lifestyle

It's not surprising that parents of little kids break up. What's amazing is that more don't.

The Mamamia office is the kind of place where breaking news is greeted with a sound.

A collective gasp. A cheer. A groan.

Yesterday, a moan. Oh. A celebrity split, a couple we all ‘like’.

We don’t know them. They don’t know us. But we saw them falling in love on Packed To The Rafters, so you know, of course we’re all experts.

Jessica Marais and James Stewart have confirmed they’ve split.

My co-workers were sad. “But, they have a daughter together. She’s only three.”

I said nothing. Of course, none of us have any idea why this couple have decided to part. But I am never, ever surprised when the parents of young children break up. I am only surprised that even more don’t.

There is one thing I know about Jessica and James. Their daughter Scout is almost exactly the same age as my youngest child, Billy.

I know that because when I went on maternity leave to have Billy, I celebrated the first day of non-office work by buying a magazine. And they were on the cover, posing with their stunning baby daughter, Scout.

Jessica Marais and James Stewart with daughter Scout.

Days later I had my own beautiful baby, although the cover of Who didn’t beckon for us.

Holly after the birth of her son, Billy.

It’s almost three years since that day, and more than five since my partner and I went from being a couple to being a family. And while I am not the first person to ever point this out (the phrase, ‘having a baby is like throwing a grenade into a marriage’ is A Thing), something that is not talked about enough, in our tumbling rush to prove ourselves as worthy parents – is that tiny children place an enormous strain on relationships, and that it is fine to struggle.

Related: The 8 reasons marriages fail.

Because this is fucking hard.

I feel like for every candle on your child’s birthday cake, if you and your significant other are still speaking, you deserve a party of your own. One with adult drinks, and a creche.

Instead of mourning the breakdowns of celebrity relationships and wondering why they couldn’t make it work for the sake of their photogenic offspring, we should be looking around and celebrating any parents who still seem to like each other. Because they are the real miracle of birth.

If you are looking at your phone quizzically right now, I know why. You don’t have children yet.

Let me explain.

1. Your love for your baby is the ultimate affair.

When my first child was born, I went into a love bubble. Many do. And my partner was in there with me. I was so overcome with love and gratitude for him, for seeing me through pregnancy and labour and for sharing with me the most profound moment of my life to date that I had never loved him more. And then the haze cleared, the hormones calmed down, my milk came in and there it was – The Baby. And far out, I loved her more than anything I could possibly imagine, all of her peachy fuzzy screamyness. And suddenly, there’s not so much room in the love bubble any more. Many partners get nudged out at this point, and have to wait patiently to be noticed again. Some act out for attention. It’s a dangerous moment.

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Holly with her kids.

2. You only ever have one fight. But it never ends.

You used to argue about interesting things. Like politics, and your friends’ love lives. Now, the sole cause of conflict in your relationship is this one, and it’s a doozy – I DID MORE THAN YOU TODAY. It’s the endless ledger that is never balanced. “It’s your turn” become the most used words in your home.

3. The people are exhausted.

Yes, children are tiring. They don’t always sleep when you want them to and they require an amount of maintenance that seems unreasonable for their size, but it’s the Emotional Exhaustion that kills. It is very hard to care about the emotional wellbeing of your most beloved “other half” in the way you once did when all your reserves of empathy are being channelled into one or two or four little people whose needs are relentlessly your responsibility.

4. Someone’s always doing it wrong.

One partner said, “I’ll look after the kids this afternoon, you go for a run/visit your mate/ go and see that movie you’ve been dying to see”. But when the other partner gets home, there is something Very Wrong with what’s been going on at home. Let’s say, the TV’s been blaring the sports channel all afternoon, there are Maccas wrappers on the floor, and everyone seems to be covered in a fine film of Fun Slime. Not saying this ever happened, but it’s just the kind of stuff that makes one parent look at another and think, ‘Who ARE YOU, that you think THIS IS OKAY?’

Stuff like this happens.

5. Familiarity breeds disinterest.

You’ve never been home so much. It’s possible that you have never spent this much time together. Every night, you collapse onto the couch, exhausted by your days. And you look at each other, in a very, very Real way, because there is no time or space for artifice when you’ve been running ragged after small people. And you both say, “Netflix?” at the same time. And that’s that.

8. Nerves are frayed.

Physical and emotional exhaustion do not combine to make anyone their Best Self. When once, That Thing that your partner Always Does was charming, it is now the Worst Thing In The World. If you hear them whistling while they clear the table ONE MORE TIME, you might fucking kill them. And you wouldn’t even care if you went for jail for it. Because then you might get some peace.

See? Do you see how easy it is for love to be lost in this mess?

See how years and years of “What should we do about Betty’s itchy bum,” and “Can you just smell the baby’s nappy?’ and “You know she won’t eat apple unless it’s cut in curly strips” and “If you drop off, then I can pick up and you can go and do the shop and I’ll call your mum on the way home and we can meet at football and swap cars….”

See how that is challenging for the survival of True Love?

So if you are still standing with the person who you made your kids with. If you can still bear them, laugh with them, touch them. You are winning. You are legends. You are the toughest motherf-ckers on the planet.

And if you’re not? You never have to put up with any of this shit again. You are winning, too.

Holly is the co-host of Mamamia’s Parenting Podcast, This Glorious Mess. Every week her and Andrew Daddo take a look at parenting as it really is; confusing, exhausting, inspiring and very messy.  You can subscribe on itunes here or listen to episodes on Soundcloud here.

 

What do you do to survive the mess?

Click through the gallery for more on Jessica and James.

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