After your gorgeous little baby is born – and especially if it’s your first – it’s completely understandable that as new mother, you may become super protective of your baby.
You’ve carried this adorable being inside you for nine months, you’re falling in love (thanks to the delicious mummy margarita) and those potent mama bear hormones are flying around the place!
While it’s important to be protective of our offspring, being overly protective can make life more difficult for both ourselves and our partner, without even realising it.
I’ll put my hand up – I was guilty of being far too protective of my firstborn. I didn’t really think I could look after our baby better than my partner, but because I had spent more time with our baby, I understood our baby’s needs better and I could sort out problems much quicker than her dad could. So when our baby cried, I wanted to swoop in and and soothe her, before giving her dad a chance to learn how to soothe her crying.
I often fell into the trap of going into autopilot and doing whatever needed to be done for our baby – even taking the baby off my partner and settling her myself, because I knew I could get it done quicker and with fewer tears.
However, doing this creates a bigger problem.
It’s an issue which many new fathers express concern about: not being able to learn for themselves. Below are some comments from some experienced BellyBelly dads, as well as ten great tips for new mothers, written by Psychologist, Danny Chable.
What Do Dads Think?
Despite what we might assume, dads do have an opinion and feelings when it comes to being competent with a new baby. One dad says, “I think the main thing a woman can do to help their partner after giving birth is to not exclude him from dealing with the new baby. I can’t speak for other men, but I was fascinated with the whole baby thing. I remember as soon as my first daughter was born. The midwives started taking her out of the room for a check-up. I just sprang up and followed. There was no way I was letting them run off with her!”
He continues, “My wife was a little protective of our first daughter and it was months before I got to bath her solo. I’m sure my wife was in another room tearing her hair out, probably thinking I was drowning her by accident. But it was great. I felt like I was making a real contribution to the raising of our new daughter. My wife was much calmer after the birth of daughter number two, and I was allowed to “drive” from day one. So women – get your men involved!”
What we need to realise is the act of doing and completing tasks helps to build competence, confidence and self esteem.
Another dad suggested the following would be helpful:
“It’s one heck of a balancing act for us men, on one hand ‘it’s all good' and we can cope with anything, but remember this is a major change for us too. Men don’t get subtle hints, we don’t get direct hints either! If you are feeling one way or another, please just tell us and we will all be happy. If YOU need help, ask. We are more than happy to do whatever it is you would like. We love you and are there to serve.
Constant pointers on how to do something are great. Now here is the balancing act, we feel that we can’t let you know we are freaked out and have no idea what we are doing. Please try to be supportive and tell us how to do something right (not how wrong we are doing it). Try to remember that you may be spending 24/7 with the new bub, but if we are back at work we don’t get that sort time to get to know all the little signals that you read from the baby.
Quiet time. We love it. With you, with the baby, with both. It’s probably a good idea to stay close at hand when we have our quiet time with bub. We are happy for you to sit quietly in another lounge chair, or to go and have that long bath, just don’t be surprised when we ask where the nappies are kept for the 10,000th time. Remember from the last point we take a while to pick these things up.
Our own quiet time. This one is probably the hardest for any couple. We understand you are with the baby all day and want some time to yourself, but remember that we are at work all day too. In my case I’m usually up a few hours before my wife. When we get home we may want 15 minutes to ourselves to sit before helping out. Again, this is something that is probably best discussed openly. In short both of us are tired and we need to negotiate some time to spend together, and apart, to retain some level of sanity. It’s not easy for either us being new parents. But communication is a big part.”
One dad felt supporting him with work issues were important, and asking women to realise that they do think of their partner back at home:
“I truly believe that women, in some way think, men just go to work and therefore are switched off to their partner’s problems, how they are coping and the fact that their partner has to be with the baby all the time in an often messy house. Believe it or not, most men I know are actually quite aware of this. They may not show it in the way the woman may want it to be, but it is still acknowledged by the male.
Unfortunately, after having a baby we somehow believe that we have to escalate our ability to provide. Not all men are resentful of having kids – a great deal of them feel like they have to get on top of all the finances and provide more so they feel relaxed. For some reason I believe this gets attacked… and it should… but attacked for the wrong reasons. Usually it’s, ‘You are late… you don’t care how I feel’, etc… But as stated before, it’s quite the contrary. In my eyes, a supportive nudge and something like, ‘Hon, I know you want to get on top of everything and have that college fund set up for junior, but we can work on it slowly. It’s okay to relax a little bit and spend some quality time with your family – then we can have those talks about owning a big beautiful house to retire in…”
A brilliant book that I recommend for all men (and their partners) is Manhood by Steve Biddulph.
BellyBelly’s Psychologist, Daniel Chable’s Top Ten Tips For Mums
#1: Do Appreciate That Your Partner Is Under Pressure Too
If would be beneficial for both of you if it were possible for things to be arranged such that each of you had the opportunity to do something for yourselves that each of you likes on an alternating basis (after things have settled down with your baby).
Don’t forget, however, that it is very important for you the two of you to do things together on a regular basis (whether it is once every six weeks or once every week) and it doesn’t have to cost anything to do it. It would be good for the two of you if this could be in place by the time your last child is 1 year old at the latest. You can take turns choosing what you will do.
#2: Don’t Tell Him About Everything That Happened During The Day The Moment He Enters The Door
Come to some agreement about when is the best time to talk. Some men like to have even five minutes of adjustment between when they arrive home and when they are “hands on”.
Even if it's the time between just getting out of his work clothes and into something more comfortable. It helps him to shift gears from work to home.
#3: Do Tell Him Exactly What You Want From Him
Most men prefer direct, unambiguous communication. Tell him what you need and want, without demanding of course.
#4:Communicate When It Comes To Sex
Don’t expect that just because you are too exhausted to even think about having sex that he feels the same.
You need to let him know how much you simply want some time to yourself (sort of like what he gets when he watches television or plays games on the computer); and that your intimate relationship will return in due course.
A good article for men to read is Why Doesn’t She Want Sex With Me After Having A Baby?
#5: Do Recognise Most Men Tend To Have Good Focused Vision
… while most women tend to have good peripheral vision.
When you ask him to find something in the fridge that you know is there and he can’t find it that it is because of this rather than simply being lazy. Understanding goes a long way in preventing resentment.
#6: Don’t Assume That Your Partner Is Similar To A Woman
Both parents need their own downtime – even if for some mothers that means going out to do the shopping alone while he watches the kids, or going for a walk to de-stress. A common preference for men is watching their favourite television program. When he is watching a television (particularly football!), the last thing he wants to do is get his brain ticking over and discussing things.
It may appear that he isn’t doing anything, but he is actually very focused on what is taking place in the match. Let him watch the match his team is playing in (but not every match!) and save any discussions for after the game, unless its really important. This is not an old way of thinking, its simply allowing your partner to have his own downtime and being responsible for your own too. Make sure you’ve allocated your undisturbed activity time too.
#7: Recognise That What You're Expecting From Your Partner Tends To Be Similar To What You Experienced When You Were Growing Up
Your respective experiences were neither right nor wrong.
The two of you need to work out (compromise) what will work best for both of you.
#8: Don’t Assume Your Partner Understands How You Want Him To Talk With You – Most Men Don’t Understand This
You need to tell him that you would like him to make some special time e.g. over a cup of tea/coffee when he will listen to what you are telling him; tell him how he can show you he is listening; tell him that you would like him to be able to be empathic about your situation; and that you don’t want him to give you a solution and/or walk out of the room if you become a little annoyed or upset.
#9: Do Tell Him You Need Recognition And Encouragement From Him
It's okay to tell him you need him to be a soulmate and to tell you that he loves you – and you need this much more frequently than he needs it from you. Many men say that they survive just fine if their woman tells them that she loves him once a year.
He might like to read this article: 5 Important Things Mothers Want Dads To Know which is a brilliant summary of what a new mother goes through emotionally.
#10: Don’t Assume Your Partner Is Incompetent About Looking After Babies
Just because he may choose to take your baby out in a non colour-coordinated outfit, this is not a sign of incompetence.
The more your child gets to know that there is more than one way of doing things, the more secure they will be.