The one thing that changed the most after having a baby was my marriage. My husband and I have been through 13 sessions of pre-marital counseling and were given all the handles for having a successful marriage, all before we said our vows. Yet very few people spoke to us about what our marriage would be like after we had a baby. So I prepared myself for what I’d more or less seen in the movies: lots of fighting and the death of romance. Seven months later, I’m happy to report that none of that happened. Instead, my marriage has been made stronger than ever I believe, because of one simple truth: No matter how much I love my son, I love my husband more.
I know in the day and age of being called a “feminist” every time you so much as mention that women should be as ambitious as men, it sounds odd to suggest that putting one’s husband first is the most strategic move you can make for your family. After all, independent women certainly don’t wake up asking themselves, “How can I help my husband today?” And when a newborn baby comes along, the very thought of this question becomes downright ludicrous. Believe me, the first few weeks after T.Rex was born, there was nothing my husband could do right. It was an extremely tough time for us and it was almost impossible for me to think of ways I could show love to him; when I felt so physically and emotionally drained. Thankfully this season didn’t last and in a month things did feel somewhat ‘normal’ again. I knew however, that my son needed parents who not only loved him, but also loved each other.
Putting my husband first is about more than just a weekly date night or quality time. It means that the decisions I make as a mum, are made with my husband’s happiness and pleasure in mind. This is extremely hard to do when you are (as we all are) married to an imperfect man. However, I knew the consequences of not giving the utmost care to my marriage, and so I made the conscious (and somewhat controversial) choice to love the father of my son, to the very best of my ability.
From the start, this meant doing all the night feeds so that my husband could get a good night’s rest for work (since I was on maternity leave anyway). And holding my tongue (this was extremely hard) to avoid complaining (even through messages) about how exhausted I was at the end of the day. I realised that although it feels natural to vent to your husband, a man can’t really understand or relate to anything you are going through as a new mum – so you’re better off talking to your own mother or a friend who has kids. Instead, I did my best to engage him with lively conversation about all the adorable and new things T.Rex had done, and asked lots of questions about his job and the other people in his life. I remember repeatedly telling him not to worry about the baby and me, and to focus on his work.
As a result of my conscious effort to put him first, my husband’s heart was in turn filled with love and appreciation. He was eager to come home, praised me freely. For the first time in our marriage, I felt that he was truly able to honor me, as his wife. Had I shown the bitterness, resentment or righteousness I had often felt in fleeting moments of new motherhood, I don’t think this would be the case.
My arguably ‘traditional’ approach has paid off, with my husband more hands-on than ever and a baby who will never feel like he drove a wedge between two happy people. A strained marriage and an unhappy home is something I believe any baby can sense in his spirit. Even using a harsh tone and manner when speaking to each other in the baby’s presence can be harmful. It’s a dangerous thing for a child when affection and respect between his parents is discarded for ‘his’ sake. The emotional damage caused by a failed marriage, for a child, can rarely be repaired later in life. No one sets out to have a baby with divorce in mind, yet maybe they should. With basic love and care, your baby will grow strong and healthy. With a real heart for your husband, your child will grow up knowing he was truly a blessing to his parents.
Michelle Lim-Chua is a banana born in New York City, who fell in love with a boy from Melaka and became a mama of one.