Advice: My husband thinks that he is working harder than me!

Posted in: Advice, Division of Labor, He just doesn't get it, Newborn Stage, The Chore Wars, The Great Mom-Dad Divide, The Newborn Stage

Q. I tried your “Training Weekend”. I went away for a weekend in hopes of showing my husband just how my day goes when he is away, but he just packed up baby and himself and headed to his parents for the entire weekend. His folks contacted me after to say how exhausted they were; but he continues to view my role as much easier and has told me how much he’d like to switch with me, that he’s suffering, his day/life is “brutal”, questioning whether I’m a good mother. It makes me very angry and I end up not wanting to do anything for him or have any interaction with him. He seems selfish and childish to me.

How do I get him to actually participate in a “Training Weekend” and/or take a step in my shoes? I don’t comment on whether his job is easy or hard because I simply don’t know. I wish he would do the same for me. If he cares for our son for 45 minutes in the evenings, that just isn’t any comparison to my day-to-day. Since having our son (who is now 5 months old), I think my husband has bathed him 2-3 times, never packed a bag for him, never folded or put away a piece of baby clothing or laundry, bought baby supplies…while I assume this is normal for many husbands, I can’t help hoping that the childcare and household duties will be more equally dispersed. I love my son immensely; but I feel a little like I’m flying solo here with very little appreciation from his father. In fact, I’m getting the opposite!

A. I think you are justified in feeling that your husband is not doing his share of the childcare. Babies require constant care and attention – it is not a 9-5 job. It’s a 24-hour job. If your husband is coming home at the end of each day and declaring that he needs his time to relax, then he clearly doesn’t understand that you are in desperate need of a break at some point.  Right now, he “just doesn’t get it.”

First of all good for you for getting away for a weekend! Even though the Training Weekend did not have the desired effect on your husband, I hope it gave you a chance to recharge and get some uninterrupted sleep. Next time you take a Training Weekend tell him how important it is for him to man the house and kid ropes for the whole weekend with out calling in the cavalry.  Once he understands how hard it is to care for a baby, he should appreciate your role more.  He will also get to bond with your baby on his terms, which is great for their overall relationship.

Finally, in relation to your husband’s comments and behaviors here are a few thoughts:

1. You have been parents for less than 6 months. All of this is still very new for both of you. This is an adjustment period. Change is hard. You love your son, but you and your husband have to reshape your lives around being parents and it’s not easy. So, don’t expect to be a “happy family” overnight. It takes time and patience for both of you to get on the same page.

2. It seems to me that your husband is behaving normally. That’s not to say that he’s behaving well, just that he’s acting in a way that a lot of new dads do. So, don’t panic. The chances are that he will evolve into the kind of hands-on-dad that you want him to be.  Hopefully he’s take that Training Weekend and do it the right way, which gets him on the right path to that co-parenting ideal.

3. So, what can you do to accelerate that evolution? Now, this might seem counterintuitive and the last thing you feel like doing when he is not pulling his weight but stay with me … Look for things to praise him about. Express appreciation for how hard he is working at work. It is likely that he is feeling “Provider Panic” and even though he is doing the same job he did before he became father now he feels additional pressure to provide for his family? My husband described it this way “I feel like I’m walking a tight rope at work.” Now, their insecurities about being able to provide for their families might be unfounded, but they are real for a lot of men. So, your husband might feel like he is under tremendous pressure and that he is not getting any recognition from you. You said that he is being selfish and childish. Sometimes that’s how we behave when we feel unappreciated. We regress and act out in silly, childish ways.

Ultimately, men and women – in some respects – are not all that different. We all need and want appreciation and love from the person we love. Give your husband some of what you need (an “I love you” and “I think you’re going to be a great Dad” will go a long way) and it is likely that he’ll open up and be more loving and appreciative towards you.   Hey, he may even take that Training Weekend with a smile on his face.

One final thought, all the above assumes that your husband is a decent guy who is behaving badly at the moment. I’m assuming that pre-baby you had a good and loving relationship. If that is the case it shouldn’t take too much tweaking to get your relationship back on track.

Good luck.

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