Q&A: My wife wants me to help more with the kidsWritten by Focus on the Family
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Question: If you ask me, I spend a lot of time with my kids. Every night when I come home I get down on the floor and play with them. I like to wrestle with my two-year-old son. But my wife expects me to do things I don't know how to do and never thought of doing – things like getting meals and changing diapers. The pressure is getting to be too much. What should I do?
Here, as in every other area of married life, open communication is the key to mutual understanding and a successful relationship. Many couples never talk to each other about their parenting expectations. Nor are they willing to open up and share the fears and struggles they're facing as they take on the challenge of caring for a child. In most cases, both of them are doing the best they can, and both of them are feeling insecure. The first step toward resolving this difficulty is to air these thoughts and feelings in an honest and non-threatening way.
Make space for open communication
You and your wife need to sit down and discuss this issue calmly and rationally. We suggest you look for an opportune moment to let her know what you're feeling. The best way to arrange this is to get a babysitter and take her out for the evening, away from the kids and the pressures of household chores. Share dinner together at a nice restaurant. When you're both relaxed and in a good mood, express your frustrations openly and candidly. At the same time, make it clear that you're ready and willing to help with the kids in any way you can. Ask her if it would be possible to make her wishes plain ahead of time. If you're unsure of your ability to carry out certain tasks, ask her to help you out with some basic training and instruction. She'll probably appreciate this more than you realize.
Understanding each other
As you prepare for this conversation, try to be aware of the God-ordained distinction between male and female and how it's impacting your relationship in this particular instance. Nature has delegated the functions of pregnancy, childbearing, nursing and nurturing to the woman. As a result, mothers tend to have an immediate and intuitive connection with a new baby, whereas fathers sometimes feel uncomfortable and "out of their element" when asked to step in and lend a hand. Women often say they want their husbands to assist with parenting tasks like diapering and feeding the baby, but when Dad tries to help, Mom jumps in to correct everything he’s doing. This leads to greater irritation on both sides, and the husband shrinks from trying to help next time, fearing that his attempts will be criticized. These are only general observations, of course –you will know best how relevant they are to the situation in your home. But if you bear these thoughts in mind, they may provide you with some helpful insight into the conflict you've been experiencing in your marriage.
Finding a balance
One additional thought. These days it's common for spouses in our culture to share child-rearing tasks to a much greater extent than their grandparents did. This is largely because it's also common for both husband and wife to be employed outside the home. Many contemporary couples are convinced that it is impossible to live on one income. We would suggest that this is an assumption worth challenging. If you have enough courage to give it a try, you may possibly discover that you can cut back on expenses and stretch your resources so that Mom is enabled to stay home with the kids full-time. This in turn may go a long way toward resolving some of the issues you've encountered over the question of sharing child-care responsibilities.
Aim to be a team
Whatever approach you take, it’s vital that you and your wife learn how to function as a team. God designed babies to benefit from the love and care of both parents, and you and your spouse were designed to fall in love with your child. None of this can happen unless you spend time together. Some dads complain that they're unfamiliar with baby's routine, but child-care skills can be learned. So don't use inexperience as an excuse for abdicating your responsibility. This is yet another area in which husband and wife need to be patient with one another and cut each other some slack.
If you and your spouse are struggling in your respective roles as mother and father, our staff counsellors would be happy to come alongside you and lend you a hand. It would be their privilege to listen to your concerns and offer their perspective over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified counsellors in your area who specialize in marriage and family therapy. You can contact our counselling line at 1.800.661.9800.
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