Many of my new mom counseling clients tell me that they feel like they've developed multiple personalities after giving birth. A few weeks into their parenting adventure, they eagerly wait by the door for their husbands to come home from work. And when he finally gets there, they feel completely annoyed -- and eagerly wait for him to leave again.
I understand what they're talking about. I experienced my own mixed feelings regarding my hubby when I became a new mother. There were moments when I felt like I couldn't have found a sweeter, more intuitive man to co-parent my children with. "I won the parenting jackpot," I told my friends. "He is so sweet to our baby and does SO much to help me." Other times, I felt like my man was put on this Earth, and specifically in my life, to aggravate me and let me down. He didn't know what I needed, he didn't know the right things to say, he just didn't... the list goes on.
Before reaching the point of wanting to kick your husband out of the house, here are five things to try giving him:
- Give him the scoop. Fill your husband in on what you are experiencing as a new mother. Your hormones are all over the place. You don't know what a full night's sleep is anymore. Your body just went through a gigantic ordeal and your life has changed dramatically. If you worked prior to having a baby, you are now adjusting to being home alone all day with a little crying creature who doesn't speak the same language as you. This is a huge adjustment, and your husband will be better able to support you if he knows what an enormous transition your body and mind are going through. Keep him informed so he understands that this isn't a walk in the park for you and that you need as much help as possible.
- Give him patience.
Remember that you are not the only one trying to figure out how to do this parenting thing. Your husband is also new to the role of Dad, and he might need time to learn how to best support you and baby. If he spends a lot of time on the road or at the office, he may need occasional tutorials or updates on how to bounce baby when she's fussy, or how to feed baby solids without them being spit up all over the floor. Be easy on your man -- the two of you will figure out your new jobs together, in time.
- Give him a piece of your mind.
OK, listen to me closely here. This may seem like common sense, but it actually isn't for most of us. Your husband cannot read your mind. He doesn't know that you wanted him to pick up dinner from the Thai restaurant on the corner because you've been pacing the kitchen all afternoon with a fussy baby. He doesn't realize that you haven't had a shower in three days and that the grease in your hair is not part of a new slicked-back hairstyle you are going for. He might not understand that you have reached your last straw and that you are seriously about to lose it. As we always tell our young kids, use your words and tell your husband what you need and want. Sometimes it might be as simple as saying, "I need you to give me a big hug and tell me everything is going to be OK." Or it might be as big as stating, "I am really struggling today and about to lose it. I need you to step in with the baby and give me a Target break so I can blow off some steam in the pretty pillow and vase aisle."
- Give him your time.
One of the things that suffers the most when you have a new baby in the house is time together as a couple. With this lack of couple time, intimacy and lovey-dovey feelings can take a dive. When you can and IF you can, make time for little dates with each other. It might look like sitting on the couch and watching the latest Netflix offering. Or... if you can snag a babysitter, get OUT of the house with your partner, even if it is for an hour or two. Connecting with each other as a couple, and not as two parents passing each other in the middle of the night, can bring you closer together and reignite that spark that you felt pre-baby.
- Give him hell. If you are giving your husband all of these things and he still isn't stepping up to the plate, share your feelings of frustration with him. Use classic "I statements" to get your point across. "I feel like I am doing everything by myself around here and getting no support." "I wait eagerly for you to come home and then I feel like you aren't tuning in to the baby and me." "I am really struggling. I could use more help." You get the picture -- you can be assertive and direct and still keep your cool. Then go back to No. 3 and be specific about your needs and wants.
You may be reading this and thinking, None of this describes my husband. He is the best co-parent in the world! If that is the case, how wonderful for you. But if you are feeling the annoyances that many new mothers experience, refrain from beating yourself up and give these suggestions a try. You might find yourself falling in love all over again with that man you call your husband.
Kirsten Brunner, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and married mother of two rambunctious boys in Austin, TX. She and her sweet husband (pictured above) do their absolute best to co-parent their kids without strangling each other. She and her blog partner, Cheryl Sipkowski, MS, LPC, provide sanity-saving tips and workshops for expectant and new parents at Baby Proofed Parents. Follow BPP on Facebook or Twitter for real-time tips and humor to help you "bring sane to baby brain."