New Dad misses you. This baby is getting all of your attention. All of it. And when the baby finally doesn’t need your attention, you’d rather sleep. Not only does he miss you, but I’d bet that during your pregnancy you guys were bonding more than usual. You were planning and decorating the nursery together. You were having spirited debates about names together. You were washing and folding tiny onesies together. You were dreaming together. Then the baby came along and your bonding time went from 60 to 0 in no time flat.It’s so easy to feel like New Dad is being completely inconsiderate and totally selfish. He’s a grown man! This is a baby! Of course I choose the baby! But remember that it isn’t about being selfish or needy, it’s about simply missing a person that you love deeply. It will be hard, no doubt, but let him know you miss him, too and show him how you’re carving out time for him (even if it’s just 15 minutes).
New Dad feels left out. New Dads are left out on many levels once the baby is born. There’s the obvious: feeling left out of the Mom and Baby bonding.And there’s being left out of the celebration of the transition into parenthood: no one really cares how New Dad is doing. There are no gifts for New Dad. No one is coming to visit or check on New Dad. No one is asking New Dad about his birth story (if he was in the room when Nugget comes out he has a birth story). His world just changed in a monumental way and most of us fail to recognize it.Remember that this is a big change for him, and one that may be more abrupt than expected (for lots of dads the whole Becoming a Dad thing doesn’t become real until they are holding their little one). Ask him how he’s doing, what he’s thinking, and what he needs and encourage the community around you (family and friends) to do the same.
New Dad is capable. Dads have instincts and abilities, too. And their style of parenting (typically more flexible, playful, relaxed) is just as essential as mom’s style. Your child needs to know their dad, not a man trying to do everything the way mom does it.When you let New Dad do him there is so much good to come. Your kid gets to bond with him. You get a break because you’re not having to do everything, and New Dad feels more confident and needed in his home. So, listen up, Control-o-Mom: Let dad do his thing.
New Dad wants direction. Fine, I just told you to let him spread his wings and fly, but he still wants some direction. New Dad didn’t grow up playing house, and unless he raised his siblings, he probably isn’t completely comfortable with his baby holding/feeding/burping skills quite yet. Let him know what to do and what you need, especially in the beginning. Unlike you, his identity isn’t tied up in how things get done so he’ll gladly accept directions without becoming defensive. Just remember not to slide down the slippery slope of micromanaging.Also, let’s talk for a minute about the magic of a To-do List. In a dude’s eyes, telling him what you need from him is a godsend. All of a sudden the chaotic and scary world that is a woman’s mind gets crystallized down to a simple To-do List and he loves you for it. If there is ever a time to drop the “if he loved me he’d read my mind” mentality bringing a baby home would be it.
New Dad misses his old life. Things got real when baby was born, and there are days that New Dad misses his old life. He misses watching tv in silence. He misses being able to work late or hang out with friends without feeling guilty. He misses spending the weekend in the workshop “tinkering”.This new baby stole time and added guilt. The worst part? When New Dad tells New Mom that he misses “the good old days” she gets offended (“You don’t love our baby! Wah!”). Not cool, New Mom. Not cool.Let New Dad feel how he feels. Just because that hole in your heart has been happily filled by a baby doesn’t mean his has been, too. And be mindful of his need for some down time WITHOUT the side of guilt.
New Dad is scared. Just like you. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, and something as simple as a crying baby can easily be misinterpreted by New Dad as the ultimate sign of failure. Because New Dad isn’t as comfortable expressing those feelings he will probably look more stressed than scared. Make a point to be encouraging when you see him getting flustered or anxious because he needs to hear that everything is going to be ok (just like you do).
New Dad wants to bond, but it can be hard. Dads bond with their kids by being physical, rolling around, playing catch, tickle fights. You can’t do any of that with a newborn. Add to it the likelihood that mom does most of the feeding and rocking and you end up with a dad that feels pretty disconnected from the Nugget.Most dads don’t really bond with their baby until they are about 6 months old. By then babies are responding to tickles and laughing at New Dad’s silly faces. New Dads love the feedback that a newborn just can’t give.The key is to be patient and encouraging. Encourage New Dad to spend some kangaroo time with the baby, and guard yourself from believing that he doesn’t care or love the baby like you do.
New Dad needs sex. Just like they bond by being physical with their kids, New Dad bonds with his wife by being physically intimate. Unfortunately, physical intimacy isn’t at the top of most New Moms’ to-do lists. The reality is that us wives need to remember that physical intimacy communicates SO MUCH to a man. When you touch him you communicate that you love him, that you need him, and that he is a man. These are all things that he needs to hear from you. Even if full on intercourse isn’t happening right now it doesn’t mean that you guys can’t squeeze in some old-fashioned cuddling or make-out sessions. The important thing to remember is that your touch says so much. Heh.
New Dad needs to be asked what he needs. Again, most of the things on this list are experiences from my marriage and conversations and arguments my husband and I had. To find out what your New Dad needs requires taking the time to ask him.
New Dad needs a thank you. I know, I know. Moms have the hard job. You are the one that deserves a thank you, goshdarnit. And you do deserve a thank you for your hard work, but so does New Dad. So many New Dads are like wilted flowers begging for someone to acknowledge them and the things they do for their families. New Dads need to know that what they are doing matters and a thank you is a perfect way to do that.
P.S. I put together Babyproof Your Marriage: 10 Expectations Every Couple Should Discuss Before the Baby Arrives, a free guide to entering Married with Children Status with your eyes wide open!
Mark and Marie coach couples to a better marriage. Coaching as a team we’re able to understand you better and make you feel more comfortable sharing your life with us. Mark makes sure the husband doesn’t get ganged up on, and I make sure we’re all hearing each other (I have to use that Masters somewhere!). We’ll walk you through the conflicts that every marriage has and help you navigate your way out of them so that you’re closer and more in love than ever before.