Alright guys, I get it. Your wife or girlfriend just gave you her phone so you could read this post. Clearly, you’re hesitant and your knee jerk reaction is to hand the phone back, but you know better and pretend to feign interest. You’re scared it will be an utter waste of time when really you just want to watch Pardon the Interruption… without interruption. I get it, I promise.
Here’s the thing. You’re most likely about to or are currently going through pregnancy or have just become a new father (or your lady probably wouldn’t be showing you this). And because you care about her and her needs being met, you’ll power on and finish it. You keep reading and I promise I’ll cut the crap, get to the point, and hopefully give you something worthwhile to take away from it. (And let’s face it, you need a break from hearing about Donald Sterling).
A quick note about this list: it is a product of an open, honest, and candid conversation with my Momtourage and our collective experiences – not just my own. While it is by no means comprehensive (I’d surely lose you), I picked some favorites. And I can happily share that most of the items below are things our husbands did well – not things we wished they had done! We’ve got a bunch of keepers!
Take the time to learn your wife’s wishes for labor and delivery before baby gets here. While things almost never go exactly as planned once they get underway, know the in’s and out’s of how everything would ideally go for your wife. What are her wishes on drugs, pacifiers, formula, breastfeeding, sending to the nursery, etc? If she is unable to be an advocate for herself due to exhaustion or several other reasons, you need to step up and be that advocate for her. Giving birth is often one of the single most memorable experiences in a woman’s life – do whatever you can to help make sure its a positive one.
Don’t comment on how big she’s getting as her body grows. Even if its meant with the best of intentions as your child is clearly thriving inside her, just… don’t. (Unless you’re talking about her growing breasts. If she was smaller chested before pregnancy, sometimes growing breasts is a fun perk of the process).
Get her food. Get it often. Get it quickly. Pregnancy does a lot of crazy things to her body. One of which is needing food often. Not like your 2:00 p.m. “I can’t wait for dinner” hungry. It’s like a, “if I don’t get food right now, I’m either going to eat your face off or pass out where I stand”. Neither or which are good for anybody. Blood sugar can spike and drop quickly, so when she says she’s hungry, act fast and act now.
Be very open and communicate your needs and concerns about intimacy during pregnancy. I can’t promise she’ll always meet those needs, as her libido can be on a roller coaster with high highs and low lows, but keep the conversation about it open. If you have fears or concerns, share them honestly. Don’t let potential misconceptions get in the way of what could be a continued thriving sexual relationship. Whatever she feels though, respect it. And always, ALWAYS tell her she’s beautiful. All of the above goes for post-pregnancy as well. It will evolve with a new set of challenges once baby arrives.
Actively take part in decisions leading up the birth. Could your wife probably make them all on her own? Yep, probably. But actively participating in the many decisions you’ll have to make together shows her you genuinely care about the process and that while she may be the one carrying your precious bundle, it is a joint effort and your pregnancy too.
ONCE BABY ARRIVES
When things get hard, don’t quit. Just like your wife has learned what baby needs (mostly through trial and error), you need to have those trials and errors as well. There might be many things that she could get done quicker than you, but it doesn’t mean you hand things off to her. Could she get baby to sleep quicker? Probably. Do it anyway. Could she change the diaper on a fussy baby quicker? Probably. Do it anyway. Could she prepare things to leave the house with baby more efficiently? Probably. Learn what you’ll need anyway. My point – your wife wasn’t born a pro. She took the time to learn. Things will get hard, but I promise everyone will benefit if you take the time (and frustration) to learn too.
Be a problem solver. This one kind of piggy back’s off the previous one, but is equally important. Moms are constantly reading books, articles, and asking others for help when problems or unknowns pop up. Instead of always asking your wife what could be going on (because a lot of times she might not know either!), become a problem solver too. Read up when things pop up, dad.
Make a conscious effort to take candid (or posed!) pictures of mom and baby. I know I know, you don’t think like women do and you may not have that eye for an adorable photo opportunity, but try. It makes me so sad when 10 years down the road a woman looks back and only has a handful of pictures with her kids because she was always the one behind the camera. Your kids deserve to have pictures with their mother who loves them so ferociously – try your best to make it happen!
Once she feels ready to start getting back in shape (and she might not, which is ok too!), let her health take temporary priority. Yes, you may have gained a few (or a lot) of pounds during her pregnancy too, but to be blunt, a lot of the changes her body went through weren’t in her control like yours were. Sorry, dad! If it comes down to a night or two a week where its either you or her who gets a workout or run in – let her. For many women their post-baby bod feels disconnected from their self-image. Let them work at getting it back if they want – they deserve it! Not only that, but they most likely need that 45 minutes away for their mental health too!
As much as mom is head over heels in love with your new bundle, she needs time away. Don’t always make her ask for it. Offer to take baby out for a long walk on a nice day so she can shower peacefully and paint her nails. Suggest once in awhile she meets up with a friend for dinner – she needs her girl time. Or sometimes when you just see that her patience is running thin, something as small as asking her if she wants to go upstairs and read or take a nap for 30 minutes goes a long way. Better yet, set up one day a week where you and baby go on an outing together. Not only is it great for building that one on one bond with baby, but it’ll give her that time she needs and knows she can expect each week.
Don’t always make her ask. Yes, this one gets a spot of its own. Despite common belief, women do not enjoy nagging and continuously asking you to do things. We really, really don’t. That fact, compounded with the mom mentality that we can do it all, is sometimes a dangerous recipe. If she’s clearly running on fumes, offer to take the night shift. If the dishes need to be done, just do them. If she keeps swearing about how much of a pain in the ass it is to constantly clean her breast pump parts, do it for her when you can. She doesn’t expect you to be a mind reader (I mean that’s just not fair), but to keep your home in happy harmony, try your best to be proactive.
Accept that you will be taking on more household responsibilities. I could give suggestions, but this one is unique to each couple. Whether its taking on more cooking in the kitchen, cleaning up more after she cooks in the kitchen, or taking over laundry – accept it and find a way to take a little bit off of her plate.
Last one, you made it! Are you sweating yet?
Remember that mom is not the primary caregiver. It isn’t just her child. You aren’t a babysitter that steps in occasionally. You made this beautiful being together, and its your job to raise it together. You, mom, and baby deserve that. Be present of where baby is at in his or her day when you’re home. Learn the changing needs and upcoming milestones as baby grows. Taking a night time feeding isn’t “doing her a favor”, its doing your job as a parent. While you work hard all week and just want to relax all weekend, baby has needs around the clock every day, which you need to be a part of. You got this, dad.
If you honestly got down here by reading it all, pat yourself on the back – you’re already a fantastic father. There’s no perfect how-to guide on how to get through this transition into parenthood without speed bumps. You’ll have them. Some couples get over them with ease, and some need constant, committed work at getting over them. But dad, just so you know – we appreciate you and love you. While you’re new to this, so are we. Let’s just promise to work on this together, keep our communication lines open, and love each other as well as our beautiful baby fiercely.