There’s been a huge shift in styles of parenting for father figures over the last few decades. Becoming more engaged with the family unit, working as a team and taking a more active role in nursing new borns is a welcome approach and helps to totally 'boss it'.
However, dads can still feel isolated, particularly at birth and when mum is creating a bond, it’s no wonder our other halves can feel unsure of what it is they can offer in those early stages of parent life.
Here, a handful of lovely mums share how they survived new parent-hood as a couple but also, given the knowledge, what they believe their other halves could have done to make life that bit easier.
Small things count
“What can partners do when you've just given birth? LITERALLY ANYTHING! You'll cry with happiness if they bring you an unrequested sandwich whilst you are struggling with breastfeeding! (*may or may not have happened in our house).
For me, my husband doing the little things made such a huge difference. He was in charge of what we were having for dinner so I didn’t have to think about it. If I could advise any dad/parent/partner it would be to be involved so you know how to sterilise bottles, change nappies (and know when they need changing) do bath time, pick up some night feeds if the mum is expressing or bottle feeding and basically do all the small things well. Your other half will appreciate that more than you know."
Read the signals
“My husband was my rock and I don’t think either of us knew how much I would need him before Toby came along. He was there throughout, even when I was expressing at the beginning, he sat with me for moral support and so I didn’t feel alone in the night. Tackling some of the night feeds also meant I got some sleep and could face the next day with a bit of energy.
One thing that remains significant in my mind is when my sister came for the night. She sent me to bed to sleep at 7pm and at about midnight, she crept in to my room with my boy asleep in his Moses basket having fed and changed him. I had a solid five hours sleep with another two-three hours to go until the next feed. I felt human again and if dads could do this on occasion, the mummy would function a lot better."
“Looking back to the very early days for me it was about keeping a very tight grip on the control pad. I can admit this now but I wanted to do everything for my little girl and so I didn’t give my partner many opportunities to have one-on-one time with her. If I was to have another baby, I’d change my view on this.
I was extremely lucky as my other half had Easter off work when my daughter was born and was hands on. He bonded quickly with Arianna, changed nappies, helped make bottles, did a couple of night feeds and gave me a lie in on a Sunday. He also took on all the house work and cooking because I just did not have the energy despite wanting to.
“However, when he did tend to her in the night, I was always there in the background trying to be a hero. I was adamant at doing things by the book too, carving out routines with sleeping and eating and envied my other half being able to crack on at work as normal. If guys could understand even a little of what is going on in a new mum’s mind then there would be far less arguments in those early days.”
Even when you’re right you’re wrong
Harry and Lenny’s mummy
“On paper my husband did everything that would be ‘ideal’. The list includes; cleaning, shopping, cooking, sorting the changing bag, changing nappies through the night and it made us feel a bit more equal. Even with all this added support, I still struggled and laid into him regularly because of irregular hormones. He literally couldn’t do right for doing wrong. When he was taking control I would point out that it wasn’t how I would have done it but if he left me to do things alone I’d have a go at him.
Guys also have a habit of saying what we would see as insensitive and it would make me explode (again, cheers hormones.) It’s therefore important for partners to understand that every mum is different and every relationship is unique. As a couple you have to discover what is right for you both and communicate your feelings without it coming across as a lecture.”
“Lots of men feel pushed out and miss all the attention they used to get. While they try to be sensitive about it, because they know we are doing what is needed, there's no harm in being proactive and understanding that having quality time together, albeit in short supply, would be beneficial. Arranging a couple of hours out for a meal once baby is a little more settled or a movie night at home with popcorn after a crappy day would have been so nice. If we had a bit of sleep and less laundry to do we are more likely to have time to focus on the relationship. For some reason lots of men feel ashamed for feeling that way and just keep quiet.”
Don’t ever judge
“Keeping your own identity is hard work because your new born takes priority and everything is suddenly different. Yet, if you are a girl who needs make up and brushed hair to feel normal, you shouldn’t be judged for keeping that going in your everyday routine. Similarly, if you want to attend numerous classes with like-minded new mums to allow your child to experience new things or go out for coffee and share breast feeding stories you have every right to do so.
Dads and partners need to back-up key decisions from every day activities to a new-born’s sleeping and eating routine. It’s only when everyone is in unison that the household can remain a happy one."
What have you learnt about new parenthood and do you even still like your other half after the pressures of keeping a tiny human alive? Would love to hear your thoughts too. Comment below.