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May 31, 2005

Comments

Laura

This was just what I needed to hear today. I've been feeling all alone in this momminess and having a pity party I guess. But I am also seriously scared. My marriage is feeling very strained. The only comfort I can pull out of my spinning brain is that we started out so differently and perhaps I can somehow tap into that part of us again. And I have tapped into it on occasion, it just doesn't stick like I want it to. I would love to really know that my husband still really likes me, even though I've turned into "the grumpy old troll". I know he's totally devoted to me, but where's the connection we used to have? I would love to really know that he loves being a dad and that he understands his own part of the equation.
But mothers have an advantage that dads don't. We get thrust into parenthood with a force that requires us to change IMMEDIATELY. We learn to adjust out of the sheer need to survive and for our child to survive. Dads get to go back to work and change an occasional diaper. They don't realize that life will never go back to what they're used to. I have learned after three children that my husband comes around about 18 months after the kid shows up. He begins to understand that he needs to adjust his time for helping out and bonding with yet another family member. He sees that there's a new reason he comes home every night and why he has days off and why I keep asking for dates and for him to watch the kids while I go for a drive. Not being in the house to see all the frenzy makes it too easy to believe that a new baby is not such a big adjustment. But it is, especially for a marriage that's been lost in "the baby shuffel". We've been here before and I trust that we'll work it out, but it's still scarey.

sarah

Lana - i, too, feel your pain. We've been through a lot in the three years we've been parents. At first, I was working while Jonathan stayed home with Everett, so for the first several weeks, it was all daddy. Then we were both working, very hard, and Everett was spending some time in the office with me, most of the time with a nanny. And as Everett became more and more of a mama's boy, sleeping with me, making a literal wall between me & Jonathan, the parenting conflicts began.

We reached the absolute worst point of our relationship when Jonathan joined the Army Reserves and was gone for four months of my pregnancy with Truman. Once he got home, his patience was shot and he didn't understand Everett's almost 3-year-old issues (separation anxiety, new baby, etc.) It wasn't until the past few weeks that he got to the point where he had begun to develop patience to do what mamas do all the time - like when you can stand there while your tired toddler melts down in the grocery store because you forgot your credit card and he so, so wants what is in the cart. And he loses that patience really easily.

It's a constant process, and we've had a lot of suggestions that we get counseling, too. So far we've worked it out by just talking things over (ok, sometimes shouting) a lot. We're a very open couple, but we have a lot of meltdowns. It's a constant struggle, for us, for everyone.

mgood

Lana,

Since commenting previously, I've had time to go back and read all of your previous posts. Now I remember that I did read them before, but didn't associate this one with them. You have such an interesting life course, and such challenges. I admire what you've chosen to do - please keep us updated. You chose happiness, and then have had to buck tradition by not following the cultural norm in order to maintain it. You have more choices in the same vein now, and I'd love to know how you find your way.

Thinking about you.

Emily

Here's something that made a difference for me. My girls are five and three, and when the oldest was still pretty little, about six months I think, I went away for a weekend and her Dad had her all to herself. At the time I wasn't particularly wild about going away, but there was something I needed to attend, a wedding or a meeting somewhere.

I left lots of instructions, plenty of food for him, and had a few people stop by to touch base over the weekend.

I was nervous and he was nervous, but in the end he did great. And he dined off the experience for months. I can't tell you how many times he managed to casually bring up with friends (particularly other guys) how he'd had the baby for the weekend. It became funny, like he'd done the Ironman or swam the channel.

But it did result in a shift. He told me that having one-on-one time with our little girl, without me getting in the way or hovering, made him feel like he could have his own relationship with her and it didn't have to look like mine. That he could do things his way, and everyone would survive and maybe even thrive. I think he saw her as a person for the first time.

Not all men are willing to do this, but it might be worth a try.

Laurie

My situation started out a little differently, but I wound up in the same place as you are now.

My son was born with health problems. We knew, almost from the start, that Anthony was going to need a liver transplant. My husband pulled away, afraid to get too close to Anthony. I pulled in, doing it all, and feeling completely frazzled in the end.

At three months of age, my son had his transplant...from my Mark (my hubby), no less. And still, Mark didn't pitch in too much. He'd do a diaper change sometimes, and ASK about what medicines Anthony was taking (13 pretransplant, 11 post; now he's down to ONE!), but he'd rarely dose the meds out himself.

Once we were home from the hospital (Anthony and I spent 98 days in Omaha, NE...1400 miles from home, Mark was there sometimes, other times at home working and going to grad school), Mark didn't do too much again. Finally it took me just walking away sometimes for him to catch on. "Anthony needs a diaper change", and I'd put Anthony in his lap. Then I'd walk away.

He now has gotten to the point where he will do more things without prompting. And it helps that Anthony is 18 months old and can communicate a little.

We also started a "no outside communications" rule a few months ago. No computer, short phone conversations, and no TV until Anthony was asleep. Now I find that we don't gravitate towards the computer or TV too much...even once Anthony's in bed. We spend the next two hours talking, hanging out. Even if Mark IS on the computer, I'll bring a book into the room and read. It's not so much the talking, but the being together.

It took him a while to catch on to being a dad. Now I wouldn't trade him for the world. He's already talking about baby #2, and I'm thinking "Let's get Anthony potty trained first!"

Good luck! I'd suggest just keep communicating with him how you're feeling. I had to learn not to cry or tear up when I was talking to Mark about all of this. He would totally shut down.

james

Don't know how I slipped into your blog, but.... I was the same. I've been married almost 20 years, our children are 18, and 16, and I treated my wife in a similar fashion to how you've stated being treated.

Two things:

1) You can't fix a situation that hasn't been "created". What you describe is more of a learned response than one created. Most men, myself included, don't know what to do when the baby is born. So, we do what we have always done.... find something else to do. Dirty Diapers, crying, feeding, etc... don't seem to count as something to do, and I can't tell you how to make them count. That being said: Fatherhood takes time. Most new dads are scared to death of not being the right dad or doing the wrong thing, and so do nothing (inadvertently) out of fear. This takes time. It took me until my youngest was 4 before I slipped out of my shell to notice there was life around me. It took me the next few years to repair the damage I did to my marriage. Hopefully you won't have to wait that long.

2) How was he raised? My dad and I didn't have a relationship until I was an adult. Can't explain why, but we didn't. Therefore I had a hard time developing a relationship with my sons. And then, I had to learn how to be a dad, not a buddy because I screwed up the relationship part. That being said: There is hope. I recently spent 10 months as the primary caregiver for our 6 month old foster child (she's now 18 months) which forced me into relationship. This changed my life completely. I don't know what method you could use to have your husband be the caregiver for a few days (7 - 10), but it may make all the difference in the world. I must have apologized to my wife ten times per day, ever day that we had the foster child for all of the things I took for granted that she did. The only people who know what a full time mother's job entails are full time mothers/fathers. I found out why my wife would get mad every time I said "you're home all day, why can't you make the call" or "I don't understand why these things can't get done while your home all day". I don't think there is enough repentance for some of the things I said out of ignorance. What I found out, is that the dad (in my case ME), doesn't understand how much work it is to raise a baby. I went through the crawling to walking stage. I found out the true meaning behind nappy time (see the pillow behind the couch?) and the value of a schedule. As mentioned in point 1, our instincts are to fix things, be it at work or in the home, not nurture and care for things. Hopefully you can show him what needs to be fixed (the relationship with you and your baby) without the "nagging" aspect men always seem to notice first in such a manner that he understands. Not knowing your husband directly I can't tell you how. However, there are tons of mentoring programs out there for men who are new fathers as well as counselors.

Hopefully you can show him your point of view, and he can learn to do what doesn't come naturally (nurture a child).

I hope this helped in some sense.

RobinP

Hi Lana,
There is no easy answer to this. Rich and I went through this when Lillianna was a baby. He was a good dad right from the beginning but it felt like he was so far away mentally. I was so mad at him for turning me into a bitch. That's how I felt. Like HE turned me that way due to his lack of interest in me and in the household chores.

We ended up in therapy when Lillianna was 2 years old and that put a band-aid on the relationship until Lillianna was 5 yrs old and Rich left for 6 months. After that, we went back into therapy and are so much better now than we were 7 years ago! It has taken a lot of work for both of us but it is worth it!

I know this isn't helpful, nor is it a "pick-me-up" but so many marriages go through some type of relationship crisis after a child is born. You'd think that with the addition of a baby, life would be better but men go through something like post-partum depression. I truly believe that.

They stress about being the sole bread winner. They stress about taking care of the family. They stress about their wife not having time for them. The list is endless.

Just know, you are not alone. It happens to most couples!!
Ask your husband to read your post.Maybe you need to talk....again.

Nicola

Lana, I felt very much this way when our son was small. I was home full time and my husband was at work. When he was at home, he was working in the garden, or painting the house -- you get the picture. He was totally uninvolved in our son's life.

But then I returned to work. And he took over full time. It changed in a matter of days. As primary caregiver, he was immediately involved. Suddenly, six months into his life, Kellan had a dad! We are now both back at work, but split our days so that one of us is with Kellan full time while the other is at work. We are a family again, I have my husband back, and Kellan has an incredibly loving and involved father.

I know that this won't work in your case, but you can modify it. Take weekends off. Give your son to his dad and head out to do your own thing. I know that this goes against your nature and it feels as though you're actually losing family time. But in a short while you will notice a difference. A dad who has been thrown into the thick of things will suddenly notice his child and become much more involved. Pump some milk or leave some formula, give him instructions (after awhile you won't need to do that), and let them learn to be together. Its the best gift that you can give your family. I hope that it might work for you as it worked for us.

kat

I'm so sorry for you. I will keep you in my thoughts!

bethany

I could have written this post... and some days still could.

I don't have answers for you, but can tell you that I have gone through these feelings, almost the same situations, and have (and still deal with) a husband who sometimes would rather sit in his office and play on the computer rather than play with his son--or at least that is the way it feels to me. And yes, on those days- it often feels like I am the only one who does the day-to-day caring for our child (or is forced to).

Now, I have talked to my husband many times, tried wording it the right way, and yes--sometimes it gets through. Sometimes in the heat of the arguement words get twisted and feelings get hurt.... but sometimes it works.

As our son has grown up, it has gotten a little easier. I have learned to talk to my husband--as well as how to work with him to have him participate more. So, don't feel hopeless. Just keep working at it.

I learned that fatherhood can be a isolated existence as well... and sometimes men retrieve to their cave (in your hubby's case that might be work) because they don't know what else to do.

You are not alone, and keep trying-- you can make it through! :-)

mgood

I am so sorry that you are facing this difficulty. It's a very hard time for both of you. Surely you'll receive a lot of help and support from others who've read this, but for all it's worth, I'd like to offer what I've learned since having my daughter fifteen months ago.

You know your own situation better than I could surmise, but I found I related to these parts of your story, without a thorough knowledge of the cultural differences that were mentioned:

First, I've forgotten where I read this, and I think it was on a post here, but it amounted to this: You can't get all of your emotional support from one source. Blog, find a playgroup, talk to a public health nurse if you have one - find others to talk to. I say these two things often: "If I didn't blog I'd burst" and "Blogging makes you care about people you don't even know."

Men have different ways of communicating and different emotional needs - a long time ago I read that stupid "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" book, and was surprised that it helped when my next (my current ten year old one!) relationship came around. The timing of communications, the framing of questions and requests, and the need for certain mental space is different for men. Understanding how to manipulate it is essential for women. Think of it as learning a necessary skill as you would for a job - like public speaking or business negotiations. It's a shame that it's needed in the first place - but even the understanding that my husband needs fifteen or twenty minutes when he gets home from work to change his mindset to family mode means we all have a better evening. The days that he walks home from work are better for all of us, because it's done before he gets here. Perhaps this is something that you might ask your husband - How can I keep you present when you're here?

Second, the term nag appeared more than once. It's easy to feel that way - I often do. Try not asking. Try making something or someone else the bad guy. Around our house, where we're in a similar position responsibility-wise, we had to get out of the habit of referring to the time my husband spends with our daughter as "babysitting". He's not - he's simply caring for her because it's part of his fatherhood. Same with holding, diaper changes and feeding. Don't ask. Just hand the baby over and state what needs to happen and walk away - and let him do it however he wants to without critique. He knows he doesn't do things the way I would, but at least they're getting done. We both write jobs that need to be done on a list, and that way the list becomes the bad guy. Things may not get done, we may do our own items or the other guy's, but we don't have to repeat them (nag!) and we both feel accomplished when we cross them off (and then we don't need the other guy to recognize that they're done in order to feel good). We've stopped trying to compare who does more. Life is a 24-hour a day job for both of us.

Look at his family relationships and parental role models - he may just need more time to figure out how he wants to be a father. What has he had to learn from?

And he may never change. He's still the person he was before you both had a baby, but he may never be the person you want him to be in your new family mode. You may not be able to change him, but you can change how you feel about it and your expectations and how you manage things. You can still love him for who and what he is, which might be easier when you aren't comparing it to who he isn't.

And you both love your baby, right! Love doesn't seem to be the question.


Take good care of yourself.

patrice

I'm so sorry that you're going through this.

probably the only thing I can say is that there are very few decisions we make in life that can't be reversed. read into that what you want - it can be as transparent as you wish or as complicated as you wish. but there are always choices.

that sometimes makes things harder, but it does offer pathways out, if you're willing to take them. and even after you make choices, you can always change your mind.

I'd suggest counseling if you can get your husband to go. GOOD LUCK!!

Been there, still there

Hi Lana,

I feel your pain. So, first of all, know that you are not alone in feeling this way or experiencing this. My kid are 17 and 13 and there are even now (too) many days when I feel this way.

The things that kills me is this - even when you are unhappy, you are thnking of asking him how you should change, to make things better! I did and still do the same thing. Just shows the power of our socialization and how we are programmed to please. Even if it means denying our sadness and anguish.

But this is wrong - if we are in a commiitted marriage we have a right to expect that our husbands will care enough to know when we are unhappy, and care enough to want to fix things and to want to try.

The way things are, the guys have it pretty good - their life, their bodies, their outside interests and associations are virtually unchanged while we go through this tremendous emotional, physical and yes, even hormonal renegotitaion of our very identity. Plus, they have us feeling less in control, more dependent, more needy.

I am not sure what the answer is to all this. The thing that has worked for me is making lots of other outside friends through whom I get the support and validation I need. It is not the best, again because our socialzation has taught us to expect a "happily ever after". But, it is the best of a bad situation.

Take care, and keep your chin up.. (((((HUGS)))))

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