It’s your first date. Everything is going well. There are no awkward pauses in conversation and it feels like the two of you are the only people on the planet. This is the making of something special.
After a few more dates and a formal declaration of commitment, you are convinced that he or she is the one. Yes, the two of you have had your highs and your lows — but you have always had each other. It’s always been just the two of you.
Who is this little person in our house?
Let’s fast forward, this time the amazing twosome has expanded. There is now a third member to this unit. This member is completely new, and hasn’t had all the amazing history you have shared with your partner. Your new baby is completely foreign to the little fiefdom that the two of you have created.
Now, things are different.
This is good, but it also means that the dynamics have changed, and so has your relationship.
At first, this change can be harder on dad than on mom. Your beautiful partner, the person you shared everything with over the years is now devoting all her attention, time and energy to this little home-invader, your baby. While you know this should be expected, dad feels a little left out.
The beginning of a beautiful relationship
Baby and mom have been bonding in-utero, for about 9 months. Baby has been able to hear mom’s voice — they have experienced emotions together and even shared a heartbeat. This is an intimate bond, which dad cannot compete with. This bond strengthens even further after baby is born when she begins to breastfeed. Unfortunately for dad, he doesn’t have milk producing mammary glands.
What about Dad?
Dad could feel a little insecure for two reasons. Firstly, dad now has to share his partner with his baby. All his partners’ attention – that was once focused on him — is now focused on the new baby. Or depending on how you look at it, there is this new person that dad has to form a bond with. It’s not immediately formed like it is with mom, since dad doesn’t have pre-established physical bonds to fall back on. Their relationship is newer and has to start from scratch. This can be quite overwhelming for dad. It could leave him at odds and even with feelings of jealousy.
What can we do?
An old relationship is changed and a new one needs to be formed. There are some simple things dad can do to get more involved.
- Skin-to-skin contact is important. Dads should form their own personal routines with baby. You could make bath time your time, or even better – change baby’s nappies.
As for mom — it’s important to remember that your relationship is the one that came first –and it also needs nurturing. It can’t be forgotten between midnight feeds and wiping drool.
- Make time for your partner, even if it’s challenging.
You need to go back to basics, right back to the first date, where it all started. Here are some ideas how:
- Schedule a date night with your partner where you do something you both enjoy.
- Make sure you give your partner a hug when you pass him in the hallway — or even better a passionate kiss. It may all seem like small stuff, but it will keep you connected. Children will grow up and leave the home — your relationship is the one that will be left behind.
- Also, just remember to speak. Open your mouth and let the feelings flow. This is the only way to make sure that resentment doesn’t build.
Dad’s must rest assured that baby will eventually recognise him and not want mom all the time. So, eventually, everyone will have their turn.
On the flip side
Another fast forward, and this time that little squishy baby is all grown up, and she is the apple of her dad’s eye. The tables have now turned, and mom is now the one who feels the pangs of jealousy. Mom is no longer the number one girl in the house as she has to share this title with her daughter.
Jealousy is a normal reaction in both of these instances. “Jealousy is a response to a perceived threat to an important relationship. Part of our feeling of who we are comes from how others treat us, and when one special person seems to shift that treatment to someone else, it is normal to feel insecurity and a loss of identity,” says Professor of Psychology, Gerrod Parrot from Georgetown University.
According to Professor Parrot, romantic love and parental love overlap. He says both involve strong attachment and dependency. This is why is it so hard to see that attention that was once yours, given to someone else. What makes this more difficult than dad’s situation is that it is more taboo for mom to have these feelings of jealousy towards her child. This is even thought to be “unnatural” when in fact it isn’t. Society may even make mom feel guilty for having these emotions.
Will the same treatment work for mom?
Mom will have to take the same steps that dad did. She will have to admit her feelings of neglect and insecurity. Mom will have to openly ask for attention. It is important to get this out of the way, because it could quite easily erode the relationship between mother and daughter.
The relationship between mom and daughter is more complex than between son and mom, because of purely physical differences that clarify the relationship. The similarities between mom and daughter make their relationship more complicated. Therefore it needs to be addressed immediately, instead of letting it linger, as uncomfortable as it may be.
Always remember that it’s normal to feel this way. You must address your feelings as soon as possible though and always bear in mind, that you are just as important as your baby to your partner. Because of you, there is a baby in the first place.