5 Things Your Husband Needs to Hear After Baby
I never thought we’d get to that point.
Before we had our baby, Andy and I were inseparable. I honestly don’t think people knew how to relate to one of us without at least mentioning the other; we were just assumed to be a package deal. And we were! We were partners in everything. It was like we were two completely different people with different hobbies who somehow agreed on almost everything.
Having our first baby changed us in ways that are hard to describe.
We tried for what felt like forever to conceive. And when our bundle of wrath joy finally arrived in inconsolable fashion, it wasn’t just a shift in our relationship. Oh, no. It was like a nuclear bomb blew us up and apart. We fell back to the earth with a resounding thud, having to find each other all over again as different people. Nothing about childbirth or postpartum life worked out as planned. Once the fog lifted from my postpartum depression, I began being capable again. I thought quitting my consulting business would make all our lives magically happier, too. And it did…kind of.
That’s when Andy began falling into depression.
While I’ve always been quick to recognize what a hard worker he is and thank him for his contributions to the family, I just wasn’t voicing the rest of it well.
It wasn’t just, “I’m a little sad.” It was depths of despair that would hit him all at once. He couldn’t pinpoint any reason; he just felt so sad and desperate. It wasn’t like him, and it was heart-wrenching to watch. After months of increasing issues, we found some solutions at the family doctor’s office. Andy still struggled, though. I slowly realized that I had a huge part in that. It wasn’t intentional at all. I was so focused on Scarlett and keeping our household running that I had shut Andy out and made him feel isolated in this life we’d created. While I’ve always been quick to recognize what a hard worker he is and thank him for his contributions to the family, I just wasn’t voicing the rest of it well.
So, without further ado, here are the things I didn’t tell him – but should have every day. (I do now!)
“You’re such a great provider.”
This is important, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m careful not to imply that Andy is little more than a money-maker. While his career achievements are important to recognize, it’s how he provides more than money that really matters – like love, security, protection, laughter… So I elaborate. I try to tell him specifically what he provides that I love each day. Because hey – he’s worth more than his paycheck.
“You’re doing a great job with the baby.”
Another way to say it: “The way you do things is just as good as the way I do things.”
One of the places my husband seems most likely to feel defeated is with the general caretaking of the baby. If she fights a nap after he puts her down or refuses to eat when he’s feeding her, he wonders why he ever tries and says he’s no good at it. He saw no reason to enjoy helping parent her because I apparently did everything better than him. (I made this myth seem like reality when I’d correct him as he took care of her.) That’s not true, though. Parenting is a learning experience for all of us. I don’t want my man to feel like he’s too far behind the class to ever catch up.
I’ll admit it: anything that involves relinquishing control sometimes causes me to stumble. I realized something a few months ago that has changed everything for me, though. It’s this: Millions of kids have grown up under a variety of different parenting methods and not only survived – but thrived – as fully-functioning adults. Whether that’s because of the variation or in spite of it, this fact remains. Our ways are not necessarily best in general. One way isn’t necessarily “wrong” because our way is “right.” What works for me might not work for my hubby, and I’m now choosing to believe that our slight variation in parenting styles, needs, opinions, and so on will only contribute to our daughter growing into an even healthier, happier adult. And that’s the goal in this entire crazy journey, right?
“Your opinion matters just as much as mine.”
Oh, snap. I went there. Andy didn’t feel like his opinions mattered when it came to our baby. To give an example: one day, I was cooking food to stock up in the freezer for the baby, and he actually let a whole pan of grass-fed, organic beef burn to a smoking crisp on the stove while I was taking care of some other task. Know why? Because he was “afraid to mess something up,” since he “doesn’t know anything when it comes to the baby.” Crazy, huh?
Not really. In retrospect, I’ve often taken tasks and decisions out of his hands over the course of her first year under the assumption that I could do it better. When I should have been inviting him into the discussion and valuing his opinions and ways of doing things, I ignored his thoughts and corrected things I thought he did wrong (read: things he did differently from me). After a while, he started assuming he was the “lesser” parent and couldn’t do anything right when it came to her. That was all my fault, and I’ve started owning up to it and correcting myself when I feel like I’ve ignored his side of parenting now.
We need to empower our men so they feel comfortable stepping up on parenting decisions. If we don’t, how can we expect them to help with the day-to-day little tasks that become so monotonous for us to do alone?
“We’re in this together, and I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.”
Parenting is a team effort. Kids were meant to have the planning and scheduling of moms as well as the jokes and messes of dads. It’s what balances them out. I’m learning to cherish when Andy does something differently from me. That difference is important because he’s interacting with the daughter God gave him, in the way the Lord meant for him to, in pursuit of some greater plan for all our lives. Andy needs to know that he’s an equal partner with me and that I truly wouldn’t want to be married to anyone else or do this insane parenting thing with anyone else. He’s it for me. Sometimes, we all need to be reminded of that.
“It’s okay to take some ‘me time’ for yourself.”
Andy loves video games. It’s unfathomable to me, but he loves them, so he needs them in his life. (Our life now is 99% like Mom’s Night Out.) We all need a recreational activity that we love to do for our own fulfillment, and we all deserve to have that without judgment. This is something I’m learning, too. While it’s easy to get frustrated with Andy when he seems so sad because he hasn’t played a game in a while – namely because I could use a break too since I’ve cleaned the somehow-always-dirty house all day and changed poopy diapers to the soundtrack of shrill screaming – it’s still important to make sure he has time for himself. He worked all day, too. The give-and-take goes both ways. He can watch the baby while I do something I love (like writing this piece…about loving him better!).
And, most importantly: strong individuals make strong partners, which make strong families.
Encourage recreational activities that celebrate your man’s individuality, bring joy, and lighten stress. It’ll make your time together that much better because of it.
I’m choosing to tell my hubby I love him today.
I’m going to reaffirm his role in our household every chance I get. I’ll continue to praise him for his input and his attempts to become a better parent. Won’t you join me, Momma? In doing so, you’ll reap the benefits exponentially. Promise!
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Images by Leah Bullard Photography.
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