Yeah, yeah the first year as a parent is rewarding and life changing and all that good stuff. But, let’s face it, it can also be extremely stressful. The learning curve is steep. The stakes? Pretty darn high. Plus: You’re sleep deprived and probably a bit anxious. In short, the first year is the ideal environment for lots of arguments. Lots of them.
And every couple has that capital B Big Fight that happens. It might be started by something seemingly small, like the sleep-deprived changing of a onesie, or something bigger, like a debate over the best type of food for your infant. They will happen. Oh will they happen. But here’s the thing: They can be resolved. As thousands of couples who have endured their first-year can tell you, they might even look back and laugh at the midnight diaper genie meltdown of August 2017. Here, five dads walk us through the biggest fights they had during their first year as parents, and how they eventually moved past it.
The Great Onesie Incident
What Happened: We’d been parents for a whopping 24 hours, at most. We were changing our son’s diaper, during which time he managed to get pee all over his onesie. We undressed him and grabbed a clean onesie, provided by the hospital. It’s worth noting that the hospital onesies were very old school and had all kinds of weird folds on them. Also, neither of us had slept more than a handful of hours in two days. As we tried to put the onesie on our son, he began crying. This only made us work faster, and sloppier, which resulted in him crying more. I struggled to get his arm through one of the sleeves while my wife struggled to get his other arm through. We then began yelling at each other about who was doing what wrong, all the while our son was crying.
How We Solved It: Finally, my wife took a step back and I finished putting the onesie on our son. I swaddled him back up and placed him in his bed. He was undergoing UV treatment for jaundice, so we had to quickly get him back on his special UV mattress. After a few minutes of silence we both looked at each other and realized just how tired we both were. We apologized for overreacting and being so snappy over something so small. Acknowledging that lack of sleep was a huge culprit here helped us both get some rest immediately after that fight, and every night after. Honestly, this fight happening so early was the best thing that could have happened to us, as it helped us keep each other in check the entirety of the first year. We knew what little sleep could do and made it a point to ensure one person was always getting some rest while the other was on duty.
— John Shieldsmith, 29, Texas
The Vegan Showdown
What Happened: I was brought up in the way of rules, and regulations, and a very strict household. We didn’t do baby talk. My spouse did. My spouse was also very lenient to bad behavior. If my son would misbehave in a way that might put him in danger, I would pop his hand, and she would just allow his bad behavior to go unchecked. I was more strict than my wife. We should have had these conversations prior to even conceiving a child. It would have made it easier. But then again, you never know, until you go through the process.
The other issue was that she’s vegan. I’m not. I grew up in a farming community. She did not. Meat products were fine by me. I never would have thought that this would be an issue. But she wanted to start our child off on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
How We Solved It: As it came to the diet, our doctor, obviously, sided with me. We resolved our different parenting styles in probably the worst way possible at the time: I worked two jobs, and she didn’t work, so it was resolved by way of me not being around for like the first nine months, so she got to parent how she wanted.
— Dom Fausette, 40, Arizona
The Co-Sleeping Conundrum
What Happened: It was about the baby sleeping in the bed with us. The word ‘argument’ can’t even describe how big it was. It was a rift. She wanted the baby to sleep with us in the bed. Basically, from as soon as our baby got home and we got home from the hospital. I was against it. I had heard of babies who die in the bed when sleeping with their parents, in a suffocation type scenario. But my wife was under the belief that this wouldn’t happen. But for me, It was just a no-go. She was afraid of monitors, because allegedly people were hacking into them and looking at babies in their cribs. My wife was like: ‘we’re doing this. You can sleep in another bed but my baby is sleeping with me.’ That was our major argument for our first year of parenting. That was the argument.
How We Solved It: Neither of us wanted the baby to be in a separate room. We’re both heavy sleepers, and if something goes on, the baby could be crying for hours and we wouldn’t know. So we started to compromise. We got a bassinet and put it in our room. The baby slept in there. But I’d wake up and realize that in my sleep, my wife had picked up the baby and moved her back into the bed. I pleaded with my wife. I couldn’t help but think of the overall risk. We got a crib that rocks the baby for six hours in the sleeping position. That was the first week that we slept. We got a full night of sleep. Soon, we transitioned to the regular crib. We’d rock her to sleep. We still do, as a toddler. She has a rocking chair next to her converted crib. She’s still getting her mommy time. We don’t argue about it.
— Rodney Waites, 41, Houston
The Bath-time Brawl
What Happened: I had trouble knowing what my role is. At the beginning, that was really tough. I had no idea what to do. I tried to do everything that I wasn’t supposed to. Once, I tried to bathe the baby without mom. That was one of the big arguments that we got into because apparently I didn’t know how to do it right. My first baby was a little girl. There was so much I had to learn about her personal hygiene. That was pretty much our biggest argument. I needed not try to take over as the lead parent. She wanted us to parent together, didn’t want me to take over, and she didn’t want me, to ask her, to do what I wanted her to do. On the flip side, I ended up not doing enough. I basically checked out. Finding out where I fit into the equation… that was tough. Of course, you figure it out the older you get, and now, I’m on my third kid, which was like a walk in the park this time around. but that first one was a real challenge to figure out.
What Happened: My wife was very quick to let me know I had pulled back too much. We basically figured out what I needed to do through a lot of communication. I had to ask: “Where can I help? Where do you not want me to help?” I also had to allow her to, you know, let her have that motherly experience. One thing I ended up taking over was the sleeping issue: my role was that whenever she woke up, I got her first, I changed her diaper, and then I handed her to her mom to breastfeed. It doesn’t seem like much, but that few extra 5-10 minutes that my wife got was easier on her, and it was easier on me.
— Josh Filmore, 37, Florida
The Corporal Punishment Catastrophe
What Happened: My wife and I tended to be on the same page about almost everything. The conflict came more from the people around us. The issue was about spanking. My wife was never spanked as a kid, but I was both spanked and hit as a kid. We talked about it. Neither of us wanted to hit our kids. A lot of people around us ridiculed our choice. Ironically, it was more her family who disagreed with our decision. A bunch of her siblings and some of mine just laughed at us. They said we were young liberals, who thought we didn’t need spanking but we were going to need to spank our baby. I hate that false dichotomy between conservatives and liberals, like, “You’re all this way and we’re all that way.” It was so frustrating, especially because we were young. People were lording it over us, that way. And they were so certain about this. There was a certain mockery. We were constantly told that we were hippies, and we weren’t thinking it through, and we were being unrealistic.
How We Solved It: It was frustrating to have to defend our ideas about how we wanted to parent. But I think, because it was the two of us together, having one person on your side makes it easier. But we didn’t do corporal punishment. And of course, at the end of the day, my kids are fine. I have one kid who has a Ph.D, another on his way to get a Ph.D, and my third is a novelist getting a masters at Stanford. So now,I’m like: why are my relatives not saying anything about all those conversations we had years ago? We have never heard a single word from them! And they were so sure.
— Tim. J Myers, 65, California