Lisa "Lou" Welch Dear Lou,
I don't know why men think they don't have to do anything with their child; it's a pain. See, we had our first baby six months ago (we've been together less than a year) and she is beautiful, but I don't get why he thinks he doesn't have any responsibilities. Can you tell me why? The only reason why I'm writing you is because I don't have anyone to talk to about this because they would have all these questions and comments that I don't have time for or say what's on their minds. I love him but he gets on my nerves at times. Here is a scenario. When I didn't work and he did, I watched the baby day-in and day-out. Now I work and he acts like he is babysitting his own child - don't get me wrong, he loves her. But it seems like I'm by myself at times and he isn't understanding why I'm mad at him sometimes. Give me some tips or answers. I know you get similar questions like this all the time but this is the only way for me to get answers without an argument.
Dear Working Momma,
My first glitch is that the other people in your life to whom you might turn for advice have "questions and comments" or things "on their minds" that you don't care about or have the time to listen to. That concerns me. Surely, the people who know and love you, and him, have more particular insight than I. Perhaps they're trying to open your eyes to truths you are unwilling to face. Sometime in the future, calmly listen to your loved ones, without getting defensive. If everyone is saying the same thing, it might be worth hearing, Momma.
That being said, I'll do what I can with what I know. Having been together less than a year and already having a family tells me there are oceans of things you don't know about each other yet. As for your man, maybe he has less information about and experience with children than you do. Some men don't even know what it's like to hold a baby until someone is placing their own child in their arms. So, you might need to be patient with him if he fumbles (his duties, not the baby). He may simply be uncomfortable, and will need guidance from you and others to gain confidence as a father. Or maybe he's freaking out. A year ago he was single and answered to himself. Then he's got a new lover and, surprise! Here comes fatherhood. That's a lot to take in; he's had no time to adjust. In this less than ideal start to your family, he may withdraw, shirk his duty or seek some kind of escape, some semblance of his old life which was much less stressful and frightening. This, especially if he's young, is likely.
Set a time to talk to him, a time when you are NOT already angry and feeling like he's not being a partner to you. Tell him your concerns in a non-accusatory tone, and really listen to what he has to say. Then, you must mutually agree to resolve these issues for your child. He has an infant daughter. She needs both of her parents, consistently and desperately. And the mere physical presence of the two people who conceived her is nowhere near enough. Here are some strong statements. Cut them out; tape them on your bathroom mirror. I want you both to look at them (while looking at yourselves) every day. Your daughter will enter the world armed only with what the two of you teach her about life, love and how to be a person of noble character. Nothing either of you do for the rest of your lives will be more important than this. NOTHING.
He must set aside fear and regret in favor of complete information overload. You both must devour books on parenting, even take classes if you wish. Don't do this alone, either. Surround yourselves with loving friends and family who can offer (constructive) advice, support your goals as a new family and babysit occasionally while you spend time alone learning about each other, and how to become better partners as you raise this child under the best possible circumstances. These things sound simple but they're nothing less than sacred. Congratulations, and best wishes as the three of you begin this lifelong journey.