We asked mother-of-two Jo Hartley to share her perspective on how new dads can support their partners at a time when we can sometimes feel like spectators.
In the early days of parenthood, I felt lost at sea. My head was above the surface, a happy hormone smile plastered on my face, but underneath my legs were paddling to stay afloat. I couldn’t for the life of me find a navigation manual and where the hell was the lifeboat to get away?
Thankfully my calmer and more practical husband was on hand to help. Turns out he’s a better and more confident swimmer than me. God knows, he pulled me back to shore on many an occasion – especially during those first six weeks.
Those first six weeks were a steep learning curve for us, and I know that sometimes my hubby, like many dads, felt left in the shadows.
Watching us mums breastfeeding and bonding with the little one is bound to leave any dad feeling a bit like a third wheel.
But, trust me when I say that your role as husband is more important now than ever. Little things you do to help may not feel a lot to you, but they make a whole lot of difference.
To give you an idea, here’s how my hubby helped me.
1. He asked me if I was OK
Those first few weeks as a mum can be a rollercoaster of emotions. For me, I felt elated, yet scared, happy and sad. I felt the loneliest I had ever been, while feeling the most satisfied. It was so confusing.
But, every day my hubby took time to ask me if I was ok. He’d check in with me in the morning, phone me in the day and sit down with me on a night.
On crap days, he’d get an earful, and no doubt regret asking, but on good days it was nice to share with him my highs.
When your newborn is the sole focus of everyone’s attention, it was nice for me to still be the focus of his.
2. He forced me to take time out (in the nicest possible way!)
As a new mum it’s really hard to give yourself permission to take time out. Will my baby be in therapy if I go for a coffee with a friend? Will he feel abandoned? Will everyone think I’m a selfish mum? Yes, us mums overthink it all!
Yet, having time out was SO important for me, especially because I’d been so social before.
Playgroups and baby meetings are all well and good, but talking about poos and sleep (or lack of) can get a little tedious after a while.
My hubby encouraged me to take time out regularly, whether I went out by myself, with friends or was just left in peace at home to finally have a shower longer than five minutes.
He, convinced me that our son would survive, and, for the record, he did.
3. He took charge of the housework
If your partner is anything like me, she likes to limit the clutter and mess and can be pedantic about housework. Overflowing laundry bins and sinks full of dishes are the stuff of nightmares to me. Yes, I need to get out more, I know.
In my sleep deprived and hormonal state, managing housework while keeping a small person alive felt insurmountable. And that’s when hubby stepped up.
Before he headed to work he’d do all the mundane morning chores. He’d unload the dishwasher, wipe down the worktops, put in a load of washing and put other washing away.
If there was anything I’d asked him to do, it would get done. On bonus days, he’d made dinner in advance.
4. He did the groceries
Getting out of the house with a newborn can feel much akin to climbing Everest for a new mum in those first few weeks.
It took hours of mental preparation, what felt like hours to pack the suitcase of supplies, and hours of origami to manipulate the stroller in and out of the car.
Grocery shopping was not high on my ‘to do’ list. Minimal supplies were about all I could manage, and an online shop is too hard when your brain doesn’t work.
So, when hubby did the groceries, it was such a relief. It took the pressure off, and helped curb my excessive chocolate consumption!
5. He didn’t bother me for intimacy
Sorry guys, but you know where this is going and, yes, I know it’s tough. But when my hubby backed off on the intimacy side of things, I couldn’t have loved him more.
I was pretty much spending all day every day with a little person attached to me and at times that could be so hard. Hubby would often be greeted by his son being thrust into his arms because I’d simply had enough of being touched.
The only touch I wouldn’t reject was from the pillow beneath my head!
6. He always had faith in me
Becoming a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There’s no instruction manual, there’s no off switch and once you’ve signed up for it, there’s simply no signing out. In those early days of endless googling and reading, I’d fret that I just couldn’t make the grade.
But, my hubby always had faith. When I almost amputated my son’s finger the first time I cut his nails (may be slight exaggeration), he showed me the reality of the tiny cut. When I was convinced my son hated me, he held him to prove that he cried incessantly for him too.
From day one he had my back. He convinced me that I was doing a great job and supported me with every decision. Without his support I wouldn’t have had the confidence I had and without his help I wouldn’t have become the mum I am.
So, dads, while you may feel a little sidelined in those early weeks, please know that you’re still a main player in this parenting game. We can’t win without you. Every little thing you do to help is a victory for us …even if we’re so sleep deprived we forget to say thanks!