New Parents: The Importance of Caring for Each Other
It's very common for one of the new parents (often the dad) to feel left out. The new baby makes his or her needs very obvious. Somehow it seems that the two adults in the house don't need to be taken care of, and the focus is always on the baby. But this is not true. You are both probably feeling insecure and sleep-deprived. Pay attention to each other's needs and support each other as much as you can. Do your best to communicate how much you love each other.
Don't get so caught up in your beautiful new baby that you forget about your spouse. Make special time for each other.
Marilyn loved being a mother. She felt particularly lucky because she fell into the role easily. Nursing was easy for her, the baby was thriving, and he had a good temperament. Marilyn spent more time with her mother, who also loved being with the baby. The moment her husband, Jim, came home from work, she would tell him in great detail about all the things the baby did that day. She would describe how many hours he slept, how much he ate, and how many times he spit up. They would eat dinner quickly, and then Marilyn would nurse the baby, sing the baby songs, give the baby a bath, and put the baby to sleep. After that, she would tell Jim she was going to bed so she could get in a few hours before the baby's nighttime feeding.
Jim loved being a father, but after several months of having every evening revolve completely around the baby, he started to feel left out. Marilyn used to ask about his day, and they would discuss some issues from his work. He knew that they would be able to go out less often with a baby, but he didn't think he would have to give up his entire relationship with Marilyn!
Over the next few months, things escalated to the point where Jim would come home late every night because he didn't even feel that it was worth it to come home. He pitched in with the baby on weekends, but he was feeling distant and somewhat hostile toward Marilyn. They were beginning to have many fights, and the fights were worse than before the baby was born. Jim was feeling very guilty about how he felt, but he didn't know what he could do about it.
If your spouse has been home with the baby all day, surprise him or her by bringing dinner home. This will give you more time together and your spouse will appreciate it.
The Spice Rack
When you are parents, it's still important to show that you care about each other. Ask each other about how the day went, and try to do one nice thing a day for each other. By doing these things, you can make sure that you are reserving some much needed attention for your spouse!
They came to see us and talked about what was going on. Jim described feeling his relationship with his wife was almost nonexistent. Marilyn said she didn't know what to do because all of her time and energy were taken up with the baby and she didn't have anything left for her husband. We assured them that the things they were experiencing were very common with a new baby in the house.
We suggested Marilyn always, without fail, ask Jim about his day when he came home. We also said Marilyn didn't need to share every single detail of the baby's day with her husband. Jim assured her that he was very interested in the baby, but not necessarily in exactly how long he slept or how many diapers were changed that day.
Now that Marilyn was not nursing exclusively, we thought it would be beneficial for Jim to feed the baby a bottle in the evening so that he would have some time alone with the baby. Marilyn could use that time to relax or talk with someone on the telephone. At this point, Marilyn suggested that maybe her mother could come over one evening a week to give her and Jim a chance to go out for coffee together. Marilyn didn't feel ready to leave the baby for a long stretch of time, but she knew that she and Jim needed time together. When Marilyn and Jim made these minor changes in their evenings, they noticed a big difference. Jim felt more involved as a father, and more important, he felt valued again as a husband. Things became even better as the baby grew older and began interacting with Jim.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage © 2001 by Hilary Rich and Helaina Laks Kravitz, M.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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