Monday, July 30, 2012

Ask the Oracle: Could having more than one child be causing my husbands mood swings?

Photobucket Due to the nature of this Ask the Oracle post the dilemma will remain an anonymous one.

On the request of the person involved I've also asked a male friend to provide a fathers perspective on the matter. Of course any other opinions \ solutions are more than welcome.

The dilemma:

Having two kids is obviously harder in a way because there are two kids needing help and attention in the house.  It's the juggle of bed times, extra tidying, washing etc.  But for me I've found the advantages balance out the problems so I have never really thought about how it would affect my husband.  It's not that I don't get stressed; I do, but I get over it much more quickly than he does.

Things have been very tricky in my marriage for the last couple of years.  I've been racking my brain trying to work out why my husband was so much more stressed, grumpy and aggressive.  I thought it could have been because I had a health scare and was unwell for a while, and I also suspected that he had an affair.  Many thought it was the stress of his job, but due to changes in that I'm pretty sure that was just a red herring.

This week I had a 'light bulb' moment and wanted to know how many other Mums/Dads had experienced the same thing.

Could it be because we had the second child?  

I am in NO WAY suggesting that it is the child's fault at all by the way.  And it's not the more obvious situation where a Dad says they don't want any more children, but the wife falls pregnant anyway.

I'm wondering is it purely because he doesn't have enough patience for two, or the necessary ability to be consistently present; because the moment you take your eye of the ball one of them will have done something.

Plus the fact that I really don't have the energy for 3 children, so I do need him to take care of himself more.  It's not that I don't care for him, but my kids are young, so I would admit that they come first (and no before you think it, that doesn't mean I'm refusing to have sex with him!).

I'd love to know if other Mums have found their husbands struggled after a second?  
Or did they themselves feel that two was a mistake afterwards?
Any Dads out there who could give their perspective would be a great help?

My response:

My husband is an only child and so is not used to the chaos that multiple children bring so I can sympathise with you (as I'm sure he could with your husband!). I certainly think that things get tougher as more children come along and there is less of 'you' left to go around. However I wouldn't jump to any conclusions that that is the answer and indeed if it is then it should be something that he can learn to cope with and come to enjoy. I also don't think it's as simple as men finding it harder than women to cope with bigger families - it all depends on the personalities involved.  

My initial thought on reading this was that perhaps there is something deeper going on than the 'chaotic family life' issue. Only you and your husband will know how serious the issue is but I would recommend going through some sort of testing \ consultancy to see if he could possibly be depressed. The stress \ aggression \ grumpiness you mention are often ways in which depression manifests itself. Of course I am in no way qualified to make such suggestions which is why, if things really are bad, I would recommend seeing a professional to talk things over with. 

A male perspective:

Dear X,

I am replying to you anonymously because I'm a bit embarrassed about what I'm about to say, but here goes. I am a father of two children, separated by two years, so I can relate to what you're saying, but from the other perspective. When our first child (a girl) was born, it felt like the most amazing experience ever and it brought my wife and I closer together than ever. Having our daughter felt like the reason we'd been put on the planet and when he was a year old we both decided to have another. What I didn't tell my wife was that I was secretly hoping for son, so when our second daughter arrived I'm ashamed to say I felt disappointed. I didn't tell my wife (I'm not that stupid) ut I did start to withdraw into myself. I felt like all the novelty of having our first had worn off and having baby in the house - with all the demands that come with that - was just overwhelming. The noise! The mess! The stress! I found myself dreading 5 o'clock when it was time to go home from work, so instead joined colleagues for a quick drink or two on the way home. 
At first my wife hardly noticed I'd gone. She was so absorbed with bringing up the babies that I felt like I'd become an after-thought. This in turn became an excuse/reason for me to stay out later and later, on the basis that she didn't miss me anyway, so I might as well be in the pub rather than at home. But of course she DID notice, and when I'd roll in at 10-ish, she'd give me a hard time about where I'd been and who I'd been with and that she'd been at home all day struggling with two babies. And do you know what I did? I shrugged and went to bed. One time I muttered, 'Then we shouldn't have had a second kid then, should we?' but I don't think she heard me, otherwise I doubt I'd be here to tell the tale. 
Anyway, all these rows made me dread going home even more and - I'm sorry to sound like a cliche here - I started getting close to one of my female colleagues. I didn't quite go as far as as 'my wife doesn't understand me' but it was pretty close to that. We had a fling - if you can call it that - a few snogs, no sex, nothing more than that. But my wife found out (to this day I have no idea how) but in a way it was the best thing to happen to us. I suddenly realised I could lose everything so we started to talk, and talk, and talk, about our feelings, how our roles had changed (from lovers, to parents) and where we would go from here. I told her quite honestly that I wished I'd had a son, so she suggested we try for another. That made me realise I didn't really want a son - I wanted my wife back. I wanted some of the fun and freedom we used to have before we had kids.
That was a few years ago now and I couldn't be prouder of being the dad to two gorgeous girls. When I look back I think I could have lost it all because of my selfishness. 
How does this help you? I don't really know (though I do feel quite relieved to get it off my chest after so long) but perhaps your other half is feeling overwhelmed by second child syndrome. Perhaps he does feel trapped by the situation, or excluded from your life, or resentful of how his life has turned out, or overwhelmed by the sheer stress of the relentlessness of having a couple of kids. But then again, perhaps he's not. Perhaps it's something completely different. But the only way you're going to find out is by talking to him. Tell him how important he is to you, how much you love him, but how you feel you're both drifting in the relationship and you need to do something about it before it becomes critical. I know it's difficult with having such young babies around, but is there any way you could get a babysitter and arrange a 'date night' in a restaurant with a bottle of wine? Whatever happens and whatever you do, best of luck with it. 

 So that's all the advice on offer from this posts perspective - but I suspect others will have thoughts \ ideas too. Please feel free to leave them in the comments. I guess the bottom line is that you need to talk - to each other and possibly to a professional. I really wish you every luck in coming to a solution that works for both of you. 

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