Category Archives: Dads

What Every New Mom Wants Her Husband to Know

IMG_6531I have a handful of friends who are either expecting or recently welcomed a child into the world.  For some, this is their very first time.  For a few others, they are welcoming baby #2 or 3.  This write is for all of them and their husbands.  (I am three years out of having a new baby so I am now in the “safe to write about this topic” with my husband.)

She is more tired than you are.  I know. I know you are tired too, but you really are not nearly as tired as she is.  She is physically tired from sleeping in 2-3 hour chunks for the last several months. Yes, months. You may be tired from waking up with the crying baby, but she started this motherhood with a sleep deficit from waking up every few hours to pee or roll over or grab a few TUMS.  She is more tired than you are. Let her have that title.

If you really must complain about how tired you are (all new parents have the right to announce their astonishment at the lack of sleep), please please please begin your complaint with, “I have no idea how you are functioning… I’m so tired;” “You must be exhausted because I’m so tired;” or something along those lines.  New Mom will appreciate your respectful nod to her own tiredness. Unless of course, she fell asleep before you finished your sentence.

She really wouldn’t mind hearing your compliments. Everyone likes to hear that their hard work is not only noticed, but appreciated and admired.  New Mom is no different.  In fact, she is probably putting more effort and energy into your new little bundle of joy than she has put into anything. Ever. However, her effort is overlooked by the wee one who most likely responds to her hardwork with screams, spit-up (the ultimate insult to a nursing mother), or a smelly poopy diaper.  So if Baby isn’t going to say, “Gee, Mom, you really are amazing! The way you keep calm, the way you sing that sweet song, the way you know just how to hold me when I have reflux…. you blow my mind away,” then, it’s up to you, Dad.  Compliment the way she handles the baby and the way she handles herself.  Point out the things you never knew she knew how to do so well.  Notice the way she can cradle the baby in one arm and fold clothes/text her friends/bake bread/anything with the other.  Notice that she took a shower today!!! That’s HUGE.

New Mom is working darn hard these days.  She deserves a tip of the hat, a compliment, a compliment in front of others (!), a hug for a job well-done. She deserves encouragement when she thinks she messing up the whole thing, she deserves a reminder that her body created a whole new being and no one else could do a finer job. She deserves a boost when she’s so tired she’s almost crazy and a kiss when she climbs back into bed for the fifth time each night.

She thinks she looks pretty awful. Okay, maybe not every woman thinks she looks “awful” after having the baby, but I think most do.  If your New Mom is a lucky lady who has a body that bounces back quickly, that’s awesome for you and her… but I bet she’d still like to hear that you think she’s a beauty.  For the average woman, post-baby is quite possibly the ugliest few months or years.  Let’s start with the physical, since that’s the easiest.  Crazy stuff is happening with her body.  The belly, the feet, the ankles, the hair falling out,  the sweatiness… oh, the sweatiness in the middle of the night… the boobs that might look nicer but are oh so painful, it’s sort of a head-to-toe disaster.  Now, you may not think she looks like a disaster (I sincerely hope you do not) because you can see all the beauty that she is as a New Mom, but she thinks you do.  Let’s move on to her new fragrance, because that might be the most obvious.  New Mom probably smells… interesting.  A little bit of her old self, add quite a bit of sweatiness from those night sweats, plus a whole lot of breastmilk that leaked sometime during the night or day, and a splash of spit-up most likely down the back of her shoulder or even in her hair…. subtract daily showers and you get…  Mmmmmmmm. Yeah, that doesn’t make a lady feel amazing! If you notice her new “perfume,” just don’t mention it.

Not only is she battling post-baby body, she’s also been battling the fact that she watched her body balloon from pre-baby to full-term baby. That’s pretty incredible.  Imagine holding your hand 6-8 inches in front of your belly… and over the next few months your belly would just grow and grow and grow.  I know I used to poke the front of my full-term belly and think, “HOLY COW… how in the world am I, me, myself, that far out there?!” So it’s not just the fact that Baby is now born and her body is different, it’s that she’s watched her body morph from the one she knew for years to this foreign expanding, shrinking, swelling, leaking, stinking thing she has now.  She will go back to normal. She will. She just might not believe that yet.

Remind her that she’s beautiful – she was before Baby and she is after Baby – and, at the same time, know that that probably won’t be enough…. but keep reminding her anyway.

She really wants a break. She really would like some time off.  You would too, I know.  But this topic is not about you, so there.  New Mom is giving and giving and giving some more of herself to the wee one and she could just use some time where she does not have to give to anyone.  She also really really does not want to ask for it. She would really really really like you to suggest it.  Is that silly? Yes. Does it feel like she is playing games? Yes. Is she? No. Remember, she’s tired, she thinks she looks a mess, she knows she smells like old cheese… could you just make this suggestion instead of making her ask?

In the early days of Baby, and if she is nursing, she can probably only take an hour or two before she’s back on the job.  You could let her sleep in; you could take Baby (and siblings) to the grocery store or Home Depot; you could drop her off at the nail salon or a friends house while you drive around with Baby so she knows the little one will get a good nap.  The best breaks are when New Mom can not hear or see or smell Baby.  Give her a break… a real break.  I can almost guaranteee she will come back to you and the babe much more relaxed and enjoyable to be around.  (Also, this is setting you up well to show her how capable you are as a Dad.  This could lead to her having complete faith in your abilities to take care of your little prodigy… which means she won’t micromanage the house/children  in months and years to come.) This one is a win-win for everyone!

She may have lost her mind a little.  New Mom’s brain is amazing.  Pregnant Mom’s brain is something short of amazing… at least mine was.  I just couldn’t put thoughts together well. No, I just couldn’t put thoughts together at all.  But take a look at all that New Mom is keeping track of in those first few months.  There’s the eating schedule including how many ounces were ingested (including how much from each side if she’s a nursing mom), there’s the diaper count – dirty versus clean… don’t want to run out!, there’s the sleeping schedule and lengths, there’s the exactly how old is Baby right now count (this is probably only for a first-time New Mom), there’s the constant tally of which “thank you” notes have been written versus need to be written, there’s the adult meal schedule that may or may not be delivered by friends and family, there’s the knowledge of the first few chapters of What To Expect the First Year (and where Baby is or isn’t measuring up), I bet she even knows how many clean onesies are in the drawer and she has an idea when she will need to do laundry.  That’s just the beginning.  That’s just Baby stuff, not to mention normal adult stuff. And she’s sleep deprived.

So if you’re New Mom has a crazed look on her face, it’s just that she’s counting and tallying and measuring things in her head.  Or she fell asleep with her eyes open.  It’s best to just refer back to the first few suggestions above and give her a compliment or give her a break.

On a serious note, also keep an eye out for postpartum depression.  This is real.  I, for one, experienced depression after my third baby.  You and your New Mom need to take this seriously.  It’s a touchy subject to put on the table, but it’s definitely worth it.  There is a variety of treatments available and the treatments seriously work. If you suspect she may be experiencing moods that run deeper than “baby blues” I strongly suggest talking to her about your concerns and encouraging her to talk to her OB/Gyn as soon as possible.

She’s pretty awesome.  You probably know this already. Yes. You do. The coolest thing is that New Mom probably has some new-found self-awareness of her awesomeness.  She’s a Mom.  She might be a Mom again or maybe Mom for the first time. It doesn’t really matter.  She, by the grace of God, brought a human being, into the world.  No matter how tired or ugly or overwhelmed or crazy she feels, she knows she did something awesome.  Celebrate her! Celebrate her awesomeness!  Celebrate the awesomeness of your New Family!   (You are pretty awesome too, by the way.)


There’s a Newborn in the World! (and 5 Lessons from Me)

In the very wee hours this morning, the world welcomed a brand new Being.  With bleary eyes and a wet brow she took a deep breath and let out a sound that may have been a cry or maybe just a gasp or even a contented sigh.  I can imagine this new world she had just entered seemed at once overwhelming and strange, yet completely where she was supposed to be.  No doubt she was unsure of what exactly would happen next but suddenly the only thing that mattered was the face gazing back at her, eyes locked and filled with love.  Brand new in this strange world, ready to take on the journey ahead of her… wait a minute… do you think I’m talking about the baby???? No, no, no, I’m talking about the Momma. Yes. One of my dear friends became a mother today.  One sweet and deliciously handsome baby boy and one kind and amazing Momma were born this morning.

All day I’ve been thinking about those beginning hours and days of Motherhood.  The poor kid has been squeezed out of his safe, warm, floating cocoon and into this harsh world with bright lights and loud noises.  The poor Momma just put her body through the ringer and smack dab into recovering from labor/delivery while nourishing another human while not sleeping while hormones are plunging and skyrocketing while baby is crying while husband is asking questions while lactation consultants are getting their faces very near her breasts while nurses continuously poke and prod her while all the while she is asking herself “what in the world am I doing?”  It’s all very crazy.  Except when she looks down into that sweet fella’s handsome and chubby-cheeked face and the world sort of stops for a moment and she remembers, “oh yeah, I’m a Momma.”

I’ve thought about all the things I wish I had known when I was a newly born Momma.  Of all the pieces of advice I would give myself to try to make the road a little easier.  (I wonder if I would even listen to myself or have to learn those lessons the hard way?) So tonight I’m going to write myself my Top 5 Thoughts I (7 year old Momma) Would Share with Me (Newborn Momma)…

1. You are the best Momma for your Baby. Own that title.
Motherhood opens the door for solicited and unsolicited advice beyond your wildest dreams.  You also get to be judged by other mothers…. And even worse…. Non-mothers.  This is a fact of Motherhood.  You can either get really irritated and angry and rant on Facebook about it, or you can accept that people will judge you and tell you how to do things “better” and laugh it off or blow it off and then joke about it on Facebook.  (Facebook also seems to be a fact of Motherhood too.)

I’m unsure if people have good intentions when they offer young mothers advice, especially in the grocery store. Perhaps it’s a joke they play by trying get inside our already-scattered-Momma-brain and make us more distracted and therefore running late and baby crying while we walk up and down the aisles trying to remember what we needed to buy in the first place.  If that’s the case, it’s really not a funny joke.  Anyway, regardless of why people feel the need to share their thoughts and opinions on how you should be raising your child, you needn’t pay attention.  You are your baby’s Momma. You know your baby better than anyone else. You know his personality, how he likes to sleep, how he prefers to be held, etc. You know what’s going on in your family or your family’s history that is influencing your mothering decisions.  Be confident in those things. Be confidant in You.  If you are happy with the way your Motherhood is shaping up, then don’t worry about what other people think or say.  Trust yourself.  Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty.

But one day, you might just think, “I’m not sure I’m doing this the best way…. How could I do this differently?” And that takes me to #2…

 2. Surround yourself with girlfriends (fellow moms and non-moms, too) who you respect and trust.
Many aspects of Motherhood are tough and confusing and downright soul-crushing.  You will need your girlfriends to help you.  It’s okay, dare I say “great”, to ask your friends for help or advice or a kick in the pants.  Back in the day the ladies used to raise their little bambinos together.  Aunts, grandmas, sisters, neighbors would share some of the burden. I don’t really know why, but today’s mothers seem a lot more independent and refuse to ask for help when they need it.  Sharing the burdens is a great way to bond with your girlfriends, to allow each other to see that other Mommas have struggles too, to learn new ways to solve problems, to get a fresh perspective on what Motherhood means.  Even more importantly, sharing the burdens almost always leads to sharing the joys too.  Let your friends help you out.  Let your friends offer you advice and pointers.  Don’t let your pride get in the way or the fear of looking weak and unfit make you miss the opportunity to lean on one of your girlfriends.  One day it will be your turn to offer advice or a helping hand and those friends will soon be like family.

Speaking of family… Let’s head to #3…

3.    So now that you just went from husband and wife to an actual “family,” be prepared to ache for your extended family.
I am blessed to have the world’s most amazing family.  I’ve pretty much always known that.  However, from that first day of Motherhood, I had never truly ached to be near my family more.  My sister and I would talk about living in the same city one day when we had families and that was fun to daydream about, but not a serious “how can we make this happen” plan.  My parents would come out and visit my husband and me wherever the Navy had stationed us.  We would do silly touristy things that were fun, but not entirely monumental. (No offense Mom and Dad.)  After I became a Momma I ached and ached for my family to come and meet my daughter.  I wanted them to see her and all of her fabulousness, and I also wanted them to see me in all my Momma glory (remember…. Sleeplessness, hormonal, sore, etc.)!  I ached for my daughter to meet her aunt who would love her almost nearly as much as I loved her.  I wanted my In-Laws to see the newest little person with our shared last name.  I wanted my daughter to be surrounded by those that loved her most and to be held in the arms that would be hugging her for years and years to come.  No matter the drama that comes with family… we all gots at least a little drama…. Becoming a new Momma makes you ache for those that love you best.

(Also, your extended family are the people who you can fully and totally trust with your brand new baby so you can sleep without one ear open.  My Mother-In-Law gets credit for my first four-hour-straight nap of full deep sleep.  She will forever have a special place in my heart for that nap.)

Family means love, and adding a new member to your family makes you crave that love from the people that love you best.  And who is the one who really truly loves you best… #4 focuses on that…

4.    The one other person on Earth who gets credit for giving you the title of Momma… Your husband…. You’re both winners. So stop competing!
This one might be a little silly, but my husband and I had to actually say this rule out loud and agree upon it when we were prepping for baby #2’s arrival.

Stop competing over who is more tired.

Right around week three or so, when the adrenaline wore off and we were still getting sleep in approximately 2-3 hour chunks we had this conversation:

Dad: “I’m so tired.”
Momma: “Really? Are you?”
Dad: “Yes. Really.  My body aches I’m so tired.”
Momma: “Hmmm. Yeah, I’m pretty sore from my c-section and pretty tired too. Did you know I was up every two hours last night?”
Dad: “I know. I was up too.”
Momma: “But then you went back to sleep while I was feeding her.”
Dad: “But I woke up. I heard her crying.”
Momma: “Yeah, But You. Went. Back. To. Sleep. I heard you SNORING.”
Dad: “I know but then you threw that sock at me so I woke up again.”
Momma: “I threw the sock at you because you were snoring and almost woke the baby up.”
Dad: “Well then I was up and went to work all day.”
Momma: “Well then I was up and went to work all day too.”
Dad: “But I didn’t get to nap.”
Momma: “Well I only napped a little because by the time I fell asleep Baby woke up ten minutes later.”
Dad: “Ah, I’m so tired a ten minute nap sounds good. I’m so tired.”
Momma: “Well, I’m more tired than you are.”
Dad: “Are you? Are you? I’m probably more tired than you think I am.”
Momma: “Maybe but I’m pretty sure I’m more tired than you are.”

WHAT?!  That was just silly.  Clearly we were sleep deprived and delirious to think that was a helpful conversation.  The second and third time we had a newborn in the house we would say something like this:

Dad: “I’m so tired.”
Momma: “I know. Me too.”
Dad: “Baby was up a bunch last night, huh?”
Momma: “Yep. I’m so tired.”
Dad: “I know. Me too.”

Keep in mind that while you, Momma, are working hard. So is Dad.  Is it the same? No. Does that matter? No.  Just accept that the first few months everyone is tired and everyone is over-worked.  But the good news is……  #5….

5.    It’s just a phase.  Everything with kids is just a phase…
Read the fine print: this also means that if things are going well, it’s just a phase too. Soon things will start to not go well again.  But, that’s just a phase too!

I did not love the newborn phase.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with Baby all day.  I thought I was a bad mom or that I lacked some maternal instinct.  Turns out it was hormonal and I soon snapped out of it and life as a Momma turned out to be great.  I got into my groove and we sort of got a schedule down.  But that turned out to be a phase because she had a growth spurt. I was super tired and drained and crabby again, but that turned out to be a phase and she started being more interactive and Motherhood was actually fun.  The fun phase led right into the teething phase and that is a very not-fun phase.  The phases came and went and came and went.  All in all, you just have to hold on for dear life and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.  I’m seven years into this Momma life and I’m still riding through different phases.  Now with three kids I really have to enjoy the times when all three of them are in a good phase at the same time.  It does happen.  That is a most-awesome phase.  It’s actually a “Makes all the tough phases worth it 100 times over!” Phase.

*BONUS LESSON*
Allow your nurses to help as much as possible while you are in the hospital.
Our nurses took Baby #3, Samuel, out of our room for a few hours so I could sleep. I’m not sure I let Baby #1 out of my line of sight for the first few days.  By Baby #3, I had learned my lesson!  The nurses wrote this note on our door for all the hospital staff and un-announced visitors.
I’m fairly certain I could write pages and pages of more lessons I learned as a New Momma.  Not that I think I know everything now.  Certainly I’m still learning new lessons and re-learning old lessons.  This list was fun to write and think back on all the ways I have grown and changed over the years… almost like a newborn to a seven year old.  My dear friend, you know who you are, I wish you all the best in this wonderful life as a Momma!  You are going to do a wonderful job being the very best Momma that your little chicken could ever have, I look forward to watching you learn and grow along the way.  Love you!


Daddies Do It Different… and that’s not a bad thing

Last year, before my husband returned from an 8-month deployment, I stumbled up on the children’s book “Daddies Do It Different” by Alan Lawrence Sitomer and thought it would be a handy book to read to the kids.  Essentially the premise is that Mommy does things one way and Daddy does it different.  The book talks about breakfast time, grocery shopping, bath time, etc. and shows the difference on how each parent goes about each task.  In the end, of course, the little girl knows when she’s tucked into bed that both parents love her to pieces.

Now, months after my husband returned from deployment, the book continues to be a good reminder, not only to the kids but to me as well!  Being a stay-at-home mom and the adult that spends most of the day with our kids and our home often leads me to a mindset of “my way is the way”…. “the best way”… oh, who are we kidding, “the only way!” I have analyzed, organized, clothed, and scheduled our family and home to the optimal level of efficiency and happiness. No way could my husband have better ideas!

Oh. Wait. But Daddies do it different. Different does not actually mean “wrong,” “less effective” or “inferior” to Mommies and wives.

My thoughts for tonight are for all the wives and moms out there, who are proud and confident in their abilities to “keep house,” develop their marriage, or parent their children.  Surely, deservedly, be proud; be confident; know that you are rocking your responsibilities…. but also let your husband do the same. Let him do things different. The difference might be in how he folds the towels, his idea of a romantic date night, how he puts the toilet paper on the holder (although, the paper should fold over the top, right?! Right.), how he dresses the kids, what he feeds them for lunch.  Let Daddy do it different. Let your house/kids/pets experience and reflect some of him too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally not saying that we should just throw our hands up and let the fellas run the show all the time… or not address things that totally annoy us.  Maybe towels won’t fit in the closet neatly the way he folds them, or maybe your daughter has a school pictures and you really would prefer her to not wear her orange winter hat, My Little Pony t-shirt, and polka-dot leggings.  In those cases, speak up. Give clear instructions on the what and why it’s important to you.  In all cases, speak up if you have opinions… of course.  Just maybe try not to squash his attempts; don’t harshly criticize… making him feel like a fool.

I’m fairly certain that there are many dads and husbands out there who have pretty much given up on doing anything with the home, marriage, and family, because every time they tried, they were told, “You did it different and that’s not okay. Next time, do it my way.” I, for one, would much rather have my husband actively participate in our family (even if he does things differently than I would) than a husband who won’t plan a date night and won’t confidently watch the kids while I take a girls’ weekend away for fear of me telling him, “That’s not good enough.”

During the past week we continued our family vacation from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park.  We had a blast. The kids loved every minute of our hikes and boulder-ing and exploring. And guess who took the lead?! Daddy did! Dad was the one to say “Sure! Let’s go ahead and climb those giant boulders!” while I stood back wondering, “Is this safe? Are we supposed  to be letting them off the path? Are these rocks just too big for them?” He took on these challenges and obstacles with the kids… he did it differently than I would have… and the kids knocked my socks off.  They faced their fears; they bravely tried new things; and they conquered it all. Because Daddy did it different.

Daddy doing it different... look closely to the big rock with the shadow underneath... just to the right you can see my husband and three kids climbing. That would NOT have been my choice, but we had a blast climbing to the base of the waterfall!

Daddy doing it different… look closely to the big rock with the shadow underneath… just to the right you can see my husband and three kids climbing.

 


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