The transition a couple goes through when they become first time parents can be nerve wracking, disrupting, and even hard on the marriage. Yet, it can also be wonderful, enlightening, and bring you closer together!
New moms tend to get a mental head start in the process of accepting a new lifestyle, as their bodies change and slow down during pregnancy. Mothers also get to know their babies from the womb and build a connection with them. This may make it easier for mothers to cope with the sacrifices a new baby brings. They were already getting used to living a slower life for the 9 months prior to birth.
However the perspective is a little different when a guy becomes a new dad. Nothing is changing with their body or their schedule, and they are often able to maintain the same level of activities. Then their baby is born and there is an ABRUPT change in the amount of personal time.
How to support him in becoming a new dad
If you are a tired mom looking for ways to entice your husband to help out more, these tips are for you! My goal is to help you understand how to encourage your man and build him up as a new dad, so that he becomes willing and able to take on his share of the responsibility in parenthood.
Perhaps you are a father but find yourself discouraged in fatherhood or your wife keeps nagging you to do more. I hope these tips will help you identify what you need to be successful and happy as a father and effectively communicate that to your wife.
Without further ado, let’s get to the tips!
1. Keep in mind the example his father set
You know that old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” If your man had a poor example as a father it may be contributing to his parenting style.
This is by no means an excuse to be a slacker! I am a firm believer that we humans are extraordinary and can overcome the negative experiences of our childhood. However it is important to keep this perspective in mind and offer him a little grace.
Women have a tendency to make comparisons. I hate when I do it, but I am guilty as charged! It must be something in our X chromosome.
We compare ourselves to others, we compare our children to other children, and can even compare our husbands to others dads and wonder why he isn’t a more natural and caring father like Suzi’s husband. Don’t fall into this trap or get yourself quickly out of it because it is unproductive.
We chose this man to father our children and have to work with the building block given, so let’s move forward to some actionable solutions!
The takeaway: Work with him where he is and don’t set him on an unrealistic pedestal. You are both learning on this journey together.
2. Come up with a parenting plan ahead of time
Before you embark upon any specific parenting situation, it is helpful to discuss with your partner how it should best play out.
Let’s use the night time routine as an example. You know you have to do a bath, dress in PJs, read a book, and nurse/bottle. You have to do this 7 nights a week. Discuss how you would like to tackle the task ahead of time with your partner, perhaps at dinner.
Maybe each of you would like to do a portion of the routine every night. Or you could take turns every other night doing all of the routine and let the other take a night off to relax or pursue personal goals.
This strategy can work for any situation but the important part is pre-planning to find a method that you both can agree upon. In this way there is a framework of expectations laid and less arguing over who does what.
The takeaway: Teamwork makes the Dream work!
3. Communicate kindly and often
Your needs as a parent will change. Sometimes you begin the journey with the momentum of the Persian army, but then it starts to fizzle out as the nights without sleep stack up.
Maybe you have a particular event you would like to be involved with or a crazy month at work so you need your partner to pick up the slack.
At the end of the day we like to do a debriefing. We talk about what is working, what isn’t working, what our personal needs are, and how we can make things better.
I know it is really hard in the heat of the moment to be kind in the way you talk to each other. Sometimes you are so disappointed by the other person’s actions (or lack there of) that it feels impossible to talk to them in a non-threatening manner.
This is when you have to grit your teeth and be even kinder. I will admit, I’m not perfect at this. But when I make the effort to communicate sweetly with my husband, I get far better results than when I come at him with guns-ablaze.
The takeaway: Sweet talking gets you a lot farther!
4. Leave them alone together
Let’s use another analogy just because it’s fun!
Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to jump off the diving board at the local pool for the first time?
You waited in line behind the other kids and when it came to be your turn you stepped up, walked the long plank, and looked down. Wasn’t it sooo much higher than you were expecting?
I was so intimidated to jump that I wanted to turn around, however the fear of embarrassment in front of the other kids was stronger. So I plugged my nose, held my breath, and JUMPED!
Fatherhood is kinda the same way. Resist the urge to do everything just because you are the mommy. The only way for a new dad to get more comfortable caring for his baby is to jump in feet first.
One of the best strategies to get him there is to go to work or on a prolonged outing on the weekend. Let him tackle the childcare for an extended amount of hours solo.
Even better, go for a weekend trip with your girlfriends. You totally deserve it and multiple days left alone will boost his dad skills and his confidence! I know it can be hard to relinquish control but you will be happier in the long run by taking some of the weight off your shoulders. And guess what…
…Your kid WON’T die!
If you are a dad reading this, remember that everything isn’t going to go smoothly. You don’t have the all powerful boob to help you either.
Give yourself some credit for what you have accomplished. Know how much character and trust you are building in your children by spending one-on-one time together. Research shows that children who spend more time with their fathers actually have higher IQs!
The takeaway: Let go and let him be a DAD!
5. Allow him some personal time
The demands of a new baby are high. As a mother a lot of them fall upon you because you get the longer (although not long enough) maternity leave and you have the boobies!
But the demands on dads are still great. He has to wake up, drive to the job, work for long hours, drive home, and then help you with whatever you need. He does this day in and day out.
If he is the type of man who places great value on personal hobbies, the transition to fatherhood will come as a greater shock if he finds he no longer gets time for any of them.
It may be that he really needs to have some time with his buddies or tinker around in the garage.
I know what you are thinking “I barely get time to shower why should he get to go out with friends?”
Well don’t worry mommies this is a two way street! But wouldn’t it be better to suck it up a bit and let him have some “me time” if it means we are going to have a happier more enthusiastic partner in parenthood?
The takeaway: Allow him to maintain his personal identity as a man by giving him time for the things he enjoys. (within reason of course!)
6. If you are breastfeeding, take the night shift
The saying misery loves company comes to mind here. If you are on maternity leave and breastfeeding, there really isn’t any reason to involve dad in the night feedings.
The most he can do is save you a trip out of bed. You will still have to wake up so you can safely feed your little one.
This goes back to my advice on what to bring to the hospital for dad.
What you end up with is two zombies and no one gets a break. If you allow dad to sleep through the night, then he can pick up the slack and give you at least one long uninterrupted nap a day. Even if it’s after he gets home from work.
As someone who has made it to the other side, I am here to tell you that your body does get used to functioning with less sleep. It is easier to keep up the momentum until your baby starts consistently sleeping through the night verses taking turns with the night feeds.
The first time you get to sleep for a longer period, your body is like HELLO, and it is much harder to wake up the next night.
Another reason for this: night feedings will help keep up your milk supply.
The takeaway: At least in the beginning, take the night-shift so dad can be equipped with the energy to help out more during the day.
7. Appreciate, Validate, and Invigorate
I would hate to compare training your husband to training a dog but since I already opened with this, the analogy will serve our purpose.
If you ever took psychology 101 you know the story about the Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. He was able to stimulate salivation from dogs by the sound of a bell because they associated the sound with getting fed. This involuntary reflex came from POSITIVE reinforcement.
In the same manner, when your husband does something helpful as a father, make sure you thank him for it! He is much more likely to do it again if he feels appreciated.
Be sure to mention it at a later date. Say things like, “you know hunny bunches of oats (or insert the preferred pet name), I really appreciate that you changed the baby’s diaper earlier. It really makes me proud to watch you as a dad.”
This validation will imprint on his mind and he will associate doing helpful fatherly things with the positive affirmations he receives from you.
What do I mean by invigorate. Well without getting too detailed, my mother gave me one piece of advice before I got married that holds its value in every situation. Keep his stomach full and his pants empty.
In the midst of all the changes of parenthood, don’t forget to take care of each other. Guard your relationship like a precious stone. Without this you will ultimately fail your children.
The takeaway: Appreciate each other. Give validation for a job well done, no matter how small. Take time out to care for each other.
8. Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day
You may be in a partnership with someone who has no idea how to be a parent. Well let me tell you, four months ago I had no idea how to create a website but here you are, reading my blog.
Be patient with each other. You will get there through trial and error. If you keep the first 7 pointers in mind then you will be on your way to cultivating a successful team approach to parenthood.
The good news is that children don’t start forming vivid, long-term memories until much later in life. They can remember bits and pieces, but even those memories start to fade as time goes on.
I allude to this so you will remember that you have time on your side. Your baby is not going to know that their dad was scared to hold them for the first year of their life because he was uncomfortable around babies.
Your husband however, WILL remember your criticism.
The takeaway: Don’t expect him to be the perfect father right away. Perfect fathers aren’t born, they are made through many mistakes.