July 9, 2007

Would you read this book?

Premise: A book about caring for and nurturing your marriage (or long-term romantic relationship) in the first year of your child's life.

Tone: Informative and witty.

The authors: Me and Sam, in alternating chapters.

Working title: "There's no I in 'It's Your Turn for the 3 a.m. Feeding': The Teamwork Approach to New Parenthood"

Possible ideas for chapters/topics (Caution - Still in rough draft stream-of-consciousness form) on how to mantain a happy relationship with a new father:

Remember that a new baby is a big adjustment for him, also. Even though it will never seem like he is doing an equal share of work, since you're the one whose body has been ravaged by the miracles of nature, he is still doing a lot more than he did before the baby was born. Shower him with positive reinforcement. Statements like: "You're such a good dad," "I love that you can get her to sleep," and "She really seems to adore you" go a long way. Even if, deep down, you feel like a milk cow that's been run over by a truck, avoid the temptation to tell him that he has it easy.

Men are naturally competitive. Use this to your advantage. Share stories of what other new fathers are doing to give him ideas. Don't limit yourself to best-case scenarios - He may perceive all the "Steve gave Melissa a diamond tennis bracelet and he does the 3 a.m. feeding" as passive-aggressive nagging. Instead, toss out some cautionary tales and remind him how much better he is than those selifsh layabouts: "John goes out drinking every night, but he's never once offered to take the baby so that Julie can have some time alone. You're so much more considerate than he is."

In those first few weeks when neither one of you is getting any rest, think of yourself as a team. Remember: PARENTING IS NOT A COMPETITION. You are on the same side. If he really wants to have a beer with his friends just to feel normal for 2 hours, encourage him to go. It may make you jealous, but he will be more relaxed and cheerful, which is a point for the team.
Explain to him that you need time to feel normal too. Leave him a bottle and ask him to watch the baby for 2 hours so that you can go get a pedicure, have a beer with your friends, or just sit and read a magazine at Starbucks.

Be very, very specific - and nice - when asking for help. Good Example: "Sweetie, can you please give the baby a 2 oz. bottle at 9:30 so that I can catch up on sleep? Thanks; I love you." Bad Example: "You never help out with the baby. You're worthless and I hate you."

If he screws up, don't rub it in. You're both new to this. If he puts on a diaper too loosely, let him know, but never in an accusatory or mean way. Acknowledge that you could have just as easily made the same mistake. Making him feel incompetent will shake his confidence and make him less likely to help out in the future.

Be generous with your thanks and kind words. Even if he takes you for granted sometimes, treat him as you would like to be treated. He will feel more loved, more appreciated, and more competent as a father.

It's perfectly normal to feel that, after a person has resided in and ceremoniously departed your body, you will never, ever want to have sex again. It's OK to tell him how you feel. On the other hand, your relationship needs intimacy more than ever. Try to make up the difference in hugs, kisses, or - if you can't even handle that - "I love you's." If you don't have the energy to orchestrate a "date night" like all the books suggest, order some takeout from a great restaurant, put the baby in a swing, turn down the lights, and have a quiet dinner together at home. Think of it as team building.

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