How to Stay Close After Baby

"We were locked in a power struggle."

The couple
Megan and Greg Haupt
St. Louis
Parents of Henry, 1

The conflict During her leave, Megan, 31, worked to get Henry into a healthy sleeping and feeding routine, and she expected Greg, also 31, to follow her lead. When she corrected him, it set off loud arguments that often ended in Megan's giving Greg the silent treatment. The couple also bickered about chores, because Megan wanted more help around the house.

Her side "I didn't know anything about babies, so I read a lot of books. I wanted Henry to develop good habits. It was so frustrating that Greg didn't take me seriously -- until his own way failed, and then he reluctantly gave in. We wasted time trying things I knew wouldn't work -- like letting Henry stay up so we could all go out to dinner. Greg's ideas weren't unreasonable, but we had different notions about what was best."

His side "I'm not a yes-man, so Megan shouldn't have been surprised when I voiced my opinions. Besides, who said books have all the answers? The real problem was that we have very different personalities: Unlike Megan, I fly by the seat of my pants. She liked that about me before we became parents, but once Henry arrived, she thought he'd be scarred forever if he got off schedule. During the first few months of his life, we constantly went to bed angry."

The stay-close plan "Parents commonly argue over whose way is right, because both partners are adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities," says Joyce Marter, owner of Urban Balance LLC, a multi-site psychotherapy practice in Chicago. "Many men feel left out, especially if the mother acts as the baby's primary caregiver. New moms often feel as if their husbands are ill-informed or less experienced, and so they become critical to maintain the routine that they believe works." One of the biggest mistakes: Most men don't learn about baby care until after their baby has arrived. The sooner expectant dads are schooled, the better, Marter says. Encourage your partner to attend doctor's appointments and prenatal classes with you. You can even look into an expectant fathers' class -- they're offered at a growing number of hospitals, community centers, and faith-based organizations nationwide. (Check out BootCampForNewDads.org, which offers programs in 45 states and on U.S. military bases.) Read books together or watch our baby-care videos at americanbaby.com/how-to. Make tough decisions as a team and stick to them.

How they're doing now At about 3 months, Henry started sleeping through the night, and many of the Haupts' disputes were resolved on their own. Megan's complaints about Greg slacking off were enough to motivate her husband to pick up the pace when it came to diaper changes and laundry. "We still disagree on Henry's care -- I think Greg is too laid-back, and he thinks I worry too much," Megan says. "But after a year of parenting, we've finally accepted our different approaches."

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