Parenting

The Best Thing My Wife Did for Me As a New Dad Was… Nothing

The best thing that my wife ever did for me after my son was born was…nothing.

Let me explain:

sleeping baby

I didn’t know anything about babies when my son was born. Lamaze classes are great, but once you’re holding that squirming and peeing baby, everything goes out the window. The only thing that I was confident in doing when my son was born was changing diapers. I used to work with developmentally disabled adults and had changed thousands of diapers, so I had diapering down. But everything else?  Clueless.

But besides being a clueless dad, I was also fearless. That, and I was completely confident that I was going to “get it.” And I was determined to do so.

My wife was equally confident that I would be able understand how to go about taking care of a baby. And so, she confidently would leave me alone with our new baby. Within days of having a baby, I was left alone with a crying little guy who I had no idea how to quiet. I walked around, danced, bobbed, did everything I could to help calm him down, but time and again I failed. I tried to give him a bottle, but that too didn’t work. He was unhappy and I didn’t know how to hold him. So there we were, two guys who didn’t know one another.

But my wife left us alone and we figured it out. My wife never yanked him from my arms and said, “Hold him this way.” She never yelled, “You’re doing it wrong!” She let me figure it out on my own. My wife understands how I learn things. I’m like a lot of guys, I learn from being in the moment. I learn by doing things with my hands. Looking back, it must have been frustrating for her to watch the two of us struggle, but those struggles were important so that we could understand one another.

All too often I hear from new dads that their wives make them feel incompetent, which makes them not want to bond with the baby. Constantly fearing that you’re doing it wrong and that you’ll be scolded for doing so is not the way to start a parenting partnership. I don’t know if my wife consciously did this for me or if it was simply the result of being exhausted from delivering and from breastfeeding. But whatever the reason was, it was good for me.

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11 comments

  1. My experience was the same. Neither my wife nor I were experts when our first kid was born and we figured it out together, each in our own way and now, three kids later, are better parents for it. We are constantly learning how to parent and sharing our lessons learned with one another along the way. Some things that work for me don’t work for my wife and vice-versa. We are both pretty good at what we do as a result of trial and error, making it up as we go along…

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  2. All too often we, as men, expect the mothers of our children to be the ones who will know what to do (often silly as they are new to this just like us), sadly I admit I was the same with my first child (at least to start with) I learnt from my wife rather than learning from my child, but you are right, given the need all men could easily learn the same way the mothers do.

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  3. My wife constantly made me feel this way. I told her what she was doing too. Once she started to see what she was doing she finally realized how it was making me feel. I gotta say though that just being thrown into parenting is the best way to learn how to be the best parent you can be.

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  4. I was an antenatal teacher until recently and one of the things I used to do in class was teach the importance of both mums and dads figuring things out for themselves. I used to get the dads to do a practice nappy-change and at the same time I would hand round some reusable nappies for the mums to look at, explaining that even if they weren’t interested in the reusables, I needed something to distract them from telling their partners they were doing it all wrong (which given that often it was the first time the dads had ever changed a nappy, they often did get it wrong). It doesn’t take much to undermine dad’s confidence even before the baby is born and worse case scenario is he then withdraws from being with the baby at all. Good for your wife!

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