News dads, gather round, there's something you should know. You know how one of the reasons you fell in love with your partner was her great sense of humour and ability to laugh at herself? Yeah, well, that's gone. At least for a little while. The hormones, the sleep deprivation and the lack of confidence in her mothering abilities may have left your partner feeling a little less humorous than usual. So, just to be on the safe side, until your partner's sense of humour returns (and don't worry, it will!), you might want to avoid making any of the following comments:
What Not Say #1: “Can't You Stop That Baby Crying?”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Can't you? This is your baby too. Why don't you offer to help out and soothe the crying if it's so bloody easy? I'm not leaving her to cry because I love hearing the sound of that screechy newborn cry. I'm not a sadistic mother, I'm trying my best here.
What Not Say #2: “It's Your Turn to Change The Nappy!”
What she’ll likely be thinking: My turn? My turn? Is that how this works then, an equal division of labour split down the middle? Only, I didn't notice the time you spent lugging around an enormous bump? And I mustn't have been paying attention during your half of the childbirth. For some reason, I can only remember my own efforts in that department. And, wow, aren't you a discrete feeder? I haven't noticed you whip even one boob out to feed our child. Oh, and I hate to be pedantic, but you spend half of every day at the office, and I change every nappy whilst you're gone, so surely this is actually your turn.
What Not Say #3: “Honey, You Go Out, I'm Happy To Babysit!”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Great, thanks so much, here's your $20. You were always my favourite character in the Babysitter Club books. Oh wait, hold on, weren't those books about a group of school friends? Hmmm, now that I come to think of it, I can't even think of one dad member in the club. Could that be because, perhaps, dads are dads, not babysitters? If I choose to go out, you'll still be parenting, not babysitting, right? So please, please, don't ruin a perfectly nice offer by implying that you would be doing me a huge favour by looking after your own child.
What Not Say #4: “I Think I'm Too Exhausted After Work To Help With The Baby Tonight”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Yeah, it must be great being on a dad contract with flexi time. Oh wait, no, that's not a thing. TAKE THE BABY. Since I opened my eyes this morning, through each breastfeed, each spit up, each nappy change, I have been waiting for you to walk in through the door at exactly 7pm. I love the baby, and I love getting to spend this time with the baby, until 7pm. Then it's your turn. I need to use the toilet without an audience, I need to have a bath, but mostly, for about ten minutes, I need to feel like myself again. So. Please. TAKE. THE. BABY.
What Not Say #5: “Must Be Nice Hanging Out With The Baby All Day!”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Yes, it is nice. I love it, but it's also really hard. I'm not just hanging out with the baby, I'm looking after her. I'm essentially her slave. I feed, change, wipe, soothe, burp, cuddle, sing to, talk to, carry, and entertain her. I am her teacher, her nurse, her best friend, her protector and her butler. I put her first every single second throughout the day. It is nice, but it's exhausting.
What Not Say #6: “Must Be Nice Having Coffee And Cake All Day With Your Friends!”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Oh yes, it's great. Plus it's really relaxing, because the baby usually demands feeds for half the time we spend out of the house. And the other half of the time she's pooing, or weeing, or spitting up, and dropping things on the floor repeatedly. It's so relaxing. Thanks for completely underselling what I do all day.
What Not Say #7: “Why Don't We Start Formula Feeding?”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Look, maybe you think you are being supportive, by offering me another option, but you're not. You're making me feel unsupported in my choice to breastfeed. I want to breastfeed. Sure, it's hard. It might hurt for the first few weeks, and I may end up exhausted from the night feeds, but that doesn't mean I want to stop. Instead of waving a bottle in my face each time I complain, can't you come up with real ways to help me? If I'm complaining about sore boobs, run me a bath and let me have an uninterrupted soak. If I'm tired because I've been up all night, take the baby downstairs and let me have a lie in the next morning.
Don't forget to read BellyBelly's article about how crucial a partner's support is to breastfeeding success, here.
What Not Say #8: “We Never Have Sex Anymore!”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Call me when you've pushed a baby out, then we can talk about sex. I may still be sore from birth, I'm definitely exhausted, and I'm at the mercy of my hormones. And, no offence, but my hormones just really don't seem that interested in sex at the moment. It takes every ounce of strength just to get through the day. Having a new baby is exhausting, and though I've never been happier, I really don't feel like sex at the end of a long day. We will have sex again, one day, probably when you stop asking me for it, because the fact you are doing that is really making me dislike you.
You might also like to read this article, Why Doesn’t She Want Sex After Having A Baby?
What Not Say #9: “What Do You Do All Day?!”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Wow, what a tactful question. Thank you, that has really made me feel valued. Remember that time I had a bath for one hour while you stayed downstairs with the baby? You soothed, you sang, you burped, you changed nappies and you cuddled. I do that. And more. All day long.
What Not Say #10: “My Mum Thinks…”
What she’ll likely be thinking: I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but I really don't care what your mother thinks. I can tell from her facial expressions and snidey comments that she thinks I am doing everything wrong. I don't care. She has raised her children, now it's our turn to raise ours.
What Not Say #11: “How/When Are You Going To Lose The Baby Weight?”
What she’ll likely be thinking: Well, I've already tried giving birth, and that seems to have worked out pretty well. Next I'll probably begin an intensive routine of waiting for my uterus to shrink back down, and see what difference that makes. Thanks for asking though, I wasn't feeling quite self-conscious enough before. At least now I am fully aware that you have noticed that my body has changed. Did you see my stretchmarks, too?
What Not Say #12: “Working Hard?”
What she’ll likely be thinking: I know, this is a joke. I can tell by the smug look on your face. Yes, ok, you just walked in from work, and i've sat on the sofa with a glass of wine in my hand, and a sleeping baby on my chest. But five minutes earlier, I was running round clearing up snotty tissues, muslin cloths, dirty nappies and soft toys. What you're seeing now, is the first time I have sat down all day, the first minute I've had to even think about a glass of wine. So please, please don't make jokes about it. I'm too tired to explain why it's not funny.
It sounds like a lot of rules, and you're probably wondering what it is you are allowed to say. Well, that's simple. You can say what a great job your partner is doing, what a great mother she is, and how lucky your baby is to have such a great mother. Say that, please, and nothing else. She won't ever tire of hearing it.
Don't worry, these rules won't apply forever. Just until the hormones and sleep deprivation die down, and your partner is feeling more like her old self again. Then feel free to make as many wisecracks as you want.