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Dad feeling a bit useless

(27 Posts)
McGeeDiNozzo Fri 28-Jun-13 04:08:18

Various problems:

a) 4-month-old DD is getting very needy, won't be put down for more than 10 mins and will only be held by DW (except while half-asleep), and is still feeding every 2-3 hours, which seems often. Sleep is generally fine - she goes down between 9 and 10pm, wakes between 12am and 2am and then sleeps until 6 or 7am.

b) I have CP on the mildest end of the spectrum - limp, hand tremors which get worse if I'm using my hands to perform a task, limbs which occasionally move independently of anything my brain is doing, poor co-ordination. This gives me terrible problems doing anything intricate like changing a nappy while DD is in full-on wriggle mode, or cooking (beyond very basic stuff like making tortilla wraps that look like falling buildings, or whanging a frozen pizza in the oven). I don't actively avoid changing nappies, but there have been a few occasions when my cack-handed nappy jobs have resulted in cack-flooded car seats and the like (once right in the middle of a local government office). Also, I can't drive as I'm totally unaware of where I am in three-dimensional space, so DW has to drive me everywhere (apart from to and from work, where there are regular buses).

c) We are in a new city, several thousand miles from where either of us is from, and DW (a SAHM while I work full-time) is at her wits' end - homesick, too busy with the baby and feeling lonely, cooped-up and unsupported. She has been socialising with some other mums/baby groups but has had mixed experiences and one or two knockbacks, so she's not feeling good right now.

At the moment I do storytime, dandling duties (if DD is solicitous), stupid faces, getting baby back to sleep if she wakes in the middle of the night, running errands to the shops (we live in the centre of town so I don't have to drive to any shops), dishwasher stuff, getting her in the car seat, going on short walks with her, some laundry and taking the rubbish out.

But it's not really enough, because when it comes to dealing with the baby, really DW does 80-90% of the work and that's not a fair proportion. I want to be more supportive to her but, with my medical issues as they are, I'm not sure how. In particular, though, I'm very proud and don't want to use those issues as an excuse to sit on my arse all day: to some extent, however, that's exactly what I'm doing, because I lack confidence.

So does anyone have any ideas? Is anyone else an unco-ordinated parent? How do you get by? In particular, are there any aids for dads who want to give their kids formula/expressed milk but are not confident about doing it? At the moment DD is EBF but neither of us is sure how much longer that can continue.

There is a disabled parents thread for this sort of thing, but that gets 1 reply every 5 years, so I'm posting here.

BumbleBee2011 Fri 28-Jun-13 04:43:08

Hi, just wanted to say you sound like a great dad, I think for an EBF baby that age it isn't so unusual for mums to do a lot of the baby-work anyway, so try not to feel too guilty. If you're emotionally supporting your DW that's already great. (I found my DH was particularly helpful regarding BFing, just finding out more about it and encouraging me through any rough patches - felt like even though in practical terms I was doing it all we were working as a team).

I can't offer any practical advice but we live in a more rural area, I would've hoped that in a city environment there would be more groups that you could contact for help/advice? I'd say to your DW keep trying the baby/toddler group thing, it can take a while to find "your group" but it's totally worth the effort.

Good luck and hopefully someone more helpful will be along soon.

McGeeDiNozzo Fri 28-Jun-13 04:52:09

No worries, Bumblebee - thanks for your kind advice. We're pretty rural out here, actually: it's a suburb of a biggish city, but far enough out to be under the control of its own local government rather than the city's. It's got quite a quaint, small-town vibe. There's only one main street. And it smells of manure.

There are some friendships which are going pretty well, but it is taking time! DW has basically had to start from scratch.

LeoTheLateBloomer Fri 28-Jun-13 05:34:30

I really feel for you OP and have been in a similar position as your DW so know exactly how difficult it is to be in a new place with a baby. It really is a constant slog but in my case it paid off so I hope it does for your DW.

You do sound like a very attentive father and husband and things will certainly get easier as your DD gets older and her needs change. Does your DW feel you're not pulling your weight?

Is their an online CP community where you might find support?

mathanxiety Fri 28-Jun-13 05:35:37

Try to do more around the house if you can at all, so that your DW can get time to herself. A stretch of two hours would be very nice without knowing she would return to a kitchen that was upside down and inside out. Nobody really wants to be free from baby duties so she can tackle a kitchen mountain.

Why is your DW feeling unsupported?

mathanxiety Fri 28-Jun-13 05:37:30

Or could you take some of the pressure off her by doing realistic meal planning? Nothing is as irksome as having to focus on that aspect of the daily slog imo when you have had little or no sleep for a few months.

McGeeDiNozzo Fri 28-Jun-13 06:29:29

Leo - I haven't found much, hence why I'm posting here. The trouble is that occupational therapy and the like tends to stop when you hit adulthood - there's no-one around to tell you how to bring up baby!

The point about setting aside a pre-defined stretch of time to do house chores - say, a two-hour stretch as suggested, or, more likely because babies don't do those schedules, just a rule of 'whenever baby is being nursed is and therefore preoccupied, that's when you should do housework' - is a good one and something I'll try tomorrow/this weekend.

I'm better now than I used to be, but without that kind of structure I just forget that stuff needs doing until my wife tells me it needs to be done, which she hates. If I think 'right, this is time I've specifically set aside well in advance to do housework', I will be able to focus on it and work out what housework needs doing.

Lots of you will be thinking 'You stupid, stupid man, why didn't you work that out before, it's not exactly hard.' But it's the same sort of thing the OT used to help me wrap my head around.

LillyofWinchester Fri 28-Jun-13 06:42:11

I think it sounds like you are doing a good job already, and considering your baby is ebf then totally normal for the mum to be doing a lot of the care at first anyway.

I think the best way to support your wife will be to help generally around the house and emotionally too, especially considering you are in a new country. How about asking her to write you a to do list, with both items that need doing today and the items she'd like you to do at some point when you get the chance that are less urgent. That way she won't feel like she is nagging you so much and you'll have a reminder of what needs to be done. You'll feel good ticking items off it too.

Also just telling your partner how proud you are of all she is doing, and that you know it's not easy for her moving to a new place and how much you love her will mean so much more than changing more nappies.

QTPie Fri 28-Jun-13 09:01:43

I think that you are doing fab and that your baby sounds "normal" (at that age, my BFd DS also fed every 2 to 3 hours during the day then slept through the night).

How are you with doing the baby bath? Is that possible or just not safe? DH always used to (and still does) do DS's bath. It was "their" time and have me a little break to get other things done.

If you are forgetting to do chores because of memory, can you and your wife do a "chore rota" that you can stick in the kitchen. Then just check that?

Keep meals simple: jacket potato with filling, ready meals, pizza and salad, chunky soup and bread. Things that you can help with. Won't be forever, but until you all find your feet.

If it is an option (quite possibly not), any chance of someone coming in for a few hours to help your DW out (cleaning, ironing, changing beds)?

To be honest you are still all "early days": you are all finding your way. Both physically and emotionally. By 6 months things should be easier and your wife should be feeling more settled in baby groups and hopefully mummy friendships. It many ways it does get easier: ok there are always new challenges (your child is not likely to get "less wriggly with nappy changes for a couple of years...), but your confidence grows, as does your support network.

Are you in the UK? Any local Mumsnet groups?

bootsycollins Fri 28-Jun-13 09:11:30

Your post has made me well up Mcgee, I haven't got any practical advice I'm afraid but I just wanted to tell you that your a lovely dad and keep communicating with your wife. Your confidence will grow as your daughter does, your going to end up being one of those extra special dads who always has time and patience for his daughter, I can tell smile

MoreSnowPlease Fri 28-Jun-13 09:11:54

You sound like you are doing loads to help to be honest. I ebf my now 12mo and still do 80-90% of the work with him, its hard because when baby needs something or is crying mum is the best thing so you do get down about that even when all the cleaning/cooking etc is done for you! It will get easier for your DE once LO is moving about more and other things can hold their interest.

You are doing a great job, my DP works 8.30-4.30, does all the cooking and plays with DS when he's happy, also gets up in the morning with him and gives him breakfast while he gets ready for work....this sounds less than what you do but is all really helpful. For us the biggest help for me was being able to take him off my hands in the mornings so I could lie in, it doesn't always work and when he was younger it only lasted for 10 mins but it was nice just having that break. Also, I love when DP brings me drinks of water and snacks of I am feeding DS or just because I rarely remember to eat and drink while looking after him, so he just does it without asking and its a very big help. Are there any little things like this you could do for your DW to help?

StitchAteMySleep Fri 28-Jun-13 09:28:44

Oh bless you.

You sound like a lovely husband and father.

Really when babies are small they are very dependent on their mum, especially when breast feeding. As they get more mobile and start weaning you can have a lot more input with meal times and playing.

It can be very isolating being a SAHM with a small baby. If your DW can express and baby can be encouraged to take a bottle you could mind her for a few hours whilst your DW goes to a class (pottery, art, whatever she is interested in, the local adult education will have a list) where she can meet people. Mother and baby groups can be a bit cliquey sometimes and is it good for mums to have time as themselves, not just talking about babies.

Bringing snacks is a good idea, helping with cleaning, night feeds. It sounds like you do try to help quite a bit already.

With regard to jobs in the house, have a list on a white board to remind you.

The Disabled Parents Network may be able to help you with aids to support you with bottle feeding.

SneakyBiscuitEater Fri 28-Jun-13 11:02:40

Hi McGee congratulations on your baby! I am a mum of three who although my mobility is more 'normal' now used a wheelchair outside the house and elbow crutches inside when my kids were small.

Firstly your baby seems to be feeding and sleeping excellently! At that age all my DC were feeding every two hours day and night so sounds like you have sleeping better sorted than we did.

I experienced a similar sense of disappointment with my own involvement with my kids when they were small. I couldn't pick them up or do nappy changes which left me only able to feed them (and then only if my DH brought them to me and took them away when they needed a change. I would focus on the things you can do - you can do silly faces and give cuddles, as long as someone is changing the nappies it doesn't matter if it isn't you. Another note on nappies is that a major poo explosion may not have been down to your technique. Check out the boards here search for the word poonami for loads of other peoples nappy mishaps.

Can you get internet food shopping delivered where you are? That helped us in the early days as you can add to the list over a few days when you have time and then get a delivery when you like you can all still be in your pyjamas

You mentioned OTs in your original post, I managed to get an OT out to do another assessment once I had kids as my needs had now changed as I needed to do 'different' stuff. They may be able to help with feeding gizmos?

I found it was a time to swallow my pride a bit and accept help with the boring bits of life so I had the energy for the fun bits.

I don't know if you have heard of a comedian called Laurence Clark? He and his wife have CP and he blogged about his experience as a parent at the same time I had my first DC. I found I related to it and have found his blog archive here check out posts like I didn't know people like you could have kids and the first year as a parent one.

ubik Fri 28-Jun-13 12:35:32

I think 4 months is tough. There is a lot of adjustment to make - you are having to renegotiate your relationship and establish routines so you can operate as a family.

It takes time to establish these routines - it will become easier when baby is weaning because your DW will be able to disappear off fir s few hours and you may find it easier to feed baby with banana and toast and yoghurt.

It won't always be like thus-this is a very tough bit.

KatyN Fri 28-Jun-13 15:19:18

I agree that 4 months the mother does most of the childcare but it will change as the little one gets older.

However something my DH used to do that was fabulous for me, was inbetween feeds he would take our boy out for a walk. just in the pram, not too far (because I didn't like to have him too far from me - not sure they cut the umbilical cord properly!) but 10 minutes or 20 or an hour on your own is amazing. your wife might want to nap, or have a bath or just phone up her family and give them her full attention.


mathanxiety Sat 29-Jun-13 05:50:16

I'm better now than I used to be, but without that kind of structure I just forget that stuff needs doing until my wife tells me it needs to be done, which she hates. If I think 'right, this is time I've specifically set aside well in advance to do housework', I will be able to focus on it and work out what housework needs doing.

Speaking personally, there is nothing as annoying as someone who needs directions or instructions and doesn't just figure it out and do it. When I had my DCs (abroad and no family or even ILs anywhere near) my mother flew over to help but she drove me up the wall because she wouldn't just get on with what she would have done in her own home -- load/unload the dishwasher, make the decision about dinner and take something out to defrost, hoover, do a quick swish around the bathroom, take out the bin, gather a basket of laundry and put it on. I just wanted to have the stupid details and the decisions taken care of so the thought of them hanging over me wasn't keeping me from sleep.

Another thing that annoyed the pants off me in the postpartum months was people asking me where their things were. I don't mean my mother here -- she didn't live with me after all, but exH and older DCs had absolutely no excuse. People asking me where we kept the towels or where we kept X or Y cleaning supplies was really irritating. Go around and find out where everything is and if necessary, take notes.

If you need a 'To Do' list, make one, and I don't think you should ask your DW what needs doing. If she hates having to tell you what needs to be done then that is why she is feeling unsupported. It isn't enough to do things when asked. You have to take the reins and take the pressure off her. Write a list - here's a suggestion:

Take Windolene and a paper towel and clean the sink and toilet when you're there in the morning (approx 2 minutes).
Make a breakfast for you and DW (maybe 15 mins).
Decide on dinner and take out meat to defrost (5 mins).
Load or unload dishwasher (10 mins).
Check fridge for milk, cheese, butter supply (5 mins)
Check pantry for breakfast cereal, bread, crackers (same 5 mins).
Maybe write a shopping list (internet grocery shopping is completely useless in the US if you're there) -- (5 - 10 mins)
--- About an hour of getting things accomplished?

When you're out/on the way home:
Pick up items from shopping list.

When you come home:
Kiss DW and baby.
Put dinner on (15 - 20 mins to prep and get in pot)
Hoover, pick up stuff and put away in the right place, tidy (20 mins). Maybe not necessary every single day?
Keep an eye on dinner.
Set table (5 mins)
Don't get upset if DW can't eat with you no matter how nice dinner is. She may have to see to the baby.
Clear table, rinse dishes, clear out pots, and load dishwasher. Start it up (20mins).
Tidy and clean kitchen surfaces including stovetop (10 mins).
Sweep floor (less then 5 mins).
Maybe gather a basket of laundry and get it going.
Put laundry in dryer, sort when dry and put away.
Put stained clothes that need a soaking in a bucket of water and oxy powder and leave to soak until next day.
(Don't wait until you have a lot of laundry to do before getting it done. Keep on top of it by doing some every day.)
--- About an hour of active work?

Big grocery and supply shopping.
Sheets/pillowslips, washcloths and towels - wash, dry, replace on beds or fold and put away.
Good clean of tub/shower.
Time with the baby so your DW can relax, if she finds time away from the baby relaxing.

mathanxiety Sat 29-Jun-13 05:58:11

I also think if your DW is happy bfing then don't press her to get baby started on the bottle so she can get out to classes, etc.

It's different when you're trying to go to classes in a foreign country and your accent or your language set you apart. Getting out can be depressing and counter productive as you can end up just feeling like an outsider -- and you don't even have your precious little baby there to remind you that you are normal and really do have a role and a place in your new society. Small talk often goes completely over people's heads. It makes you miss the familiar even more.

Getting out to shop is equally horrible if you don't have people to shop with or show off your purchases to. You try on clothes that won't fit because you still have the baby weight and you notice all the people out shopping together while you drift around on your own. Sitting on your own drinking coffee on a Saturday afternoon isn't fun.

mathanxiety Sat 29-Jun-13 06:01:28

Also on the 'weekly' list:
Realistic mealplanning -- this comes before weekly grocery/supply shop.

McGeeDiNozzo Sun 30-Jun-13 05:00:38

Hello all - I don't have a lot of time to post reams on here in response at the moment, but I just wanted to drop by and say a huge thank you to everyone who has posted advice. It's all really useful and all of you have put a lot of thought into doing it. I'm going to bookmark this thread.

mathanxiety Sun 30-Jun-13 06:37:22

Want to add -- if you can cook enough for two nights, then have leftovers the second day, that would cut down evening work a lot. Better still to cook a few means at weekends and freeze so you don't have to bother with cooking at all except for rice or pasta or potatoes and veg.

coffeewineandchocolate Sun 30-Jun-13 07:30:24

my dh works away alot so for different reasons he can feel the same. although I do most of the house work baby care, the things I really appreciate him doing are

getting up with ds and letting me have a lie in at the weekend
cooking a nice evening meal for us and taking over baby duties so I can eat it hot.

dh has weekend activities he does with ds (easier as they get older) so they go out each weekend am. my ds gets really excited about daddy time

Occasionally just doing something just for me- buying my favourite chocolate/ running me a bath/ booking me a surprise beauty treatment.

Taking the initiative and arranging a daddy coffee morning/ trip to the park so he could develop relationships with the other dads in the area. The children love daddy day (easier as they get older but foundations if the friendships get laid early) and the dad's have taken them to some really fun places

hope this helps!

When I first had ds it took a lot of adjusting and I found I lost a lot of myself as I became mummy. Doing the practical stuff in the house is great but it's also important to show dw you are thinking of her.

ClaireDeTamble Sun 30-Jun-13 10:42:29

there is nothing as annoying as someone who needs directions or instructions and doesn't just figure it out and do it.

Put dinner on (15 - 20 mins to prep and get in pot)

Math - are you reading a different thread? Did you miss the bit where the OP explained that it was his Cerebral Palsy that makes it difficult for him to do things like cooking and also the realising what needs doing - he isn't doing it out of laziness!

Also - why are you going on about him pressing her to give up BF'ing and being in a foreign country? He has not suggested anywhere that he wants her to give up BF'ing, only suggested that they both think that it is something that may end soon. He also said they are in a different city not a different country!

OP Aside from Math not appearing to take into account your disability, her idea about creating a list and the sort of things on it such as meal planning are very good.

If you struggle to plan that sort of structure on your own, can you ask your wife to sit down with you at the beginning of each week and come up with the meal plan and a day by day list of what needs doing? Do it together rather than her telling you what to do.

As the baby grows, this can become your 'family meeting' where you discuss what's coming up during the week, any issues etc. We do our meal plans like this - together as a family and DD1 (5) gets to write down what we're having so it makes her feel part of it (and she also gets to practice her writing.

Get a white board in the kitchen and your wife then won't have to tell you what to do each day - you can just check the list. Most weeks will probably be fairly similar and you will only need to make minor changes.

A good idea is to do four or five weeks worth of meal plans and then just rotate them.

Also, prep for your meals the night before - again, if you struggle with chopping veg or whatever, see if your wife is willing to do it with you - it only takes half the time and she can do the things that you struggle with. Batch cooking as well - making a load of bolognaise or curry at the weekend means that you can just stick stuff in the oven during the week.

As for feeding the baby - whether it is expressed BM or formula - if you are worried about dropping her or the bottle, sit in a comfy seat and make sure you are well supported by cushions - especially your arms - although of course, do be careful not to fall asleep with the baby if you do use lots of cushions.

Can you afford to pay for private OT? If not try and find a CP or disability support group perhaps?

Good luck OP and good on you for trying to find a solution.

schroedingersdodo Sun 30-Jun-13 11:40:27

Ooohh, I wish my DH was as concerned as you! Your DW is lucky smile

Can you use a sling or baby carrier? So you can wear the baby while you do other stuff and give DW a rest. She can use it during the day as well. It's a great way to keep baby happy and do housework at the same time.

Is your dw exercising and getting out of the house everyday? These things are very important for me to keep my sanity!

NatashaBee Sun 30-Jun-13 11:59:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mathanxiety Sun 30-Jun-13 20:16:46

That is where a list is useful. If you have a list then you consult the list and not the person who is suffering from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can make a DW very irritable, irrationally so.
The solution is to make a list, and to make some sort of map of where things are.

I never said it was the OP who was suggesting giving up breastfeeding. I thought I read advice to the effect that the DW could get out while the OP took care of the baby when weaning time arrived, and that was what I was addressing. The DW might have no intention of weaning from breastfeeding- a baby can start on solids without weaning from the breast. If the baby is breastfeeding on demand then that often continues to mean frequent feedings no matter how much solid food the baby is taking in. Getting away from the baby for a few hours may not be a possibility or something the DW wants.

We are in a new city, several thousand miles from where either of us is from -- how far is it from John o Groats to Land's End? It is less than 1000 miles and I assumed the OP and his DW are British, so they are not living in GB. I could be wrong about them being British but they are still a long way from family and their familiar community, and that is not pleasant when you are new parents.

The OP should definitely see about OT. There may be charities or local government services available, or home help or adaptive equipment for use in the home with a baby or toddler when the time comes. There might even be something available through his work?

Additionally, there may be 'CP Family' groups that would provide a friendly social network for the DW, who seems to be quite isolated and disheartened by her life at the moment.

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