If there is any advice I would give to soon-to-be or new parents, it would be two things.
First, read everything with a pinch of salt – everyone has an opinion, whether it be the books, or your friends, your aunties, and that stranger in the supermarket who would like to give you some advice.
Second, that having a baby is the toughest thing your marriage will ever go through. If you’re already fighting about who’s left the toilet seat up or down, you might want to think twice about having a baby (or maybe having a baby will put into perspective just how silly those concerns are). Reading Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina (thoroughly enjoyable read, all findings based on research, not opinion!) confirmed my theory that having kids is really the toughest thing a marriage will go through – the book cites that more than 80 percent of couples experience a huge drop in marital quality during the transition to parenthood, although my own experience, not based on any empirical research also tells me that maternal instincts tend to kick in from the time you pee on the stick, while fathers take months, sometimes even years to really get into the groove of things.
I remember in the early days, I used to having a baby for fathers to going out to buy a pet dog. They (the men, not the dogs) don’t need to gestate, and once the pet is home they think they can just sit n the sofa and pet the dog, walk the dog once in a while, receive just enough attention from the dog, and teach the dog tricks. When Mittens was really young, the hubby used to say “Let my parents take care of him lah”, since he was otherwise preoccupied with Soccernet (cue eye-rolling). These days sometimes it still takes more than a gentle prodding (a little shoving and some pouting never hurt, right?), but he readily rolls up his sleeves to look after the boys, allowing me to sleep in or take a break, or even to get on his feet so that all of us can enjoy some family time together.
We’ve just come back from a lovely family vacation, we’re lucky that this has been our second in less than 2 months, and it’s been great quality time for us to spend together since on normal working days the boys don’t get very much time with daddy. Also we just celebrated the hubby’s birthday recently, and although I didn’t get him a present, he is very much a gift to us as we are to him. Having weathered the last four (gosh! Has it been that long?) years of parenthood, with an ever increasing number of charges, it feels as if we’ve passed through the turbulent clouds, the seat belt signs have been switched off, and we are slowly but surely settling into our roles as parents.
I also wonder how different our lives would be without the kids. Many mummies will agree that having children gives you insight into your partner you would not ordinarily see, some even say that daddies are different with boys and girls. Everyone agrees though, that having kids is like working on a big project together – you can only achieve it (or achieve it best) with teamwork, and on the journey you learn so many things about life, yourself and about each other.
Although there are still a number of things left to check off the To-do list before things get rough again, I have never felt more prepared for the next bun in the oven. I definitely have doubts as to how we’re going to pull the whole thing off – from fitting everyone into the house, the car, to trying to maintain a healthy level of sanity in the house (for everyone) on a daily basis, heck, sometimes even getting everyone out of the house and into the car is such a major task. But I trust that God only gives us what we can handle (and boy do I need to remind myself that often sometimes!), but also although at times I feel like strangling him, I know that the hubby and I can do so much when we do agree and work together. Happy belated Birthday to the man who has given me so many, so much, and makes this family possible.