Dadvice #1: Why Doesn’t My Husband Help More With Baby and Chores?

15 months.

New dads are much more helpful when they are properly prepared, positively motivated, and publicly praised. Otherwise, expect frustration.

This week I received this email asking for my “Dadvice“:

“Hey nick-

Ok….so you said you can tell me why new dad (15 week baby boy) is so easily frustrated and why I feel like he isn’t helping with baby or house work enough and how to improve it if possible!

> Love your facebook!”

I’ve got some good news here- I’m pretty sure I can help. After all, it was only about a year ago that my son was 15 weeks old… now he’s 15 months. That “new dad” was me about a year ago.

There’s this popular belief that men have sensitive egos. Miranda Lambert even references this in the first line of her hit, “Baggage Claim.”

Well, the stereotype is true and, as a dad, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I figure I must be wired that way for a reason. So I say, be the one to build up a man up he’s sure to show his appreciation for it.

But how? Three easy steps:

1) Properly prepare him. Think of your man as a soldier trying to prepare for battle. He wants to know what his expectations are, but if he feels ambushed, he will deem himself defeated and start to retreat or shut down

I know, parenting is by nature, full of surprises. But let new dad know what his tasks are. I recommend writing them down for him in a list; that way, he can memorize them and even mentally check them off in his head as he does them.

So ask yourself, what things can your husband do each day that if you knew they were taken care of, you can handle the rest on your own decently?

Here’s a secret: he likes feeling/being in charge of stuff. So put him in charge; make him Captain Diaper Changer, Boss Bathroom Cleaner, and Lord of the Laundry.

2) Positively motivate him. To speak positively is to speak clearly. Avoid using the words “that” and “those” and instead be very specific; telling him the color, shape, size, and exact location of whatever it is you need him to go get from the nursery or kitchen or diaper bag for you.

Remember, your man already has a secret “dad complex” that he doesn’t know how to be as good of a parent as you the mom naturally are. He’s already paying the “dad tax” in his mind.

So when he does anything right when helping you, make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed. By saying, “I like it that you are able to distract him while I can take a long hot shower.”

The things you praise are the things he will be the best at. The things you “nag” him about will be the things he is the worst at.

Yes, you have that kind of power over him. No exaggeration.

3) Publicly praise him. Yeah, I know- I just finished talking about the need to praise your hubby privately. Well, it’s just as important to do it in front of other people.

You may think it’s cute to tease him about his petty shortcomings as a new dad; especially in the presence of friends or family.

He doesn’t.

Now he may not let you in on this fact, but there’s a good chance that your innocent playfulness is tearing him down inside. Because honestly, it’s pretty emasculating as a man to admit that your “feelings were hurt” because your wife made fun of your lack of parental competency.

So that’s my initial “dadvice” on this subject. Sure, there’s a lot more to it, but if you can prepare, motivate, and praise “new dad,” you will be able to get him in a position where he wants to help you.

And having a man who wants to help you means having a man who does help you. Because he knows you’ll brag to your friends about it.

Would you like to ask me for “dadvice” to be featured here on The Dadabase?

Just shoot me an email to nickshell1983@hotmail with the word “dadvice” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. Even if I decide not to use your question as part of my Dadvice franchise, I’ll still at least privately answer you; whether you’re a mom or dad.

Top image: Young new dad, via Shutterstock.

Bottom image: Young man unhappy with washing machine, via Shutterstock.

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  1. by Tara

    On February 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I remember complaining about this exact thing when my first child was small. (She’s 4 now.) It turns out that he was completely inexperienced and uncomfortable with the whole wee baby thing.

    When our second was born, my husband was an old pro, and he handled her with ease.

    The suggestions you gave were perfect, but I’d like to add that a little patience from mom goes a long, long way. Parenting comes naturally to a lot of moms, especially since they’ve been connected to this baby for almost a year now, but it takes time for dads to become comfortable and confident about it.

  2. by Nick Shell

    On February 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Wow, thanks Tara. I was pretty skeptical about how this article would go over with moms, but you give me assurance.

  3. by jaclyn

    On February 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Please don’t worry about your article offending moms. We are overwhelmed and angry, but yelling or complaining isn’t going to help the situation in the long term (I’ve been guilty of both, but they aren’t effective strategies).

  4. by Amanda

    On March 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

    I think this article is spot-on! And I would venture to suggest that this advice works for men in general, not just new dads, especially the praising vs nagging thing, and especially the part about publicly praising him. It’s incredible the see the change that comes over a man when his wife says something positive about him in front her friends or in front of his friends, or in front of complete strangers even. He seems to get taller, carry himself with more confidence. Women do truly have the power to emasculate their husbands with just their tongues, and it happens all the time. Emasculated husbands are bad husbands. They lack confidence and depending on how bad the emasculation is and for how long it’s continued, it can lead to depression, anxiety, addictions, etc. It’s an amazing & beautiful thing when a man is “masculine” in the way God created men to be.

  5. by Amanda

    On April 26, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Nick,

    I’m a first time mom to a nearly 5 month old, darling boy. And, this situation describes my feelings towards my husband exactly. The problem is: I’ve done everything you suggested (honestly) and it has not helped one bit!

    Some examples:
    1. I am super specific: “can you please bring me the baby tylenol in the blue bottle in the small basket on the counter by the steak knives.” he locates a large basket on the top shelf of the cupboard where the bowls are kept and tells me he can’t find it. WHAT? this is a true story and i am not exaggerating at all.

    2. he is meant to be in charge of washing the diapers (we use cloth). he rarely remembers without prompting, when he does he only does it part way (leaving wet diapers in the laundry for days) and NEVER puts them away (he doesn’t “like” that job).

    3. i praise him all the time–to his face and in public. he has even said how it’s so nice that i do this…it’s almost like since i am praising him he thinks he doesn’t need to do any more. and, he really does.

    he is a student and i am on maternity leave. he thinks that i should be responsible for baby 99% of the time. to the point that the other night i asked him to put the baby to bed (for the 3rd time EVER)….he did it but baby didn’t fall asleep quickly (was quiet and peaceful, just awake) and he came out and told me to finish it because he didn’t want to! SERIOUSLY?!?!? he had not been home in three days and was leaving for three days and i specifically said this was to give me a short break. he said, “you wanted a baby. you can manage.” i did want a baby BUT SO DID HE!!!

    any other advice?

  6. by Nick Shell

    On April 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Amanda,

    Yeah, that’s sounds pretty rough. What happens when you sit him down and tell him how you feel about this; how frustrated you are?

    -Nick

  7. by dawn

    On January 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Neither of us work but he does not help Much. He said cleaning, child care, home is the mothers primary job. He also says he is grown and does not have to ask for permission to go anywhere. He sleeps in, has to smoke medicinal marajana every hour, and just walks through house and says hi to 5 month old picks up for 5 min and then gone. Never has he bathed him, occasionally changes diaper or feeds when I leave(rarley). HR doesn’t work because he has family money and I am laid off. He does cook dinner 4-5 nights and takes care of things outside the home. But I stay frustrated because I feel like a single mom. He said I should appreciate what I get and maybe he’ll give more. Help!

  8. by Nick Shell

    On January 26, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Dawn, I’m so sorry to hear this. As far as I am concerned, you are a single mom. This sounds like the kind of thing that maybe a family counselor could help out with… maybe a free one at a church or something.