DEAR AMY: I have been feeling irritable toward my husband lately. Small things bug me.
I noticed these feelings after the birth of our fourth child, in June. Before she was born, we found out my husband’s father was in the hospital. We couldn’t get much information about his condition, so my husband was rightly concerned.
Our baby’s due date came and went, and she was born 12 days late. I was scared for her, but my husband was more worried about his dad. Any attempts to talk about the baby were blocked. He changed the subject back to his dad. We later found out his father has dementia and is now hospitalized.
My temper has been short. I try to be understanding, but I need my husband, too! Am I overreacting because of postpregnancy hormones?
– Short Temper in Nevada
DEAR SHORT TEMPER: Yes, you might be coping with postpartum hormonal issues, but most parents with four children would find themselves irritable with no other contributing factors. In your case, you also have your father-inlaw’s illness and your husband’s reaction to it.
This sort of emotional chaos characterizes the hard work of being in a family. You and your husband don’t have the luxury of only worrying about and taking care of your children. You have to take care of yourselves, and each other, as a team of two. Do teams have bad days? Yes! But a team still exits the locker room together, determined to support one another.
I have a two-word solution for you: Be gentle. Gentleness starts with the way you treat yourself. Here’s an example: You try to talk about how the baby has started teething. Your husband looks at you blankly and changes the subject. Or he tries to talk to you about his dad while you are nursing (or running around after your other children).
You react irritably. The first thing you should do is to take a breath, acknowledge your own irritation, and forgive yourself (“I’m a little overwhelmed right now”).
Take responsibility, and then turn the page. Once you forgive yourself, you can approach him with more patience and compassion. His freak-out likely spans worrying about both his children and his parents. That’s a lot to handle. Hold hands and do your best to face your challenges together.