Wash the (Freaking) Bottles!
This entry is from a new series of blogs by our very own OB/GYN, Dr. Elizabeth Tigges. In this series, we explore the adventures (and misadventures) that mothers share from the perspective of a mom and OB/GYN.
This series was originally posted to her personal blog, "Obstetrics and Momecology". This is a blog by a mom, for moms and those who love them. If you enjoy this content and would like to see more, please feel free to subscribe to the blog to receive updates of new posts.
When we had our first child...
...Cody [my husband] and I found our new roles as parents about as foreign as eating fried beetles. We also found our understanding of what needs to be done to propel a house forward and function as a unit was misguided and ill-understood.
Our general personalities didn’t help the scenario. I’m a “get things done right now” kind of lady. Cody is a “why do today what can wait until tomorrow” kind of man. This resulted in too many arguments to count. And a lot of resentment on my part.
Balancing responsibilities at work and at home.
We both were working full time but even that for us is very different. I work full days every day I’m at the hospital/clinic. Cody has weeks of “service” where he is responsible for the Unit of 15-20+ extremely sick or dying children. His work horrifies me.
When he is not on “service” he works on medical school education, writing papers, etc, and the schedule is much more relaxed and flexible. I think it needs flexibility at times when you’re caring for dying children the other week. I have a ton of empathy for him when he’s on service. But it’s hard for me to carry over that empathy when his other weeks are “easy”.
Insert my resentful thoughts and feelings.
I hate washing the bottles too. And I’ve worked all day: I left the house at 5:30 AM and now I’m back at 7:30 PM. There is so much to be done around our house on any given day. And [at the time] we had one kid, one dog, and one cat.
Others most certainly have so much more. It always seemed so OBVIOUS what things needed to be done. Open your eyes and look around! But, just like it’s difficult to be in someone else’s head, it’s difficult to know what someone else wants unless they can effectively verbalize it.
For us, insert counseling. And communication. And a commitment to help each other out. To try to see things through the other person's eyes/filter.
I learned that I literally need to spell things out sometimes. Like, “Hey, it’d be great if you could do the bath, and the laundry, and wash the sippy cups (replace bottles with sippy cups),” and on and on and on.
Also, I leave. I take a break and get away with a girlfriend every couple of months. I leave for a few days, usually 1-2. It helps us all find balance and appreciate each other.
Of course, this all feels stressful and intimidating. You’ve taken on a whole new identity and so has your partner. You don’t know who you are because you’re figuring it out. Your partner is doing the same.
Communication is of utmost importance… but it feels like: who has time for that?!
You’re busy trying to navigate this new life, breastfeed and/or figure out how much food this kid needs, when to change the diaper, how to sleep, how to process new emotions and feelings. How to stop thinking about SIDS or your child dying for some unforeseen reason.
I generally can forget about past wrongs if someone is sorry or things change. For the love of the universe, things have finally changed.
Cody (generally speaking) does the crappy work that neither of us wants to in order to keep our home headed in the right direction. As do I. But we have found equality.
We may not do equal work every week, but our sum total is equal most of the time. I do some domestic stuff, and so does he. We try not to complain. How long did all this take us? Just over a year. Eleanor was born in October of 2016. We got it together start of 2018.
Be open to criticism, and cognizant of delivery
So, what did we learn? Here are ten things we’ve learned about how to make it all work:
- We talk about who needs what.
- We try to remember to remind each other how valuable we are to each other. I need to frequently be told, “thank you, you’re awesome!”
- I need to feel appreciated. Cody is not good at this, so we work on it. And I complain a lot in counseling and hope that he can find it in himself to say these things even though it may not feel natural to do so.
- I try not to nag all the time.
- I have to work on my tone and my approach. I have a mean, feisty side that I don’t like, and it comes out when I’m exasperated or sad or frustrated or hurt.
- Eleanor’s shoes and clothes that fit do not fall out of the sky. Her swim lessons and coordination of the family weekend trips, and fun activities aren’t planned by our non-existent family organizer/travel agent. I do all these things.
- But I do not do garbage. I keep forgetting to empty Harriet and Harry (our robotic vacuums, named after the absurd amounts of dog hair they pick up for us).
- I don’t like to fix things unless they have a vagina or are pregnant. I ripped, instead of gently twisting, the fire alarm out of the ceiling in exasperation the other day. And it’s still hanging there.
- I hate cooking, generally speaking.
- We have mostly figured out who does what and for each of us that includes things we don’t like to do (again, insert washing bottles).
it’s still not always obvious
I still think at times: How the F do you not see this or that, that’s literally so obvious, right in front of you, needs to be done? But now, I ask for help (also something I had to learn).
I’ve spent my whole life being taught to do things myself. Sometimes we both still find ourselves guilty of keeping score and comparing what we do, with the undertone that one of us feels like they’re doing more, and the other is sitting around eating ice cream and reading a book. The reality is that in any given week or month one of us probably does do more. But, the next week or month may be different.
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that our past struggles made me nervous when we were about to have our second child. I knew the bottles would start again, and so would a new identity situation. (I was right to be concerned, but take it a day at a time most days)
The puzzle pieces fly into the air and we gain a new picture and new pieces that all have to be put back together again in a new way. A way that allows both of us, and our children to be happy. To be healthy. And to work as a team.
I have found this to have its challenges and its beauty.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Tigges, D.O. is a small-town Iowan at heart, having grown up in Southeast Iowa before graduating from Simpson College. She subsequently began her medical career at Des Moines University, followed by her residency training at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio. Life took her to the University of Tennessee in Memphis where she was an Assistant Professor of OB/GYN, but the call to return home prompted her to return to Iowa in 2013. She has now made what she hopes will be her last move, enthusiastically joining Surgical Associates in April 2016, where she will provide compassionate and comprehensive care in Women’s Health to women of all ages.
Dr. Tigges’ unique clinical interests include pelvic and minimally invasive surgery, robotics, preventative healthcare throughout a woman’s lifespan, evaluation and treatment of pelvic pain, and female sexual health. She recognizes, however, that while those topics may be the reason for a patient’s visit, they are only a small part of the individual. Dr. Tigges believes in recognizing the whole person and connecting with them on a personal level. This is largely because she loves getting to know patients personally, but also because she wants women to feel comfortable discussing Women’s Health issues openly and wholeheartedly.
Dr. Tigges is pumped to be living in Grinnell with her husband Cody and daughter Eleanor. Cody agrees that she has a special gift for making personal connections and says that she could form a lasting relationship with a rock. When she’s not sharing jokes and funny stories at work, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, hiking, running, and reading.
Dr. Tigges' Disclaimer:
"This [blog] is meant to entertain and inform. I share my personal experience and opinions through this web-based forum, which may or not apply to you, but which most certainly should not be interpreted as medical advice. I only provide medical advice via in-person appointments at my office or hospital."