Family

Getting help with your new baby

Author: Canadian Living

Family

Getting help with your new baby

How to let Dad help
"When the baby was born I wouldn't let my husband do anything. And when he did do something, I criticized him. My mom told me, 'You either let him do it his way or he will not help you.'"
-- Eva, married 8 years, 2 kids

"They may not eat veggies when I'm gone, but I don't criticize him. If I do, I will break down his ability to relate to the kids."
-- Allison, married 7 years, 2 kids

Most dads can be pretty handy with babies. Yet how often do we complain (and the three of us have often done so ourselves) that our husbands are completely clueless? Are we contributing to that cluelessness? We don't deliberately set them up to fail, but do we equip them to succeed? For most of us, motherhood is a trial-and-error/baptism-by-fire education. We learn as we go. If we stand over our husband as he tries to identify the front of the diaper, or make sure that he is holding the baby just so, how will he learn as he goes?

"I don't have any baby responsibilities. There is no division of labour. She refuses to let anyone else care for Owen. Even me."
-- Doug, married 5 years, 1 kid

Plenty of guys are happy to use their wives' controlling tendencies to escape their shared responsibilities. Don't give him that excuse. A few years down the road, when that baby is a toddler throwing a tantrum, and your husband tells you that you should deal with it because "you are so much better than me at this stuff," what will you say? If we never gave them an opportunity to hone their parenting skills, can we really blame them?

Turn to other women
Julia and Gordon moved when she was eight months pregnant with her second child. She didn't know a soul in their new town. But a couples of her new neighbours took her under their wings. They helped her find everything from a pediatrician to a preschool to an OB to deliver the baby. They kept her sane after the baby was born, too. She often wondered how she would have survived without them.

It's one of the few bad things about being born a North American. In some cultures, newborns are the exclusive province of women. The new mother is put to bed after the baby is born. She is fed and pampered. The baby is brought to her for feedings and then taken away so that she can sleep and recover. A community of women tends to her and the baby. (We're not quite sure what the new father is doing -- assembling the baby's highchair, perhaps...) While plenty of us had lots of great help from mothers, sisters, in-laws, and friends, no one we know had this kind of gentle adjustment to motherhood. But wouldn't you agree that the wisdom, empathy, and kindness of other women are essential for all new mothers?

One of the reasons we think we should turn to our female friends and relatives is that our husbands, as men, even though they are heaviliy invested in their kids and our emotional needs, are not equipped to give us everything we need at this time. Only another mother can understand how thrilled, overwhelmed and terrified we feel. Only another woman can talk to us about latch-on and nipple shields. (See, we just lost whatever male reader we had up to this point.)

When Stacie and Julia had their first kids, they joined forces and helped each other out. They shared a sitter twice a week to keep the baby-sitting costs down and give the kids some playtime together. Even after the sitter went home, they'd often hang out together through the long afternoon "witching hours." They even kept each other's kids overnight so the other could get a break with her hubby.

We women have to be careful what we demand and expect of each other with new babies on the scene. Like the preschool teacher who asked Stacie to make a casserole for the class party eight days after she'd had her third baby. Like the friends who raise an eyebrow when they come over to your house for a playdate and things are a little untidy. Let's be sisters united in the cause, not sisters who sit in judgment of each other.

How full is your cup?
"I didn't start doing yoga again until I started getting migraines and my doctor said I had to."
-- Leslie, married 8 years, 3 kids

"I gave myself over to motherhood until I realized, hey, I need to keep myself healthy if I'm going to be around to take care of my child. So I finally got my butt back to the gym."
-- Margaret, married 5 years, 1 kid

We are, for the most part, thrilled by our new role, but the thrill diminishes if we don't take care of ourselves. Once we are out of the Twilight Zone, we need to reclaim our sense of self. We need to make time for our girlfriends. If we can't get motivated enough to do it for ourselves, we need to do it for our kids. A frazzled mother running on fumes is not a good mother.
 



Excerpted from Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill, Julia Stone. Copyright 2007 by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill, Julia Stone. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Getting help with your new baby

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