Being a real partner to a new mum
One minute there’s a floaty pregnant woman demanding that the baby come out, and the next minute she’s an exhausted wreck saying she can’t cope, her bosoms don’t work, she’ll never be able to be a good mother, boo and boo-hoo. Not much to be done, chaps, except pitch in and be true to the word ‘partner’, emotionally and around the house. It can be tricky, especially in the early days with all the raging hormones and exhaustion and bosoms akimbo-but-off-limits. Then you go back to work, or she does, and someone will have a crying baby thrust at them every night after her long, hard day and the other one will wonder how come they got signed up as Cinderella in a cyclone. This is your chance to be a real hero. Listen, sympathise, don’t try to solve everything immediately, do everything you can to reassure your partner that she’ll work out the breastfeeding or it doesn’t matter if she has to bottle-feed, and talk about being in it together and riding it through. This would be a good time to dip into any spare money for a weekly cleaner, even for just the first eight weeks, or to get your relatives and friends to bring food, fold washing and make themselves useful. Women and men at home can feel trapped in a new role they can’t get out of – ‘housewife’, ‘milking machine’ or ‘walking zombie’. Without making it a competition, sympathise and say you have mixed feelings about the responsibility of keeping the money coming in (or vice versa – whatever your individual situation is). If it seems like she’s very anxious or has gone ‘blank’ or is artificially alert, or you’re the one with those feelings, talk about it. Talk to your doctor. This is incredibly common, and very treatable. Many dads love to have their kids for hours on end – they hang out for the prospect. And many understand that parenthood is a joint venture. Having a supportive partner in these early days can make all the difference for women at home, between having the mild blues and thinking they’re going mad. Partners, especially those who are at home full time, can do with regular nights, mornings or afternoons off at the weekend. There’s no reason why men can’t become as competent as women at being a parent, if you don’t count the bosoms business. Mums don’t have a monopoly on baby knowledge. If you feel ‘frozen out’ or elbowed aside when you’re trying to learn and bond with your baby, speak up, and talk about it.
Extract from Babies & Toddlers by Kaz Cooke, published by Penguin Random House, out 19 November, RRP $39.99. The sequel to Up the Duff, Babies & Toddlers is a go-to manual on the care of babies and toddlers, from Australia’s most loved and trusted voice on health and life stages. Image: Grace Alyssa Kyo