Q: My husband doesn't help with my daughter very much. I ask him about helping and he think he does a lot more then he actually does. He admits he doesnt do as much as me but when I ask him to help more he just says, "Well, I'm doing more then my dad ever did so you should be happy." I try to be patient but at this point we have another baby coming, and I know I can't keep up at the pace I'm going and I feel he's just being selfish, not feeding or changing her because he's eating or watching TV.
A: Thanks for bringing up a common concern among new parents. Your husband sounds like the men who were raised in the old model where their mothers shouldered almost all of the childcare responsibilities. When these men become parents, they may want to be more involved, but may be lacking in the skills needed. Many of these men become better parents as their children get older and they find them easier to relate to.
My suggestion in your case is to try to talk with your husband in a collaborative and non-confrontational way. Explain to him that with a second child on the way, you will need more help. Empower him to make choices. He can contribute to child rearing in many ways. He can help more with the newborn. Perhaps since it’s his second child he will feel better prepared this time around and will not be frightened of changing diapers or feeding a newborn. Many fathers prefer to stay out of the newborn care but will step up to the plate and help more with the older child when the second one arrives. Discuss with your husband what this option would look like for your family.
Another option is to continue to adhere to the traditional model where the mother provides hands-on care and the father provides economic support. As child-rearing responsibilities increase, as they will in your household shortly, many families hire additional help. This would place more economic pressure on your husband and he could feel like he is supporting the family in the way he feels he is most capable of doing.
The last option is to enlist help from extended family members.
Whichever option you and your husband choose, remember that you are on the same team and share the same goal of raising healthy and happy children. There is no one-size-fits-all model and roles change as children get older. Women are natural multitaskers and men are better at focusing on serial single-tasking. Try to understand and be patient when your husband says he is eating or watching TV.
Transitioning for a couple to a family of three is always a challenge and takes time for everyone to adjust. Similarly, moving to a family of four you will experience some growing pains again. Approaching your husband from a loving and patient place will help him grow in parenthood better than being disappointed and critical.