by John Hoffman
You know how they say babies don’t come with an instruction manual? Well, neither do new moms. And a really important part of being a good dad is understanding and supporting the mother of your children, a task that can be very challenging in the early days of parenthood. So, new dads, here’s a crash course. And, just for fun, I’ve built it around the five things you should never say to your new mom partner.
1. I think the baby needs changing.
Shared dad/mom care of babies should be a given in today’s dad/mom families. It’s fair. It’s good for your partner and it’s good for you because changing diapers (and doing other aspects of baby care) is not only how you learn to parent, it’s how you get to know your baby.
Here’s the thing. It is so easy for men (even guys who believe in gender equity) to slip into a backseat where Mom is doing the bulk of the work. So it’s important not only to do your share but also to take initiative: to see what needs to be done and do it, without being asked.
2. Where’s my dinner?
Recovering from childbirth is a major deal so new mothers need care and feeding. All cultures – women, at least – have understood this. Traditionally, networks of women – grandmas, aunties, sisters and female neighbours – have fed new moms, cleaned their houses and helped look after babies. Those female support networks are much less available than they once were. Fathers need to step up, and food prep (or bringing in prepared food) is a great contribution. She’ll love you for it.
3. Why is the baby crying?
She may not know. And being asked to explain something she can’t explain adds to the stress your partner is already experiencing. Nobody needs that.
Babies cry. Some more than others. And it’s sometimes hard to figure out why, even for experts. So what’s the right thing to when you can’t figure out why the baby is crying?
- do your share of the comforting
- give the baby back to mom if that’s what she wants
- do as little as possible to make the stress of a crying baby worse than it already is
- ask for help if you need to
For more tips about crying check out newdadmanual.ca.
4. Why are you crying?
Same answer. She might no know. And besides, she doesn’t want to explain. New motherhood is an intensely emotional experience. Your partner feels a lot of pressure. Hormones that affect emotions are very active. New moms may burst into tears for any number of reasons, big or small.
This can be challenging for men. We like concrete explanations and we want to know exactly what to do to “fix” a situation. But there isn’t always a quick fix (or explanation) for a crying mom. Sometimes the best we can do is summed up by something my wife said, after our third baby (when I really should have known better): “Stop trying to fix what’s wrong. Just be nice to me while I cry.”
5. But I worked all day
Don’t go there. This is absolutely the wrong thing to say to your partner (on parental leave) if she asks you to do something. She worked all day too. Some days that work can be tiring and lonely. Hey, maybe you both had tough days. Your best bet is to work as a team to make sure the necessary “home” work gets done and that you both get the breaks that you need.
Speaking of teamwork. Parenting teamwork is not just about getting work done. It’s also about sharing the highlights, the fun times, those little cosmic moments of bliss. Those moments are your new parent “fuel.” Sharing them with your partner is just as important as sharing the work – maybe even more so.