Culture & Entertainment

How to stop preventing your husband from being a dad

By: Jennifer Gruden
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

How to stop preventing your husband from being a dad

By: Jennifer Gruden
Father's Day is coming up (and we've got awesome gift ideas, crafts and more) and of course I will celebrate both my own dad and my husband. I also usually take a few moments to think about how I used to be my husband's own worst enemy when it came to our elder son. Like many Canadian women, I took the full 50-week combined maternity and parental leave. That was really the first time in our marriage that we had divided up the household responsibilities along such traditional lines.  And you know that whole cultural thing about the "clueless dad?" I started to feel that way about my husband when it came to baby care. I think these things influenced me:
  • I was projecting my fear of being a terrible parent on him
  • I both resented that I was doing the breastfeeding and I had the magical secret weapon against fussy baby, all together
  • I was spending hours and hours a day observing our baby and learning all the magical baby care tricks (hint: drop a baby washcloth over your boy's private area while changing) alone
  • he was learning the baby tricks evenings and weekends with a crazed wife standing behind him saying "don't do it that way."
And that last was the big mistake. I really did not mean to, but I think I managed to convey -- sometimes directly and sometimes with an audible sniff or two -- that he was "doing it wrong." And that...was wrong. Luckily, somewhere around the nine month mark my husband and I had a terrible series of arguments...the worst we'd had in our marriage ever. And as a result, he started stepping up more -- and I started letting go. It wasn't actually until I went back to work full-time that we really became equally good at the day-to-day parenting tasks, but we got a lot closer. I'll share the turning point in my experience: One night I went out to a musical. My son was never one to take a bottle and hadn't yet transitioned to a sippy cup. But they were really expensive tickets so I pumped, and went leaving milk behind. When I came home my son had had six ounces of milk...because my husband had spoon fed them to him. Which was crazy. But it worked. And I realized that if he had that amount of patience, then I had nothing to worry about. And it took me getting out of the way to see it. So if your husband is newly a father, and you're doing the lion's share of the care, here are my tips:
  • the advice baby books give to let him be the expert at something, like the baby bath (here's how to accomplish that) is great. But go a bit further --
  • it's great to create situations where your partner is solely responsible for the baby, without you. A baby swim class Saturday mornings turned out to be a great decision for us -- my husband would take our son off and I would sleep.
  • unless something is happening that is likely to end in injury or permanent damage to something, let your spouse work it out. He will figure it out, or it won't matter.
  • if you think about the grand scheme of things, a good relationship with a father is way more important than whether your baby tried apple or carrots first.
How have you and your partner supported each other in becoming parents? What surprised you the most?
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How to stop preventing your husband from being a dad

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