Q: When I was pregnant with my son, I asked my husband to read 2 pages my birthing book. He had 5 months to do it but never did. When I was in labor he had no idea how to help. After we came home I didn't get help at night or during the day. I was so exhausted b/c my son only slept 45 minutes at a time & I was recovering from a C-section. My husband just assumed it was my job. It makes me doubt having more kids.

A: Don't wait til next time. I am wondering whether your problem is that your husband doesn't want to be involved in childcare or that your husband doesn't want to be involved in communicating with you about your needs. If it is the second, you may need to solve the communication problem first. A family doctor, counselor, or member of the clergy may provide some help to you as a couple in learning how to speak and to listen to one another with more give-and-take. No marriage can function well if there isn't teamwork in making decisions, big and small, that face every family. If your husband refuses to go with you, go alone to get help thinking through ways to improve your ability to communicate within the marriage.

If perhaps you feel that your husband is generally respectful of your needs and simply clueless about babycare, you might try asking him to do very specific concrete things that reduce your overall responsibilities but that don't involve childcare itself. Or, asking him to take on a single, specific job--your son's a nightly bath, for instance--may work better than asking for "help" in general. Perhaps asking a relative to stay with you temporarily to provide some hands-on assistance can give you a needed break as well.

Whatever your approach, keeping cool and friendly in your tone is the best approach to try to get through to your husband. Scolding and criticizing usually falls on deaf ears. You may feel at wits' end, but this mood won't help you negotiate effectively.

Good luck!

Elizabeth Berger MD

Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger



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