we’d found a place to live and the Beretta was holding strong. The morning after our wedding, we headed to the hotel lobby to fetch the Beretta from valet parking. Much to our chagrin, the valet tossed me the keys, announced “your car is dead” and then proceeded to walk away.
Welcome to adulthood. Reality hits you hard, bro.
Looking back, we had it pretty easy; these were merely bumps in the road compared to what was to come. Before deciding to have children, my wife and I spent the first six years of our marriage strengthening our relationship, developing our relationship norms, and establishing the roles and responsibilities of our marital partnership. I learned what clean really means and took note of appropriate sheet washing frequencies while we both learned about each other’s financial acumen and other fun stuff you learn about people as a result of proximity within the home.
Nothing can really prepare you for the borderline clinical condition known as parenting. My wife and I went to new parent training class, just like many other future parents of America. They teach you what to expect during the pregnancy, talk about the delivery process, and give you a crash course on the first few hours at home with your newborn. Typically, they give you some kind of glossy pamphlet – a nice Day 1 cheat sheet, so to speak. But Day 5 is not in the pamphlet, nor is Day 37 or Day 548. The Burger King Meltdown of 2009, that EF3 tornado that hits your house or that look in your wife’s eyes when you get home from work and she hasn’t even had time to brush her teeth … not in the pamphlet.
To make matters worse, newborns can sense fear and exhaustion. They wait until you are at your rope’s end and then they unleash a blowout the likes of which you have never seen. After that, they invite you to a 4 a.m. (crying) jam session … party at my crib! Blowouts, crib parties, nursing demands, and meltdowns all start to add up quickly when you are sleep-deprived. A strong partnership is crucial.
During this season of life, I looked for ways to help my spouse since I don’t have the necessary hardware to nurse the boys. When it was time for the 3 a.m. feeding I would change the diaper, deliver the kid, try to stay awake, then return the kid to his bed when nursing was complete. Another task I performed was packing my wife’s lunch and making sure the boob bag (breast pump) hardware was cleaned up, packed up, and ready to go for the day.
This was our routine for about a year. This is no toot of the horn; she had the hard job here. Rather, these are examples of ways to partner with your spouse to help each other conquer The New Parent Battle like warriors. 1998 Joe would have been scared of the relentless parenting routine (and the boob bag); 2024 Joe will wonder where the time went, remembering the good old days of “no, you cannot hit your brother with that buttery ear of corn.”
We were fortunate enough to enable my wife to stay home when our second son was born. This presented a whole new partnership dynamic with its own set of challenges. Our first son was now old enough to start making poor decisions and needing discipline; couple that with the pressures on stay-at-home moms to manage the home and take care of the kids … and for good measure, throw in more 4 a.m. crib parties.
Constant communication during the parenting season of life is critical. It is paradoxical: you need to spend more time communicating with your spouse and building your relationship, but you have less and less time with the demands of multiple kids and schedules. Good communication is the cliché of all marriage clichés – however, there is a reason why at every 50th wedding anniversary, you hear about how good communication is an important key to a successful marriage. An investment of time and energy is key to ensuring the health of your relationships.
With our schedule, we struggle at times to keep the communication lines open. Washing dishes after supper has turned out to be a golden opportunity to catch up. We talk about that funny thing that happened today, this week’s grocery ad or about upcoming events on the calendar. During these Daily Doing Dishes Discussions (D4), we are typically not trying to bring about world peace, but this slice of time does allow us to check our relational pulse. Small talk is better than no talk.
Currently, maintaining and developing our parenting partnership is on the front burner of our relationship. It is crucial to be on the same page with your spouse. Just as newborns can sense exhaustion, young kids can sense holes in your parenting armor; they know how to push the right button, they try to pit each spouse against the other and use manipulation to get their way. Since I leave for work before the first head butt and/or Flying Tiger Knee is delivered, I am constantly checking with my spouse to see how the morning went; she is on the parenting front line while I am away at work. By checking in, I join her in the proverbial parenting trenches to help shoulder the parenting burden when needed.
I am so fortunate to have a spouse that understands the importance of a strong marital partnership. We team up to use our strengths to overcome our weaknesses while navigating the up and down seasons of life together. We are not the same people that walked down the aisle together; we are constantly looking for ways to adapt and improve ourselves, all while bringing everything we have to the partnership table in an attempt to dominate anything life can throw at us.
We have a couple go-to sayings in our house: “eat the cookie” and “keep moving forward.” In other words, don’t let the seemingly big problems of today slow you down for too long. Will we remember today’s problem 25 years from now? We need to work on making it through today, because today I have two awesome sons and an epically awesome wife to play and have fun with. Let’s pound some Mountain Dews and play some baseball today. Eat the cookie.
I can wait one more day before mowing the lawn.
Joe Story is husband to an awesome wife and the father of two epic boys. This fearsome foursome make up Team Story whose philosophy is “sleep is only a suggestion.” By day, Joe is a Database Administrator for a marketing company. By night, he is a fun-loving seeker of adventure and new data sets to consume. When outdoors, he enjoys running, playing sports, and participating in adventure races; when indoors, he creates web sites, consumes data sets, and plays a variety of video games. Joe enjoys bouncing ideas off anyone who will listen, brainstorming new techniques to solve problems using technology, and developing ways to challenge his friends and family.