From the time we got together, Todd liked the idea of having kids. I hadn’t given it much thought. Growing up gay, I didn’t think that was possible for me. I told him I wasn’t really interested but if he wanted to do it, I’d be OK with it.
Time went by. He’d raise the idea of adoption now and then but we were busy building our careers and having fun so we would always agree it wasn’t the right time. That was fine by me.
Then we hit our 40s and Todd decided it was now or never. I figured that if it was really important to him we should go ahead and we had a son through surrogacy earlier this year.
I am finding it a rough experience. We are up at all hours and exhausted the next day. I’m having trouble staying focused at work, which is a problem because expenses are crazy and Todd took off time from his job (unpaid) to be with our son.
And our son cries much of the time. Our pediatrician says he will get through this but it makes everything worse, both that he is upset and that we are frequently unable to quiet him.
Sometimes I feel like this decision was a mistake. We are over-tired, short on money, dealing with a crying baby all the time. I’m mad at Todd for making this decision and mad at myself for signing up for this without first considering the consequences.
Our whole life has become stressful and I don’t see it improving.
What is wrong with me? I’m supposed to be overjoyed at having a son and yet half the time I feel like we ruined our lives by becoming parents.
Don’t be angry with yourself. Your feelings are understandable. Raising a child is tremendously difficult and if people thought objectively about the pros and cons of having a baby beforehand, then maybe a lot fewer people would have kids.
One big problem is that the wonderful parts — seeing your child smile when you pick him up, watching him develop into a thinking human, feeling a deep connection to him — may take some time, while the hard parts are there from the get go.
Yes, you could have put more thought into this. Your going along with Todd because you understood how important parenthood was to him is admirable. But it’s also true that we have to balance what is important to our spouses with an understanding of what we want for ourselves. Otherwise we can easily wind up resentful and regretful. I wonder if this is a pattern between the two of you, where you accede to his wishes, ignore your own, then get angry.
But in any case, you agreed to become a father. The stakes are extremely high here for your relationship with Todd, your relationship with your son and for your son’s well being. So if you want to honor your commitment to Todd and your responsibility to your son, you need to find a way to get through this rough period with less bitterness and more equanimity.
Have you discussed with Todd how difficult this is for you or are you suffering in silence? Do you know if Todd is also struggling? If the two of you would talk openly about how challenging you are finding parenting to be and how this is impacting your relationship, you wouldn’t feel so alone with your feelings and the two of you might feel closer. And maybe you and Todd could think of ways to improve the situation, not only by supporting each other but by finding ways to make things at least a little better.
One example: asking family or friends for help, or hiring someone, even for short periods of time, to give you and Todd a little break and an opportunity to put aside the stress for a bit.
Talk with more parents about their own experiences to get some perspective. You’re likely to find that feeling helpless and exhausted is not unusual and is also not forever.
Still, this is going to continue to be hard for a while. The best advice I can give you is to actively keep in mind that you are going through a long, tough stretch that is almost certain to get better before long. Knowing that your experience is just one part of being a parent may help you endure this difficult time.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with gay couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.