From Partner to Father
A new father may feel threatened, now that important decisions seem to be made in terms of their impact on the baby. He may be jealous of the woman’s reproductive powers, which seem to bring her happiness and attention. He may feel a strong burden of responsibility, as well as stronger financial pressures to succeed. He may feel overwhelmed by his spouse’s emotional dependence. He may be frustrated to find that his spouse appears to be perpetually engrossed in the baby and makes no time for him alone. He may be alarmed by the baby’s fragile appearance. Older fathers may be especially worried that the baby will cramp their lifestyle.
To make things worse, some mothers go out of their way to point out their partner’s faults and clumsiness in handling the baby, so as to reinforce their role as primary caregiver. Conversely, some men prefer to delegate all tasks concerning children to the mother (possibly as their father did with their mother) or idealize her maternal abilities as a way of justifying their non-involvement with the child.
The Need to Communicate
None of this need happen if communications remain good within the couple, if the partners feel that they can express their wishes and are attentive to each others’ needs.
Mothers, remember that your partner cannot always guess your needs. Your spouse does not instinctively know what to do and may in reality feel lost. Don’t become a prisoner of stereotypes. One major cause of postnatal tensions between partners can be eliminated by avoiding the roles of “father hen” and “perfect mother.” Re-establish frank, open communication. Try to respect each other’s uncertainties. Ask yourself, “How would I react if I were only a spectator and not the main actor?”
Give your partner precise tasks to fulfill. Make him feel needed. Find time for yourselves as a couple (some 90 percent of couples go out less after the birth of a child)—you need outside activities! Having children satisfies a basic need for many women, but all women also need adult relationships. A child will never replace the lover and partner.
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