Those of us who have experienced the birth of our children know, the learning curve as a new father is steep. And it’s not just the baby you have to think about.
The first months home with our new baby were often an unhealthy mix of self-doubt, sleep deprivation, and frustration, with a pinch of occasional moments of joy.
Naturally, I too felt the change in my life. While some new moms thrive in their new role, one can’t argue that it’s so much harder for them to escape the “new reality” even for a short period of time.
Old cliché says that “babies don’t come with instruction manuals”, which is true. Neither does the new mommy! Can I please have one of each!?
New moms often times are not the same as they were before the baby. When I think about it, it’s no surprise why.
She feels exhausted. Most women go into motherhood believing they can do it all. They can’t. At least not with the lack of sleep they’re experiencing.
She feels overwhelmed. There is so much advice for new parents and it’s coming from everyone – her own parents, the in-laws, the girl-friends that already have kids, the online forums, and Facebook groups. It’s easy to feel this advice is a testament to the things she may be doing “wrong”.
She feels scared. Becoming a first-time mom (or a dad) is scary. You’re a complete rookie. Things don’t always go as you expect and you’re not really sure you have what it takes to come through.
She feels ugly. On one hand she may feel proud to have delivered another person into this world. However, most women are overly critical of their body. I know it looks saggy and some parts of her body are leaking, but this too shall pass. And the drool (and pee and poo) on her isn’t permanent either.
Another old cliché says: “Happy wife, happy life”. This has never been truer than now, being fairly new parents. Even though it doesn’t rhyme, I would also add to that “Happy mommy, happier baby”.
Tips for new dads on how to baby-proof their relationship:
Get excited about the baby
I know that most dads love their drooling bundle of joy, but for some reason, new moms need a constant reminder of that. So when you feel overwhelmed with positive emotions, say it out loud. Ask to hold the little one when you feel like it. Nothing instills more confidence in your spouse than seeing you embrace being a dad.
Don’t focus on just the baby
When everyone’s so excited about the newest addition to the family, the mommy may get lost in the shuffle. Ask and listen to her feelings, respect them and don’t minimize her emotions.
Give her reassurance
Make sure she knows that you are in it together, and you will be by her side no matter what. And then follow through with your actions. Help her build her confidence in the new role.
Confirm her she’s doing great
Be her cheerleader and tell her she is doing great and she is a wonderful mom.
Shower her and the baby with compliments. She needs to hear these things from you right now.
Learn the basics of baby-rearing
Learn to feed and burp the baby, know how to change diapers, bathe, hold and comfort your crying baby. Not only will you build your own confidence, you will also show her that she can count on you when the occasion comes.
Offer help. Often.
Some new moms need to be asked what she needs. Make sure she knows that you mean what you say when offering help.
Give her enough rest
Some new moms need permission to rest. The Supermom Complex leads to fast burnout.
When the baby’s sleeping, encourage her to do the same and pitch in with chores as much as possible. Stress can be very harmful to both mother and baby.
Give her a break
Give her a chance to step away for a while – to have a hot shower or to walk around the neighborhood.
Offer to do a night shift. Have her sleep through the full night. Change the diapers and bottle-feed the baby or deliver the baby into her arms for nursing. This will go a long way, believe me!
Get her out of the house. Try to send her out with her girl-friends for a few hours. She’ll appreciate it.
Don’t complain about how tough your day was
I’ve been guilty of this one myself. Doesn’t matter how tough your day was, chances are, she can trump you. Even if she can’t, don’t make it a whining competition.
Don’t say you’re babysitting
Don’t leave an impression that by helping her out you’re doing her a favor. It’s called parenting! You’re a parent too. Even if you technically are babysitting, don’t call it like that. Take more responsibility by being “on call” or on “Daddy Duty”. Words will become your attitudes!
Granted, not all the moms are the same and some of these points are so common sense that it hurts. However, you can’t really go wrong with taking better care of new moms. Additionally, the children who are raised in homes where they feel safe, approach the world in a more positive manner.
I know (firsthand), that being a new dad is not a walk in the park either, and I’m not advocating for dads trying to be Super-dads and burn out themselves. It takes a great guy to step up during those first few months. So, dad up and recognize others who do the same!
Photo: Flickr/Jens Bergander
This post originally appeared on Tanel’s blog, www.brandnewfather.com.