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Do new dads get a bad rap?

If new mums are often angry, how are the men faring in this? Is it a bed of roses for them…?

After much ‘discussion’ (ahem) with my husband Doug and some male friends, it seems things are a little thorny for everyone involved. I may be all for the Sisterhood, but that doesn’t mean I think all women are good and right and men always have it easy.

Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s really easy to assign the trauma of birth as a mother’s right.  Indeed, it’s us who have our bodies turned inside out and are left with the consequences. But they have watched that happen. Most of us are out of it on gas and air, adrenalin, drugs. However you did it, not that many of us could say we were completely aware of what was going on. Me? I LOVED gas and air and completely tripped out on it. I could hear dance music and felt like I was floating and kept trying to tell everyone how wonderful I felt – I was all love and flowers. For a short while anyway, until my waters broke, I shat everywhere and the pain really kicked in. Our partners, however, have watched it all without drugs or the distraction of excruciating pain and as well as feeling in awe, many might be a bit freaked by it. Especially if it’s been a traumatic birth.

A friend of ours saw the woman he loves cut open and their new-born baby almost die, followed by a week in Intensive Care whilst he travelled back and forth to the hospital and tried to stop their toddler from realising anything was wrong. There isn’t a moment to process what a new dad might have seen because then they’re home and their wife is experiencing highs and lows like never before, and he is supposed to work out how to manage the situation. So they have to compartmentalise it and move on with little sympathy from anyone. If it was a natural delivery, they may also be a little traumatised about whether/how they’ll ever have sex again. Robbie Williams described seeing the birth of his daughter as like watching his favourite pub burn down. I haven’t seen what birth looks like from that angle, but I imagine to suggest it’s not pretty is an understatement.

The inability for a new mum to empathise is tough. My husband would say ‘When you say ‘You’ve just been at work all day’ it implies work is meaningless and I just want you to acknowledge that it’s not, and that you appreciate that I am fulfilling a role which is to put food on the table and all the other stuff you expect to just happen’. The problem is, we’ve done work. We know what it’s like to have a job. And now we’re doing this and we can only see the good bits about going to work – travelling without a child, going to the toilet on your own, eating your lunch quietly when you want and not having to sweep up 3 times per day. For quite a lot of men, the arrival of kids coincides with their ascension at work – as natural progression, or because suddenly they’re after a promotion as there is only one salary coming in. Either way, you might be working harder and with more responsibility than you’ve had in your life so a little support wouldn’t go amiss. I can only acknowledge now that giving Doug emotional support, appreciation or an occasional pat on the back were often the last things on my mind in those early months.

You could possibly help yourselves by being a bit better at managing expectations. You know how if you tell a kid you’re going to do something and then you don’t, and they whine and shout and hold on to it for a long time? If we think you’re coming home for bath time and then you don’t, we will likely behave like a toddler. A friend said his wife throws the kids at him when he gets home and says ‘there you go, your turn’. I think a few of us can identify with that. Doug said “One of the hardest adjustments was walking through the front door and switching on, not off. When greeted with someone who doesn’t seem to really like you and at times would be outright hostile, switching on and trying to help was…testing”.

The text message you had at 2pm with a cutesy picture of the baby and your partner saying she couldn’t wait to see you wasn’t some weird trick to enhance the impact of the she-devil you were greeted with when you walked in.

The witching hours from 5pm are a breaking point for all mothers of young kids if it’s been a bad day. If you can avoid radio silence it helps. Even better, get home in time for the bath in those early months, and you will be her knight in shining armour. There’s also a high chance she’s hungry. Maybe come home armed with snacks and lob one through the letter box like a grenade two minutes before you come in.

Underlying the accusations of a man ‘going off’ to work as if he’s on a jolly there is a new pressure on his role as Provider. The sudden appearance of purchases for the house and the baby don’t help matters. When we’re spending more time than ever at home, many of us finally get the whole nesting thing. Online shopping and soft furnishings give us purpose, as well as researching and buying all the stuff we need for the baby. Some of us might even manipulate the situation by baffling you with baby-science – ‘we need this additional sling/pump/whizzy-chopper-thing’ – and as you can’t be sure we don’t (we don’t, btw) you have to quietly let it go. If you tentatively suggest that we need to be careful with money, you might receive a full-scale assault that ends with ‘We’ll just keep the baby in a box, SHALL WE?’. Possibly punctuated with a ‘You made me FAAAAA-AAAT’.

Essentials
Essentials

Another common thread between male friends was that any acknowledgement of tiredness from them would invariably be met with ‘You have no idea!’ or ‘I’m more tired’. Doug agreed “I don’t think many men wouldn’t happily acknowledge that this is ‘more’ tiring for their wife. It just doesn’t mean that we can’t also feel tired. It’s something we should be united in solidarity on, but it is rarely the case because women want to turn it in to a competition.” It pains me a little to admit, but the man is talking sense. New mums also don’t hold a monopoly on feeling lonely. For a new Dad, he’s working out his role, the woman he loves has temporarily gone AWOL, and his opinion appears to count for nothing. He might also be missing seeing his mates – even if we don’t always act like we want you there, in those early months we need you around. When Mabel was tiny, Doug casually mentioned that ‘all’ the boys were going for a curry for someone’s birthday, and I responded ‘Doug, I’m still bleeding’. As a general rule of thumb, if she’s still bleeding and it’s a non-essential outing, don’t ask. Just say no.

I completely recognise that during this time for many women logic is absent. The men I spoke to felt that if there was a problem, they would want to offer a logical solution. For example:

Her: I’m so tired I might die

Him: Why don’t you go and have a sleep and I’ll cancel the visitors?

Or

Her: I can’t get the baby to sleep in her cot, she’ll only sleep on me

Him: Have you tried leaving her for a little bit to see if she’ll settle, or shall I hold her?

Or

Her: I am in agony, the baby isn’t feeding well, and my nipples are about to fall off.

Him: Why don’t you let me try a bottle so you can get some rest and then try again?

Now in normal circumstances we might agree with you. Or say ‘Not right now, maybe later’. But in new mum world, you may have just woken the beast. She thinks you’re criticising the way she’s doing it and if it’s her first, she also doesn’t know what she’s doing – she’s read about nipple confusion and separation anxiety and she’s in a state of panic that every action taken now could be right or wrong and have an impact on the adult this child turns in to and it’s the most important thing in the world and it all sits with her.  All the men I spoke to agreed that once they realised their partner was possibly just needing to vent and not looking for a logical solution, it got a bit easier. All agreed that the journey to get to that point was pretty bumpy.

So what does your man get for his troubles? Silent treatment, weeping, possibly wails of ‘You just don’t get IT’. I can see that watching your partner torture herself and disregard every helpful suggestion you come up with would be hard work and a tad frustrating. Maybe I can be of assistance – ladies, sometimes we need to sit the fuck down. When you’re so tired that you’re in a constant state of blub, it’s not necessarily your partner that is being a div, it might just be you. If we just STOPPED and were a bit kinder to ourselves, we might actually have capacity to be a bit kinder to those around us.

And there you have it. Here I am, publicly admitting that snarling at someone when they walk through the door after a day at work is shite. Especially as they’ve been out earning a dollar. See? Not unreasonable. I also understand that our expectations of you as provider, counsellor and protector are a big deal when you’ve previously been used to a fairly stable and independent lady that looks at you with loving as opposed to dead eyes. This is a major period of adjustment for everyone involved, and once we’re out the other side, we can see that a lot more clearly. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience.

So…how was it for you? 

Images: mytvlog.blogspot.com; webapp1.wright.edu/housing/addresses.php

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17 thoughts on “Do new dads get a bad rap?

  1. ghostwritermummy says:

    What a great post. You’re right, people don’t often give much after thought to dads, especially when it comes to birth. My son was born under GA after a failed VBAC and my husband was left standing in the delivery room on his own, bags by his feet, as they ran me down to theatre in a panic. He had been there for the whole thing- labour, contractions, beeping machines, panicked shouting, the lot. Then he was just left to try and find out where they’d taken me, what was happening. It was an hour before anyone told him that his son and wife were even alive! I was not offered much counselling afterwards but my husband got nothing. Back to work after 2 weeks and get on with it. I’m certainly more mindful of the way dads are treated after he told me his version of accounts.
    x x
    #ShareWithMe

  2. Verily Victoria Vocalises says:

    Brilliantly written with brilliant examples. A brilliant post. I hope to be able to get Ross to read this one day when he needs to!! I love the ‘lobbing the food like a grenade’ quote among many others. Easy to see why you are shortlisted 🙂 Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  3. Jenny says:

    Steph I love this post. You gave such great examples of how it must be for the other side. The men’s side. I think too often they don’t get credit where credit is so due! yes we may push babies out and do the hard labor and giving up our bodies but man the pressures, stress and sole duties on the man all day at work then expect him to come home and take over the kids because you have had enough is a lot to ask for. But I have to admit at 5pm when he walks through the door I still expect it. Not right but with two babies I hear that door handle and it makes me do cartwheels for the extra set of hands at dinner time. Mr P usually is so great and jumps right in but I bet he wishes he just had a 30 min break to unwind first but then again so do I as mothers are never off work are they? It’s so hard to be reasonable and fair when it’s catch22. I do try though. 75% of the time I am fair and 25% I lose reason and get a bit snappy. I wish I never was the latter but I am human. Love this post. Great post to link up to Share With Me. I hope to see you again soon and you have enjoyed my linky getting to know other bloggers. #sharewithme

  4. Sam @ And then the fun began... says:

    Such a measured perspective! I have to say though that the logical solution examples you came up with had me nodding and thinking, yes, yes, it would have been so lovely to have been asked those things, offered naps or help with the feeding, etc – there’s no way I would have responded badly to any of that! Not being helped or offered any support like that is what really hurts! Having said that I realise that working a full time job can be hard and tiring and a big responsibility, but not all jobs are equal or pressurised so its subjective depending on your situation and the temperament of your man I think! #sharewithme

  5. Noo says:

    I totally do the silent treatment (passive-aggressive) response. And expect my husband to figure out EXACTLY what is wrong (usually what HE has done wrong). Then I realise I’m doing it but it seems too weird to suddenly snap out of it, so I have to keep going with it. I realise that this is a tad unfair really and perhaps working on a more direct (assertive) response would be better. That, and being a bit more compassionate in the first place. Oh, and maybe trying to let go a bit of my obsessive need to have the house reasonably clean, tidy and organised (I have to admit that that really does make me feel better)…

    Another funny and accurate post Steph. Keep them coming!!
    xx

  6. Amy Ransom says:

    The experience of me and all my friends (incidentally no matter how happy they are with their other half or how much they love him) is that when ‘he’ walks through the door we can’t all help but feel a little bristly. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that when Daddy Pig has (rarely) had the kids for a period of time and I walk back through the door, he is a little the same. I think it’s just the effect of having been isolated (tortured) in kid company for a while ;0) popping back from #PoCoLo

  7. @katgrant30 says:

    This is another brilliant post!! It’s great that you’ve gone out and gathered male opinions, and really put yourself in their shoes… I honestly think my husband is the strongest, kindest, bravest man in the world, after seeing him go through it all with me. He witnessed a horrific c section where I almost bled out, then his wife’s descent into psychosis. Not once did he give up or waiver, but visited me every day – while also holding down his barrister practice and keeping his sh1t together. I am in awe of him to this day!
    X

  8. Merlinda (@pixiedusk) says:

    Sometimes we only see our side =P This made me think of the other side too. That my husband is working even if he doesnt like what he is doing because he is the man and money is needed but if hes got a choice he’d just stay at home to be with my son. Nice one. #pocolo

  9. claire says:

    Oh that did make me laugh . Even now mine are 10 & 11 I can acknowledge I was guilty of pretty much all of those ( not all entirely unreasonable ) behaviours !
    First birth was fairly horrendous & pretty sure my ex husband felt a bit like Robbie Williams as well as a bit traumatised .

  10. Hannah says:

    Made my laugh and almost cry (in a good way) and I’m not even a mum! Do you think that by reading this blog in preparation for when I do become a mum, I will know exactly what to do? Perhaps not, but I’m going to store them all up and reread them when the time (eventually) comes.

  11. Liz says:

    Oh god I’m so horrid to Mike when he walks in the door and he has a horrible, demanding job dealing with young women with mental health issues and then comes home to me poor chap!!! 🙂 I’m totally guilty of the picture message too, very funny. Another great blog x x x

  12. Kerry kovac says:

    You’d think I’d know better after having 3 kids….but this is just how it is for us!! Definately hand our 7 month old over to hubby as soon as he walks in from work….oops. Although his first word was dadda, how does that work??? Seem to spend our time weighing up how much “me” time we both get, which for the record is him lots (work counts right?) and me the (very, very occasional) half hour in the bath while I listen to hubby shouting at kids downstairs :). Brilliant writing…you’re keeping me sane, keep them coming!!!

  13. Sarah howes says:

    Love this Steph. Mylo is sleeping next to me and I actually snorted!!! Thought I was going to wake him up. This is sooo funny, reminds me of myself.

  14. Tania says:

    This one made me laugh out loud – perhaps I could have been a little unreasonable at times after Aurelija’s birth…just a little mind!

  15. Terri says:

    Insightful, as ever. And it is honestly only in the last few months (bearing in mind I’ve been a mum for nine years and have three children) that I’ve realised me SITTING DOWN is good. For them as well as me. But HE has been saying that for years. I’m a div….