I read many, many books on parenting when pregnant on my first. I approached parenting like an exam and studied hard, secretly smug that I would ace this test. My husband meanwhile stressed about finances, a place to live and other boring crap like that. I would try to engage him on topics such as stem cell donation and the merits of perineal massage while he fancied up his online CV and lectured me on buying expensive stretch mark cream.
The Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus metaphor was never more relevant than when our first child was born. I’ve addressed this before in my article on Baby proofing your marriage but I feel I need to give the men out there some practical advice. Some of you are probably perfect Tom Fletcher type partners and take umbrage to the following but I am talking purely subjectively.
Couples with a new baby will probably return from the hospital ensconced in a love bubble, unable to believe that they have created this gorgeous new life together. After a few days, sleep deprivation and the realisation that this creature relies on them and is not going anywhere for the next 18 to 30 years kicks in. It is impossible to pick a Fight with a new baby (they will always win) and so the new parents will turn their frustration on each other. I feel a lot of pain could be avoided if new Dads could take some advice:
- Sex; A new mother’s body has been through the mill; it has stretched to crazy proportions and her confidence will not be optimum. All day long her body is not her own; If she is breastfeeding, the baby will be clamped to her nipple most of the day and if bottle feeding, she is sterilising, checking temperatures and ensuring baby drinks enough and is winded. If she has older kids, they will be hanging on her leg vying for attention in light of this new intruder. Bedtime is a haven where for a very brief time, she can sprawl, read or stare at the wall uninterrupted. The last thing she needs is a 10pm boob grab or a shoulder massage with consequences. As you begin your mauling she is bound to be thinking “this is just someone else wanting another part of me”. We are aware that you have needs too but squeezing parts of us randomly just does not do it. My advice is, give her space, ask how her day was and tell her you think she’s doing an amazing job and that you are in awe. Look in her eyes, acknowledge how difficult things are and tell her she’s beautiful. You may still get shot down because there’s no knowing with our species but you have more of a fighting chance of a cuddle this way.
- Learn where stuff is in the house. Spend a day opening drawers and presses and memorising the contents. This will minimise your daily shouts of “where is/ are stuff?” questions and maximise the longevity of your life.
- Try to understand us better… this is tricky as we really don’t understand ourselves. I have picked fights with my husband and midway forgotten why I was mad but have gotten myself so worked up emotionally that I’m pulling misdemeanors of his out of thin air… like “remember that time you forgot my birthday and why don’t you ever surprise me with weekends away like such and such up the road?” He seems baffled for a while and then gets angry and storms off which enrages me and I follow him to continue the fight. Eventually he is browbeaten and laughs and gives me a bear hug. I’ll put up a tiny bit of resistance and then realise… shit this is what I needed all along and I’ll begin to question my sanity. Long story short; when we act crazy skip all those levels and go straight to tight hug. This tip may be subjective and I’ll be contacted by the psych community.
- Make us a cup of tea/ coffee without asking first. We may say “I didn’t ask for that” but we’ll be secretly delighted at the thoughtfulness.
- Tell us you still fancy us in our maternity bras and big pants. Give us a playful slap on the bum now and again as you pass and we’ll roar at you but giggle at the same time and throw our eyes up at any visitors exclaiming “he’s a bloody eejit” fondly.
- Let us win at the who’s had more sleep game now and again… we need it and although we realise you’ve to be up for work, we are facing a day battling your progeny for the next relentless 12 hours without the promise of a break.
- Listen to us… put your damn phone down and absorb our story of how little Jimmy pooped in the bath and we had to fish it out with our hands. Give us a sympathetic hug and possible glass of wine. We have been starved of adult conversation all day and if we want to discuss the U.S. presidential candidacy, bloody Listen. I do not want to get to the end of a 10 minute rant about the stink of our brown bin only to ask a question and get a blank stare. If this happens we will be back to step 3 and we know you hate step 3.
- We will use our periods as an excuse for rage/ tears but don’t dare ever mid-argument ask if we have our period or there will be imminent door slamming and cuddle-denying.
So dear men, to ensure a healthy relationship with the love of your life and mother to your fabulous children; listen to her, bring her liquids (mainly alcoholic), compliment her and work on your ability to find stuff. Don’t grab and do not mention hormones or she may commit a crime that not a court in the land would sentence her for (not even in Manitowoc County).