There’s a horrible dark side to having a baby.
It’s supposed to be a wonderful experience of joy and love, but for far too many men it marks the end of their loving relationship with their wives.
New moms are appropriately wired to become obsessed with their babies, but if we just stand back in our experience of being replaced, things can become miserable.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix. There are concrete steps that you can do that can lead to actually knowing more love than you’ve ever known.
Here are the four things that I did that made it so I never had to feel that horrible feeling of being replaced by my own child.
There is a dark side to having a child that can be very painful. During the pregnancy and the birth, we often feel profoundly close to our partners. But then the baby comes and our wife’s attention quickly turns almost entirely towards the baby.
We can so easily feel replaced, unloved and even resenting our own child. It can be quite hard on our relationships and ourselves. Unfortunately, it leads to a lot of dads just backing away and not getting involved in the parenting, which in turn puts a huge strain on the relationship. Fortunately there a few things you can do to easily fix the problem.
1. Make Time to Bond
The first thing that you can do is to simply go and spend more time with your baby. Give yourself and your child the chance to fall in love. It is so easy to stand back and just support the relationship between the mother and the child, but it is crucial that we give ourselves the time to really bond with our babies.
Just take off your shirt and feel them skin to skin with you, stare into their eyes and listen to their sounds. Revel in the wonder of holding a being that is half you. If you repeatedly give yourself these moments, the love you will feel easily replaces that previous experience of being excluded.
This also supports your wife to have some time alone and nurture herself. And gives her the space to see you taking care of her child, which typically reminds her of her love for you. It thus allows the whole triangle to really be balanced. If you focus on loving your baby, your wife can have the space to love you, and the whole family can thrive.
2. Nurture your Relationship
It is so easy to neglect your relationship with your partner. Her instinct is to turn her complete attention towards the baby and that is primarily a good thing, but you obviously need to nurture your relationship with her or you won’t be able to weather all the inherent difficulties of having a baby.
Unfortunately, sex is often not an option at this point because of what women go through both during the birth and after. Between the physical changes, the hormonal swings and an appropriately needy child, it’s rare that a new mom feels anything but aversion to sex.
Fortunately, if we can find other ways to connect with our partner and feel emotionally connected, then our sexual needs do not have to dominate the situation. Yes, sex is one of the easiest ways to feel close, to feel wanted and to play together. But that is not the only way.
Start by talking to your partner. Share what is really going on for you? If you are feeling unloved and displaced, simply ask if she has a moment to listen to you and tell her what you have been feeling. Make sure not to blame her for the lack of sex as our sexual frustration is no more her fault than ours.
Just tell her how hard it is for you. You can also share your longing to be close to her, how difficult it is to not have sex so much anymore, and how you would like to find the joy of your relationship again. This type of authentic expression of vulnerability creates true intimacy and can often be more satisfying than the type of quick sex that having a baby often necessitates.
Talk together about others ways that you can connect. Perhaps cuddling, massage, a cup of tea or a walk in nature with your baby.
3. Ask for Support
Moms are wired to respond to their baby’s every need. The strength of their motherly instincts often stops us from having the space to be engaged fathers because they are so quick to react to the child’s needs. Or if we do get the chance to connect, moms are typically quick to tell us how we should be doing it differently. This can cause us fathers to stand back because it is very discouraging to be consistently told how we should be doing something differently. Combine these dynamics with our conceptions that women are better parents and it makes it easy to just let them handle it. Unfortunately, this leads to this horrible experience of being a third wheel in one’s own family.
Most moms would love to not have to do so much and are really happy to hear that we would like them to give us more space to be a dad. Just ask if she is available to listen. Tell her how you are feeling like a second class parent and ask if she would be willing to give you more space. Tell her you want to be that awesome father, but that her criticisms make it hard to find your own way.
It does take effort for women to stop their hardwired motherly instincts. I talk extensively about how they can do that in the video One Key to Being A Great Mom.
4. Work Less!
It is hard in our current culture to cut back at work, but how often do we hear from people that have lived well into old age that the one thing they regret is that they did not spend more time with their loved ones. They never regret having not spent more time at the office or having not gotten further in their career. This moment with you and your baby and your partner is one of the most valuable moments in life. Such amazing potential for intimacy and connection that can fill the heart like no other. If we stand back and go off to work out of a habit or a perception of expectation, then we lose this precious moment forever.
Yes, it is hard. Your work may be upset with you for cutting out a little early or taking all of the paternity leave that is offered to you, but take whatever you can. Give that to your family and give that to yourself. Maybe you are passed up for the next promotion. Probably not, but what is worth more?
It is truly horrific when this beautiful moment of our child’s birth is followed up by us feeling lonely and displaced. Use these four things to turn the corner and get back in there with your family:
1. Take the time to be engaged and fall in love with your baby.
2. Nurture your relationship with your wife.
3. Ask her to support you to be an engaged father.
4. Work as little as possible.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear how you have handled these difficult moments. Please join the conversation below. This is hard stuff and we are all doing our best, so let’s keep it supportive. I will see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.