Let's go way back in time. Journey with me through 15-plus years of dating, which was exhilarating in its ways, of course—but also often frustrating and filled with wrenching heartbreak and uncertainty and powerlessness. (And let's call that the understatement of the century.)
Then let's flash forward to 2008, when I got serious with the guy who would become my husband, and that deeply longing part of me was at very long last fulfilled in the most incredible way. Four years into marriage, I'm loving just about every minute of my hard-won relationship.
In fact, the unknown changes to the awesome dynamic I share with my spouse are some of the things I fear most as I enter into motherhood. I have heard kids alternatively described as grenades upon marriage (gee, thanks, Internet, for that visual), and as wondrous ways to foster an even deeper bond between parents than they ever even thought possible.
I'm really hoping it's the latter, obviously; actually, I'm counting on it. To that end, I plan to prioritize dating my husband, keeping the lines of communication open, and dividing labor fairly, as much as possible. Of course, I know we'll be at the mercy of desperate fatigue and overwhelm—and we'll be calling audibles left and right.
But what if we didn't leave it to chance? In a recent Slate piece, writer Rebecca Onion proposed the idea of a pre-baby contract as a way to preserve her relationship with her husband if they decide to go ahead with kids. The idea is sort of like a pre-nup, except it explicitly spells out a division of labor mutually agreed upon as fair between partners in advance, so that there are no surprises on the other side—relationship-threatening surprises.
The author asks, "Wouldn't a not-at-all legally binding document, outlining expectations and setting a course for periodic re-examination of the division of labor, alleviate my fears, and prevent aggravation, or fights, or divorce, in the future? I find that any number of life challenges are more palatable when drained of their emotional content through quantification."
I couldn't agree more. In all aspects of life, if I see a problem, or a potential problem, I like to tackle it head on, and in a practical way. I make a lot of lists, and call a lot of family meetings. And I relate to and appreciate, for instance, some of the specifics of Onion's concerns and potential contract points. For instance, she may not be the primary family breadwinner as a writer, but that doesn't mean her work is not meaningful and valuable and worthy of preservation when time is a commodity. (Hear, hear!)
Still, I can't help but wonder how practical such a document could be—or how executable, when the name of the game might just be surviving new parenthood at its basest level.
I'd love to hear from you: Would you draw up a pre-baby contract with your partner?
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