Marriage with Baby Daddy
I know that my expertise is more in the arena of baby play and development, but I find myself using this blog as a way of expressing and writing about things that are really personal to me to share and connect me to other moms. I've referenced this article before when I talked about my birth story, but it seems fitting to mention it again here on the topic of partners, significant others, husbands and baby daddies. How she describes that love you already share with your partner being magnified through seeing them care for your baby together stuck with me. If you're in a loving marriage, you don't even know what that love can mean once your baby arrives. With that new love comes a lot of annoying sh*t too. There's also that double standard that so many more of us are acknowledging now, this baby is BOTH of yours, and it brings up things like "do men's bathrooms have changing diaper stations? why do we feel like we should thank our husbands when they change a diaper?" or "why do I feel like my husband is doing a favor when he's the one "on duty?" So, I made an anecdotal list of advice I would have given my "new mom" self when it comes to marriage once you have a baby. These are things I've come to realize 8 months into parenting.
1. Have the breastfeeding convo beforehand. Let your husband know if you have a preference or plan as to what you're going to do in terms of breastfeeding and what that may mean. I made the mistake of not knowing a thing about breastfeeding, the time commitment it involved and the physical and emotional sacrifices it takes. I didn't so much as mention the term to my husband. Once Tess was born and I surprised us both with how much I wanted to breastfeed. I realized it was something I should have maybe considered to mention to both my husband and myself. It made things harder that neither of us knew what to expect and that before we knew it, the breast pump became our new "lovey." Even if you don't know what you plan to do, or what you'll be able to do, I wish I knew a little bit more about it for both of our sake.
2. Include your husband in baby responsibilities right away. I felt it was important to let Matt do whatever he wanted to contribute to the care of Tess after I saw how easily I could extinguish his spirits if I tried to micromanage. As long as it's safe (lol) we should encourage their involvement and EXPECT it. At the hospital, Matt saw that Tess was getting formula while in the NICU and I woke up one time to find him feeding formula to her. I flipped out and saw how much it hurt him. Since there was a day or two where we had to do both breast and formula, my husband was confused and I shouldn't have attacked him for that. I could have just communicated differently and from that point on I encouraged his involvement and tried not to micromanage. So, if you have an issue with something he may be doing, stay calm, count to 10 and then confront.
3. Watch your nest camera and fall in love all over again. There are moments that the dad's are going to be "on call" by themselves. Whether its for us to get a manicure, girls night out, or if its just daddy's turn to do bedtime. It's the moments that they think were not looking or listening that they really make us melt. I had never heard my husband's "story time voice" until watching the nest camera and a week doesn't go by that I don't replay his "Llama Llama" video I saved from the nest footage.
4. Don't be a hater. As long as you philosophically align, let that be open for interpretation. Try not to be too critical, they're trying and sometimes we need to think of it as a "work in progress." A friend of mine recently said "it's just so funny because he has all of the tools, and uses them in his own way to make play his own. Which, is "right" and "fun" for him as a dad. Who cares if its not my "vision" of play?" it really stuck with me, especially since I'm adamant about allowing a baby to play the "right way." Pick your battles, how they occasionally play with the baby shouldn't be one of them.
5. Take advantage of help right away. And I don't mean you should have fomo and feel pressured every time you have a sitter, grandparent or nanny, but, even if its going out to grab a breastfeeding craved cupcake at Magnolia, get out for 30 minutes with just your husband. Sometimes you may just want to sleep but if you can function, try to do something you'd NEVER get to do if the baby was around. Like, if you hire a sitter while you're on vacation, do an activity, even if that means its a dip in the ocean, even if you hate the ocean, do it. It will help you feel young when you suddenly feel so old :(
6. Don't schedule sex. It's not fun that way and reminded me of when we had to schedule sex during the trying to conceive period. BUT, make time for it, it should be a priority. As unsexy as we sometimes may feel especially in those initial months or while breastfeeding. The only way to get out of that is to actually fake it til we make it ;)
7. Don't ask your husband to "babysit" when you need him to be on duty. Its his child too, can you imagine if it was called babysitting when WE were the ones watching our babies?! For both his sake and your own, don't set this precedent or introduce this terminology which can feel condescending to him, or, worse, make him feel like he's doing you a favor by taking care of his own child. No Bueno.
8. Delegate. I made the mistake of not doing this because I felt that I could do everything and anything better, faster, and more efficiently than my husband. But then you reach a point where you're like f*ck it, who cares if its not perfect and your husband is not used to doing certain things because you've been such a psycho about it all. So, take it from me, delegate asap. You don't want to be teaching your husband how to hold a bottle 5 months in (k, I'm exaggerating, but am I?)
9. Make date nights. The type of nights where you have someone at home with your baby who doesn't make you feel like you need the Nest camera open on your phone the entire time. The type of nights where you don't use the time to catch up on emails and social media. Just true focused date nights.
10. Plan your first "alone" vacation - doesn't matter when, could be at 3, 6, 9, 12 months post partum, but plan it. You'll both have it to look forward to and it will be a good way of separating from your baby for the first time. I still have yet to go on ours but at least its planned for this Fall.
And lastly, acknowledge and discuss this double standard that exists. That our job as mother's is the most important in the world, but that doesn't mean that we should parent any more or less than our partners. It used to be "get my husband to realize how hard being a mom is" now its more "make sure my husband knows and acknowledges that being a PARENT is hard and that we're both in it together." Otherwise, you can't be a wife if you're the only parent.
Jenny Mollens put it perfectly when she said "if you can't be a hands on dad, I can't be a hands on spouse."