World War III, by Lauren Tatum

Shortly after the birth of our son, my boyfriend and I began having huge arguments. We were always at odds about how to distribute the various duties that come with parenthood and running a household. Though we had talked about how we wanted our lives to be once our bundle of joy arrived, we never really talked about specifics. As a result, our relationship deteriorated rapidly, and I feared for my son’s future perception of his parents as a cooperative unit.

“I told you I would need your help,” I said to S., “lots of it.”

“I am helping,” he said, hands slowly curling into fists. “I pay the bills; I go to work every day. You really expect me to come home to cook and clean, too?”

“Yes!” I shouted at him, pouring all of my frustration, post-pregnancy aches and pains and resentment into the word.

“Do you realize that I’ve been holed up in a one-bedroom apartment with no one but a newborn to talk to for three months?” I screamed, “When do I get a break!?”

“I go to work every day, how am I supposed to feel when I come home and you bombard me with your demands?” His words hit me like a slap in the face. I was so shocked I could hardly move.

“Demands?” I whispered.  “Are you fucking kidding me!? You promised me that you would help! You said I could count on you. Now, all of a sudden, my sincere request for help is a fucking demand? How dare you! How dare you call my asking you to keep your promise ‘demanding?’ ”

By this point in the conversation, S. has had it with me he began throwing various objects – the PS3 controller, the remote – just about anything he could get his hands on. Next thing I know, he’s kicked a hole in our bedroom wall. I realized that this argument was heading toward the point of no return, so I took a deep, slow breath and tried to regain my composure.

“What the hell did you do that for?” I asked, as calmly as I could manage. S. grabbed his coat from the closet, spat on the floor between my shoes and stomped out of the apartment for a cigarette. Thirty seconds later I heard him banging his fist against the iron railing that surrounded our balcony. Slowly, I returned to the bedroom, where my previously sleeping baby boy had just woken up, blissfully ignorant to the fact that World War III just taken place 10 feet from his crib. Cradling my bleary-eyed baby, I whispered, “It’s alright, baby boy. Mama’s gonna make it all better. I won’t let this happen ever again. Fighting is bad, Jensen, and Mama won’t make you witness it ever again.”


The front door squeaked slightly as S. reentered the apartment.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I just don’t know what came over me. It’s just…when I come home…I dunno. I guess I just wanna relax and not have to think about anything for a while, you know?”

I just stood there, staring at him, too exhausted to fight or complain or to go into detail about how and why his behavior was 100% unacceptable.

“You said you would help me, S.,” I said, my tone soft and even, “and you’re not holding up your end of the bargain.”

The struggles in my relationship with S. continued for some time, but I have kept my promise to Jensen. I never again let myself lose control or raise my voice to my son’s father while Jensen is within earshot.

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