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Wife won't fully share parenting with me......

(52 Posts)
flashpotata100 Fri 15-May-15 11:20:02

Hi all,

This is the first time I have turned to such a forum for advice, but I am really at the end of my tether. Sorry for the long-winded post but I have a lot to get off my chest......

My wife and I had our first baby 8 weeks ago - a beautiful happy and healthy girl. Of course I am biased, but she really is the most precious thing.

As this is the first baby, of course I didn't really know what to expect, but my presumption would be that rearing a child would be an exhausting but ultimately rewarding process. I knew that we wouldn't know everything from day one, and large elements of parenting, as I understood it, would be learned 'on the job'. I took the view that as long as you and your partner love and trust each other and you shower the little one with affection then you eventually find your way through.

Alas, the reality for me has been very different. From the moment that our daughter was born my wife has struggled to relax and fully share the responsibility of parenting with me. She is very reluctant to leave me alone to let me bottle feed the baby, bathe the baby, change nappies etc etc. The times when she does let me do these things she is usually within very close proximity constantly commenting on poor capabilities of doing such things. I consider myself to be a very responsible/capable adult and it drives me crazy that I can't just be left to do these things and bond with my daughter in the process. In addition to these 'hands on' operational things, my opinions regarding all things baby are largely ignored, this again is very difficult for me to accept, but for the sake of a peaceful household I feel that I have to just back down and remain quiet. Evidently my opinions are worthless because A) I am a man and B) I have not had kids before and C) I spend all day at work.

This brings be on to the next issue - my wife is fortunate to have 12 months maternity leave from work but of course as the man and the main breadwinner I have to continue working full time. I have a very responsible and remunerative job that enables us to live a good life (we live in London). I get home every day at about 7.30pm, I make dinner for us, do a few chores and all the grocery shopping etc etc. Despite this, I am told that I do 'nothing' or 'not enough'. I am addressing the lateness issue by taking a scooter test that will enable me to buy a moped get home 30 mins earlier. Surely there is a value in putting a roof over our head and food on the table? (we have a cleaner and someone else does the ironing, although my wife insists on ironing baby grows/socks/mittens herself for 'hygiene reasons' - a pointless and time consuming habit she picked up from her mother).

My wife spends all day at home alone with the baby, and of course gets tired and emotional, and I keep telling her that she needs to take a break, hand the baby over to me and go out for shopping/massage/sleep-whatever, but she won't leave me and baby in the house. I have tried to discuss all this with her, but again the rhetoric revolves around the fact that I can't just waltz in from work and have an opinion.

Because of the above I am starting to withdraw more and more into myself. I am now accused of spending too much time 'plugged into TV or the iPad' but this is effectively me just burying my head in the sand. We are part of a fabulous NCT group locally, but I feel I can't disclose these problems to them because they know us both, and that it could be a bit disrespectful to my wife to tell them all this.

After the baby was born my mother-in-law came to stay with us for a month. I welcomed the assistance but now I resent the fact that my wife trusted her to help out and not me (now). My parents are desperate to see more of their 5th grandchild (have visited for one afternoon only so far) and so I offered the possibility of my mother coming to stay for a few days to just help out. My wife rejected this on the basis that it would ruin her 'routine', but to me its clear that she doesn't trust them to help out. I unilaterally invited them anyway and they are staying with us this weekend whilst I am at home - who knows what the outcome of that will be but no doubt I will be in line for more criticism afterwards.

For the avoidance of doubt, there have been no negative events in our marriage/parenthood (eg affairs, drink/drug problems, baby care errors etc) although, I met my wife abroad and when we moved to London 2.5 years ago she was very homesick at first.

If things continue as they are its only a matter of time before my marriage fails completely. I would be happy to consider counselling or literally anything that will help. I guess/hope that when the child is older the wife may relax and let me get stuck in, but how much damage and resentment will be stored up in the mean time ???

Has anyone experienced anything similar ? Am I being unreasonable?

Happy to hear any suggestions.....please?

Branleuse Fri 15-May-15 11:32:18

What does she say when you explain it to her like you have here?

MediumEnglisch Fri 15-May-15 11:32:54

Is your baby breadt fed? If so it is too early to express much and there are good reasons not to introduce formula unnecessarily so don't push wanting to bottle feed just so you can have a go...

Inviting your parents against your wife's wishes is also a bit dodgy especially if she is tired an run down and struggling - she may not want them to see her like that (visiting is one thing but staying with you another as they're there early in the morning/ in the evening/ during cluster feeding when she needs to sit partially exposed for potentially hours...)

YANBU at all about wanting to be trusted to care for your daughter without being hovered over and criticised when doing things like nappies/ just holding her/ dressing her or whatever.

8 weeks is very early to be deciding your marriage is going to suffer - your wife's hormones are probably all over and pregnancy, birth and breadt feeding can have a massive effect on mood and all sorts of things - all that will pass in time.

Of course post natal depression is also a real possibility but not necessarily the case.

8 weeks is so early ... talk to your wife when you're both calm and give it time.

kelda Fri 15-May-15 11:33:00

What surprises me greatly is your last paragraph. Your baby is just 8 weeks old and you are already thinking that your marriage is going to fail.

It's very hard to give advice without hearing your wife's side of the story, but the last thing you need to be doing at the moment is telling her that the marriage will fail if she doesn't change.

I think from your psot that she is from abroad? If so, she is living in a foreign country and going through the biggest change in her life. That is huge - I know, I have done it, and even after 13 years in a different country, I am still homesick occasionally. I am also very protective of my own culture and my own way of doing things with my children because of feeling that by living in a different country, I have less control. This could explain some of your wife's behaviour, and by explaining it, I hope you will begin to understand her point of view.

You have been parents for just eight weeks. It is very early days. Just because she doesn't want to leave the baby now doesn't mean that she won't want to leave the baby with you in a couple of months or so - quite the opposite in fact. In six months time she may be desperate to share the parenting with you!

It's great that she is getting help with the housework and chores from you and the cleaner. What are nights like? How much sleep is she getting?

Preminstreltension Fri 15-May-15 11:33:53

Of course YANBU. Something needs to shift. She may have PND, she may be anxious. She may be all sorts of things but you are this lovely baby's father and you need to connect with her too. Well done for raising this even if just on this board - you could retreat into your laptop but you don't really want to and I think you are right not to take the easy way out.

I don't actually know what the right thing to do is. It sounds as though she is very unhappy - but that's not a good enough reason for excluding you. It may affect how you try to tackle this though. You obviously can't and wouldn't want to bully her into changing her approach. Can you book a couple of weeks' leave to try to reconnect and reset?

Mide7 Fri 15-May-15 11:46:27

I think your wife is being unreasonable but as a male who had a baby not so long ago, the best advice I read while she was pregnant was
For the first 3 months the best way to be a good dad, is to be a good partner.
I tried hard to live by that and did as much as possible for my partner. It did mean I didn't get to spend much "quality" time with my daughter. As time went on I started to be able to do more, spend more time alone with her, take her out, that sort of thing. Now she's older and weaned it's a lot better. My daughter was breast feed to so that meant I had even less to do.

I also think your partner could be suffering from PND. Talk to her, tell her your feelings. Keep in mind she did grow her solely for 9 months, it can be hard to let go ( I imagine, I've never popped a baby out)

broomy123 Fri 15-May-15 12:00:10

Firstly you sound like a good dad wanting to be so hands on. Not everyone is like that so good for you.

Being a first time mum is so difficult to explain unless you've been through it. You've carried this baby around with you for so long gone through labour and recovery and then left with something you don't know much about but you feel like you should! I was guilty of not letting my husband help out much at first. I was determined that I wanted a routine and he would affect that! Looking back he just wanted to give me a break and I was being a control freak! Now not saying that's the case for your wife but it may be. 8 weeks is very little and she will be trying to find her way through it all. You say you do a lot and she has help with cleaning etc. maybe she feels looking after the baby is her only responsibility so she has to do that 100% to contribute. I.e ironing its clothes.

I would maybe book her a massage or hair cut or ask a friend to take her for a coffee for an hour to give her time from the baby. Once you do it you don't look back! I would maybe re think your parents staying too. Could you just meet for lunch instead?

Good luck and don't think your marriage is over yet! Having a baby changes things but they'll get back to normal when you all adjust!

flashpotata100 Fri 15-May-15 12:01:09

Thanks all for the perspective - it helps a great deal.

To answer some questions:

The baby is mostly formula/bottle fed (about 90% by volume I suspect).

The baby sleeps quite well, but my wife wakes it up a few times during the night because she is worried that it might be hungry/thirsty. Instinctively I feel that the baby will wake when it needs something but these suggestions have been firmly rebuffed, so for these reasons its difficult to know just how well its sleeping.

Yes, my wife is foreign/European.

I have thought about PND, but at this stage I don't want her to feel like its her 'fault', so I will tread very carefully on that point.

BathtimeFunkster Fri 15-May-15 12:05:01

I think it's very important that you get time and space to bond with your baby and I think it's really awful that your wife is denying you and your daughter something so important.

I'm not surprised you think your marriage is going to fail if nearly two months into fatherhood you feel this pushed away.

My babies were all breastfed, but my husband did loads with them in the early days - nappies, baths, just hanging out on his knee.

Could you make weekend bath times your job? And maybe weekend nappies?

I think you should take responsibility for some aspects of care that you can do, and just be clear that you are her father and it's very important that you are involved in caring for her.

I hope your situation improves soon. Has your wife spoken to anybody about how unreasonable she is being?

Siennasun Fri 15-May-15 12:05:25

The first few weeks with a new baby are very emotional and I found it impossible to have any discussions with my husband that didn't turn into screaming matches. This will get better as you both adjust to your new life.
Of course you need time to bond with your little girl and I feel sad for you that your not being allowed that. It sounds like your wife is struggling too and she may not be aware of how she is behaving and its impact on you. She sounds very anxious. Was the birth ok?
Is it a cultural issue? Are fathers in your wife's home country less involved with very young babies?
I would wait a couple of weeks But continue to try to be involved as much as she will allow. If it's not getting better, wait until you are both relaxed and then try to talk about it again. I would talk about how you are feeling and how you would like to do more with baby, rather than on the ways that she is being unreasonable.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Fri 15-May-15 12:09:35

I think Mide's post is spot on. It's to your credit that you want to do more with your daughter, but what your wife needs now is your support.

I compared childbirth to like being in a train crash followed by a loooooong slooooooow car crash. I literally do not remember one minute of the first six weeks, I was so traumatised both by birth and the small explosion that had happened in my life. I didn't have PND. I just found it hard.

If DH had started talking about our relationship during that time I would have walked out with DS and never came back. I'm not exaggerating - I simply did not have any extra bandwith.

You need to stop fretting about your relationship ending (after 8 tough weeks, wow!) and start focusing on supporting your wife in the way she wants.

If she's already anxious about leaving the baby, a surprise massage won't end well. What would be better is taking an afternoon off and going for a walk with the pram, maybe going to a group with her, or just going for a coffee.

And I think you need to cancel your parents. I agree, that's unfair, but it won't help forcing a visit on her. At all.

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Fri 15-May-15 12:10:35

both of you going for a walk in the pram, I meant.

AlisonBlunderland Fri 15-May-15 12:11:47

There is no reason to wake up the baby during the night- all that is doing is disturbing your wife's and the baby's sleep, and most probably yours too.

You say your offers of help and advice are rebuffed.
Does your wife see health visitor or go to baby clinic? Does she take their advice?

BathtimeFunkster Fri 15-May-15 12:11:51

Don't talk about ways she is being unreasonable.

Talk about your daughter's relationship with her father and what you intend to do to make sure it's a strong one.

You've already missed out on the newborn bit.

8 weeks is still small, but it's a fair while in the life of a new parent.

I feel so sad for you and your daughter that this has gone on for so long.

specialsubject Fri 15-May-15 12:14:58

waking the baby up to see if it needs feeding? Whoever heard of a baby that didn't let you know in the strongest possible terms if it was hungry/thirsty/uncomfortable?

your wife is dangerously ill-informed. Not her fault, but she needs help/assistance.

you need help too. Perhaps start with a chat with your GP for advice, and maybe parentcraft classes to help her understand what is normal?

flashpotata100 Fri 15-May-15 12:17:35

The parents thing is not as controversial as it sounds. She reluctantly accepted - I didn't just spring it on her.

tumbletumble Fri 15-May-15 12:20:31

I really feel for you - the first few weeks with a new baby are so hard for everyone, and you must feel so sad about not being allowed to get as involved as you'd like to. I'm sure that your wife will start to relax about this very soon - when the baby is just a bit older - and you'll be able to help more. Don't give up trying!

At this stage looking after the baby all day really is much harder than a full-time job, which is why you're getting the 'you do nothing' comments. I had a v stressful job with long hours before I had a baby, and I was stunned at how hard those first few weeks are!

I just wanted to pick up on one thing. I found your comment re your wife's ironing habits to be worded in quite a critical, judgemental manner. Does it really matter if she's a little over zealous in this area? Maybe if you word all your opinions like this, then that's why your wife doesn't listen to them. Just a thought!

Good luck - it will get easier for you both, I promise.

Whatamayday Fri 15-May-15 12:22:01

I'm also surprised that you are talking about ending your marriage when your baby is a matter of weeks old.

Give yourselves time to adjust!

Anniegetyourgun Fri 15-May-15 12:25:44

I've popped out four, and I can tell you that there is nothing - nothing! - on this earth less rational than some new mothers. (I'd say "most" but would be cruisin' for a flamin' on that one.) It tends to be worse with a first, hence the saying on here PFB (Precious First Born). All your hormones are screaming "Protect! Hold! Fend off the tigers!" Tigers can include husbands and their mothers, but not usually one's own mother unless, of course, she's the Wrong Sort of mother. It's due to being used to seeing one's own mum as a nurturer, I suppose.

Sounds like Mide7 played it well. This is pretty much the advice I gave DS1 when DIL was expecting. It's often said that fathers aren't really interested in babies when they're small, but prefer to get involved when they can do more Stuff. I have tended to think that's just one of those stereotypes which may or may not be fair, definitely not fair in the case of most of the fathers I know. This thread has me suspecting that some women may encourage the stereotype because they don't want to hand over their precious bundle!

frankie80 Fri 15-May-15 12:29:34

OP, your wife was me. 7 and a half years ago. That was me exactly.

10 months later I had a bit of a breakdown with the stress of trying to 'do it all myself' and was diagnosed with PND.

Please encourage your wife to speak to her health visitor about how she is finding motherhood and for advice on what to expect in the months ahead. Word it like that, not in a critical "you aren't coping" way.

Encourage your wife to join mother and baby groups, baby massage groups - it would be beneficial to both her and baby if she gets out a bit and she'll likely become a bit calmer.

It does take some time to adjust to having a new baby and she might still be feeling a bit sore, as well as very tired.

Treats Fri 15-May-15 12:31:49

I don't know if this is a factor, but I hated being home alone all day when I was on ML. I was quite isolated for a lot of the time, and I imagine it's worse for your wife if she's from a different country.

My DH couldn't understand why I felt resentful of him going to work, when he wanted to be home with us instead of at work all day. I got very cross when he complained I was "sitting in coffee shops all day". He simply didn't understand that I had no reason to leave the house, and I only went out for coffees because I literally couldn't think of anything else to do. It's hard for dads to imagine how brain-chewingly boring ML is if you've had a busy life beforehand.

Combined with the frankly terrifying responsibility of having sole care of a newborn while recovering from the most painful and traumatic event of my life, it wasn't surprising that I wasn't receptive to my husband's well-meant suggestions for how I could do things 'better'.

I would back off from the baby for a bit. Focus on what you can do to support your wife. Ask her what she needs, instead of telling her what you think she needs. Admire her and praise her for how well she's handling the baby. Ask her questions about her day and about what the baby's been doing. Once she starts to see you as an ally again, instead of a source of criticism, she'll be happier to share the baby.

Finally - do you really need to stay so late at work? Once the baby is a bit older, they'll be in bed by the time you get home and you won't have any time with them at all. Maybe your wife is getting the message that your work is more important to you than she is.

Anniegetyourgun Fri 15-May-15 12:33:49

Waking the baby up to feed it may be cultural? I remember my MIL being astonished that I demand fed DS1 (1980s). In her young day it was accepted that you feed the baby every four hours, regular as clockwork. If it's asleep you wake it up to feed, if it's howling in between you do everything but feed it and if it still won't settle, bung it down the end of the garden in its pram! How times change...

holidaysarenice Fri 15-May-15 12:34:09

My heart goes out to you. I have a friend who sounds just like your wife. We went swimming at 8 months and her husband held and played with the baby in the water whilst we did 8 lengths. She told me it was the longest she had ever let me do alone/been away from baby yet.

Eventually one night her husband erupted and said he couldn't take anymore. It was as tho their ds was all her baby. It was tough on their marriage and very tough on his relationship with their ds.

I feel that she didn't have a job/career that she wanted and so felt she had to succeed and excel at parenting. I do also think she had isolated herself and had Pnd.

With their second he insisted he was doing more and it has worked out better.

LittleMilkNoSugar Fri 15-May-15 12:39:02

Could I ask, did your wife decide to bottle feed from the outset or did she try breast feeding and it didn't work out?

I only ask because (from my own experience with Dc1) I tried to breastfeed but just couldn't get on with it, didn't ask for help, gave up and felt like a total failure as a mother. Crazy hormones made this guilty feeling 10 times worse and I wanted to be in control of everything else (for instance, I'd actually change DC1's outfit if DH had dressed him).

smilingthroughgrittedteeth Fri 15-May-15 12:54:07

I have a 5 week old and I actually think you are being completely unreasonable. I think it's great that you want to be hands on and agree that your DW shouldn't be looking over your shoulder and criticising you when your changing nappies etc but talking about ending your marriage after 8 weeks is just ridiculous.

I am lucky in that I'm a qualified nanny so I've got a bit of a head start on the typical first time mum but I still feel like my whole world has imploded most days, I'm tired and hormonal and that leads to me being completely irrational at times, thankfully DP is supportive and doesn't make me feel pressured into being or doing more than I can cope with right now, you say she has grudgingly agreed to your parents coming to stay, to me that reads as she's given in because you've pushed her into it.

DP hasn't been left alone with DS yet, it's not because I don't trust him it's because I can't bear the thought of DS not being with me, I carried him for 42 weeks I knew he was safe and now he's here I'm not quite ready to let him go, if that makes me selfish then tough it's something I just can't explain it's how I feel. Again DP is supportive, I doubt he understands but he's not pushing it, that in itself means as time goes on I'm getting closer to the point where I'm ready to hand DS over and leave them to it because my partner isn't putting his own needs before mine he's working with me. I had a pretty horrific birth and DP was my rock thankfully he still is, give your wife a break when she stops feeling pressured I'm sure she will relax and you will get your time with your DD. Why exactly do you feel you need to be alone with your DD to bond with her?

Also the waking the baby at night sounds like anxiety to me, I'm always hearing stories about parents waking their babies just to check they are still breathing, she's been a mum for 8 weeks she's bond to be anxious just support her and listen to her and for gods sake stop pushing her.

Oh and my guess is the reason she wanted her mum to stay was because she wanted someone who was there for her, who doesn't want their mum when their anxious, feeling afraid and uncomfortable? It doesn't mean she is pushing your parents away.

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