Kylei sent us this question:
My question today is not so much about my child as it is my husband...
First, let me say how insanely proud I am of him. He was 19 when the baby was born, and he hasn't stopped trying for our family at any point. He works two jobs. He has been my rock through postpartum depression. But at first I think he was scared of the baby as he was very hands-off when she was first born. He'd only hold her for about 10 minutes a day and hand her off whenever she needed something. I have been nicely explaining to him that she learns to trust him as a daddy when he does small things for her, like change her diaper and dress her.
Last night he gave her a bath and dressed her for the first time without me helping very much. I only had to get her arms through her sleeves, because she hates that part and was pitching a fit to him. The last thing I want is for the baby to be stressful for him, so I tend to take over when he tells me things are getting too hard. Is that wrong of me to do? He doesn't get mad at her, but he does get mad at himself for not being as quick a I am.
Okay, sorry about the tangent, now for my real question:
Our 4-month-old has her first cold. It's pretty bad. She has a fever and stuffy nose. To help her, I do what I believe any good mother should do: I take her temp, give her Tylenol (if needed), and put saline drops in her nose and suck the ickiness out. She, of course, screams and cries. This, understandably, upsets my husband. I know it's hard to hear your baby cry and not be able to fix it. However, he does things like talk to her and say, "Ohhh, mama's so mean, putting drops in your nose." And, "how dare she just rip off your diaper to take your temp." (For the record, I tell her everything I'm going to do before actually doing it in a very loving tone.) When he does this, I usually tell him right then and there how I feel badly enough already. He sits there like an impatient 3-year-old, grimacing the whole time cause I am "ohh so mean." Then, when it's all over, he takes her right from my arms. This is the part that really makes me angry. In my mind, it turns me into the "bad cop" while he becomes the "safe person." Am I wrong in this thinking? Also how do can I explain it to him that it really does upset me without coming off as a nasty person? How can I even things out a bit more?
It sounds like you're being considerate of Dad and baby when you help out if baby is pitching a fit. You want their experiences together to be pleasant and stress-free. And Dad asks you for help when the situation starts to get too difficult. I'm wondering, though, if maybe what Dad means by "help" is not "do it for me" but "give me encouragement" or "verbal guidance" (like, "she's just crying because she doesn't like putting her arms in sleeves, but she's fine. You've got it under control!). If he's getting mad at himself for not being as quick as you, then he's not meeting his own expectation to handle the baby confidently when she's fussing at him. And, he won't be able to get to the point of meeting his own expectation if he doesn't get the practice!
Now, your little one has a cold. Mom's doing all the yucky stuff of taking rectal temps and sucking out gobs of snot so baby can breathe. Baby screams and cries and Daddy comes to the rescue! He holds baby and talks to her about that mean ol' Mommy who made her cry. Hmmm. That sounds slightly familiar! (Only without the talking!) See, Dad just did to you what you do to him. Now, I know, I know, you're thinking, "But he ASKS for my help!" True. But if, as I said earlier, what he means by "help" is "encouragement" and/or "verbal guidance," then, from his perspective he may feel like Mom's swooping down with her big ol' Super Mama cape and rescuing baby from mean ol' Daddy. And since he gets mad at himself for not meeting his own expectation, he's jumping at the chance to swoop down with his big ol' Super Dada cape and rescue baby from mean ol' Mama!
If you want baby to trust Daddy, then you have to trust Daddy with baby. He's asking for help because he's having difficulty trusting himself. So, if you show Dad you trust him (don't tell him -- don't even talk to him about this post -- just show him!), he will trust himself, and baby will trust you both. And, I would bet the next time baby has a cold, and she's screaming because you're sucking the snot out of her, Dad won't swoop down with his cape. He won't need to because both of you will feel like super parents!