When I become a first-time mother, I felt stressed, tired, sleep deprived and frustrated. I just felt overwhelmed while my husband was well-rested, energetic and relaxed. Until one day, my frustration got to the point where I got upset when he wasn't helping out with the baby. I would tell him that he wouldn't come to help me when the baby cried constantly or come and offer to watch the baby because I needed a rest. My husband would tell me, "You didn't ask me," or "You need to let me know if you need a break."
I thought it was common sense to help your wife with the baby, but I guess that's not true. Speaking with other moms whose husbands behaved in the same manner, I know there are more clueless husbands who are not stepping in to help their wives with the baby unless asked to. So I created a list for husbands so they understand what to expect when your wife brings home the baby.
1. Don't wait until she asks you for help with the baby. HELP HER! Don't just stand there like an idiot, help her! Your wife is probably overwhelmed with the new baby. She's too focused on how to be a good mother and feels scared out of her mind because she's afraid of getting it wrong. She's too occupied with feeding the baby, changing the baby, and comforting a crying baby that she's not on the look out to find you to ask you for help. Matter of fact, she shouldn't be asking you to help take care of your baby. Jump in and help your wife out. Oh, you're nervous? How do you think she feels? At the point when you think she doesn't need your help, she will need your help. Asking to help will make her feel confident that you have her back when she needs you even if she doesn't need your help at that moment.
2. Start bonding with the baby right away. It's never too early to bond with the baby. Yes, your wife is mothering the baby, but there are chances where you can jump in and bond with the baby. For example, when she needs to take a break, tell her that you will mind the baby while she naps or while she's getting something to eat. Change the baby's diaper, feed the baby, play with the baby, or simply hold the baby. I know you can't rough house with a baby (because that's what your instincts are telling you to do), but the slightest touch of your hand is all the baby would need for you to start a bond.
Being a mother takes trial and error and years of experience.
3. Realize that her parenting style will differ from yours. Don't compare parenting styles. What you do to help the baby sleep will be totally different in the way she helps the baby sleep. Don't force her to do it "your" way because you feel comfortable doing it that way. If she puts the baby to sleep by nursing and you put the baby to sleep by tiring the baby out, the goal of putting the baby to sleep happened, right? Let her have the freedom to mother the baby the way she feels comfortable just like you would want the freedom to father the baby the way you feel comfortable. As long it doesn't cause any harm to the baby, does it matter what methods the best? Get over yourself.
4. Just because she gave birth doesn't mean she knows everything about being a mother. Ok, I wrote a post on this topic, and I'll say it again: Just because she gave birth, she doesn't automatically know how to be a mother. Being a mother takes trial and error and years of experience. I know she's not as great as your mother (and will never be), but it took your mother years of experience to be a great mother and you need to give your wife that chance too. She will forget things, like pacifiers, bibs, diaper bags, favorite toys, and so on, but she is trying. Don't make her feel bad when she forgets things, you jerk. She is learning as she goes just like you. Have some compassion.
5. Realize your needs and wants will come last. I find it interesting when a baby enters the picture that the husband thinks that nothing will change in their relationship with their wife. HA HA HA! A baby is a life changing event. What do you mean nothing will change? Remember the sex you were getting every night? Nope, not going to happen, cowboy! You're lucky if you get sex; well at least for the first three months when a new baby arrives. Remember that cold beer she uses to get for you while you're watching the ball game? Isn't going to happen. You better walk to the fridge yourself. You'll be lucky if you can get a hello from her let alone a cold beer. The only bottle you'll see her carry is a bottle of milk for the baby. Also, don't expect her to cook dinner either. You better use those cooking skills or start obtaining cooking skills or have microwaving TV dinner skills and make yourself some dinner, and while you're at it, make your wife a plate too.
6. Show her appreciation. I can't say this enough. Show your appreciation to your wife. She just gave birth to your beautiful baby; that baby ruined her body and pushed it's big ole head out of her narrow canal, probably causing some tearing or maybe an episiotomy. Or if the baby was too stubborn to come out vaginally, she had to endure the pain of a c-section. She gained weight, grew stretch marks on her belly and suffered the most excruciating pain of her life giving birth and you're complaining that you can't sleep because the baby's crying? (If you are complaining about the baby crying, refer to #1). So yes, show her appreciation and thank her. Thank her daily because she didn't have to do that for you ... and you're welcome.
Be there if she needs a shoulder to cry on. Be there if she just wants to talk. Be there with her in silence if she wants you to.
7. Spend time together. This is important to spend quality time together. No, not the two of you and the baby. Spend some time to reconnect, because if you haven't realized, the baby will get in the way of your "quality" time. Don't leave it up to her to tell you that she wants quality time either. Having quality time at home watching a movie together and ordering Chinese food is good, but you can do better. Make plans to take her out to get AWAY from the baby if you can. Date her again so you can realize why you love each other which is probably the reason why you guys made a baby in the first place.
8. Offer to give her time to herself. Ask her what the best time for her to take a break so you can watch the baby. Don't wait until she asks, refer to #1.
9. Be understanding. She will get upset. She will break down. She will feel ugly sometimes. She will yell at you for no apparent reason. She will get depressed. She will get frustrated. She will cry. Having a new baby is very overwhelming, and you may not understand what she's going through. But whatever you do, don't try to fix it for her. She will need an ear to listen to her. Unless she asks you for a solution, don't give her one. She needs your understanding not judgment or solution. This leads me to the last point…
10. Be there for her. Be there if she needs a shoulder to cry on. Be there if she just wants to talk. Be there with her in silence if she wants you to. Don't pull away from her if she seems distant because she's tired and is focusing on the baby. Ask her, "Are you okay?" She will appreciate that. Maybe she will open up to you and if not, she knows that you are there when she is ready to.
I'm sure that I may have missed some other important things that husbands should know, but these are the ten things I wish my husband knew after we brought home our son three years ago. I hope this list will help husbands be more aware of what the wives are going through when they have a new baby and what he can do to help her. The first three months are usually the roughest on the wife so she is going to need the support of her husband the most during those times. So when the baby is crying hysterically and your wife looks like a sleep deprived zombie, don't just stare and stand there in horror, get over there and HELP HER!