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Mothers, fathers, children and the family heirarchy

(338 Posts)
Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 11:18:07

Thread obliquely about a thread. Sorry.

But as I read more I got confused and then shock and finally downright angry.

I have always thought that having children was a joint project. Both parents have as much invested in the child, both care equally about the outcome. I always beleived that was a given. With good decent men anyway.

When children are small they come first. Always. Simple logistics demand it for a start. The parents gets what is left over in terms of energy, time and affection. In a solid relationship with similar attitudes that is absolutely fine because it's temporary and for a worthwhile goal.

I have heard about fathers being jealous when a new baby arrives. I can understand that I guess - mother's do tend to get wrapped up in newborns, exhausted and emotionally drained. However I always assumed that jealousy of a baby (who also happens to be their child) is something that would be regarded with embarrassment and shame. Something a man would fight against and certainly not mention seriously to his partner. If he was jealous of his own child he'd do his damndest to sort it out himself and not parade his ego in front of his partner and demand she massage it for him!

Have I been suckered by the myth of the New Man? Do most men really feel as if their infant children are 'in the way' and taking up too much of their partner's time? How can you be jealous of the affection your partner shows to your child and the time and energy she gives them? And what happened to supporting your wife/gf in what is a hard time for her too? When she needs your support and love? When she doesn't need more demands?

WhollyGhost Fri 10-Jun-11 11:31:57

"Both parents have as much invested in the child, both care equally about the outcome. I always beleived that was a given."

In infancy it is almost never the case - the woman has gone through pregnancy, childbirth, and maybe breastfeeding. She has much more invested.

As far as jealousy goes, a first baby changes the parents' relationship drastically. I remember feeling a bit forlorn because my DH was utterly devoted to our baby from the moment she was born, he was smitten with her, his face lit up when he looked at her. Previously he had only been devoted to me, and I felt a bit left out because it took me longer to bond with her. I imagine that for many men it is like that.

I don't understand exactly what you mean by small children always coming first - they are part of a family unit, and what is best for the family may not always be best for them e.g. parents may decide that it is best to uproot their children and move house, or they may need to divide their time between tending to a small child and caring for other family members. Putting small children first all the time may mean that parents burn out, which is not in the child's long term best interests. The burden of giving absolute precedent to the needs of small children tends to fall disproportionately on mothers.

But I agree that jealousy of a baby should be cause for embarassment and shame.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 11:31:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BerylOfLaughs Fri 10-Jun-11 11:34:24

I also think it would be shameful to be the father in that position. I have known a man who insisted his wife stopped breastfeeding because he was jealous. Ridiculous.

My husband works outside the home, long hours, I work from home and do most of the childcare. I know he is proud of how good a mother I am and pleased with the care DD gets. However, now that DD is at school I have time to reflect on the past 5 years and realise that some problems that have cropped up in our relationship may be to do with the fact that I haven't appreciated him enough, haven't made much of an effort in our relationship. I've let things slide quite a lot.
He has never expressed any jealousy, and I would probably have berated him for it if he had, however I think it is easy to underestimate what it takes to make the family work. Sorry for the ramble, hope you know what I mean!

I think the problem is that there is stil this lingering belief that men come first and that women exist to serve them. Even though it's wrong, it's at the back of a lot of people's minds.
Mind you, sometimes this 'children come first' line can come a bit unstuck - like when you have more than one child and at times the needs of those DC are in conflict in some way...

TheCrackFox Fri 10-Jun-11 11:36:12

I did find it interesting on that other thread that the OP was advised to give up breastfeeding her 3month old baby so she could devote more time to her DH. So she can liberate her breasts from her baby and give them to her DH I suppose. A lot of the advice was very 1950's.

wrongdecade Fri 10-Jun-11 11:38:09

great post SGM i've noticed that alot

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 11:38:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 11:39:50

I have 3 DC. And yes the juggling becomes more difficult but it is a given that when children are small they came first - before DH and I.

ghost - when DC are small they have no say in the big decisions of course but their day to days needs come first. "The burden of giving absolute precedent to the needs of small children tends to fall disproportionately on mothers" is exactly what this thread is about! It shouldn't fall on a mother's shoulders - and she certainly shouldn't have to cope with demands of man child on top!

Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 11:40:33

crackfox - that was the bit when I started howling and thumping my keyboard grin

Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 11:42:51

stewie - it was in Relationships I think and it was asking for a man's view on her situation. I have to say I think she is an absolute saint and her DH .....erm... was less so hmm

TheCrackFox Fri 10-Jun-11 11:43:57

I still think he was having an affair.

Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 11:44:04

Nope.... in AIBU.

Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 11:44:36

I hope not. She was much too nice for that to happen.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 10-Jun-11 11:51:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ComradeJing Fri 10-Jun-11 12:07:11

A friend and I had a similar conversation today about this. She is really struggling with her DP at the moment. They've been together for years, she is 10 years older and she was happy not to have kids as he didn't want any and then suddenly he woke up at 33 and said "Actually, I've changed my mind, let's have babies."

Her wonderful, considerate DP, who adores his son more than anything suddenly seems to think less of his DP because she is now a SAHM. He has started to leave things about the house - cups, clothing, etc and expects my friend to be a maid and pick up after him. She is refusing to.

What makes it stranger is that he wasn't doing this before she had the baby or even before she got pregnant and wasn't working but now the baby is here it's like he is a dog marking his territory.

TBH there was little I could say but I really, really felt for her.

MrIC Fri 10-Jun-11 14:06:52

"Have I been suckered by the myth of the New Man? Do most men really feel as if their infant children are 'in the way' and taking up too much of their partner's time? How can you be jealous of the affection your partner shows to your child and the time and energy she gives them? And what happened to supporting your wife/gf in what is a hard time for her too? When she needs your support and love? When she doesn't need more demands?"

No. I can only testify to my own feelings but I've never felt jealous of my daughter (or, for that matter, of my wife for stronger connection she has to DD via breastfeeding and pregnancy). I certainly try to support my wife in every way I can, but you'd have to ask her whether I've been successful or not.

"I did find it interesting on that other thread that the OP was advised to give up breastfeeding her 3month old baby so she could devote more time to her DH. So she can liberate her breasts from her baby and give them to her DH I suppose. A lot of the advice was very 1950's."

Not just 1950s - also modern day France where many women are advised (by other women) to stop breastfeeding asap, often for this reason.

smashinghairday Fri 10-Jun-11 14:11:45

I'm confused about the breastfeeding bit. hmm
As far as I can remember, your breasts remain attached to your chest when you breastfeed and stay there when baby is asleep, in a pram or in someone else's arms. I wasn't aware they were removed from the body and handed over to a baby for his or here exclusive use.

Besides, I'm sure it wasn't just my husband who absolutely adored my boobs when I was breastfeeding.

TryLikingClarity Fri 10-Jun-11 14:15:00

Good thread subject OP.

I've mentioned this point before, but think it's worth mentioning again.

A friend of our family (from N. Ireland but living in Switzerland) had a baby a few years ago. In hospital, the Swiss midwife told her not to bother her DH during the night to get up with their newborn, as it was a woman's job.

According to this midwife, a woman is biologically programmed to wake during the night with the child, but a man isn't hmm

I have also heard guff like that mentioned above about breasts being for men, not for little babies.

Barmy, really.

SardineQueen Fri 10-Jun-11 14:20:14

Agree with the OP.

My DH wouldn't dream of behaving like that. If he did feel left out or something then we'd talk about it.

There often seems to be a lack of communication between partners in these sort of thread, with one or both people refusing to have a grown-up conversation about what is on their minds. And then try and work together to come to some kind of conclusion. TBH I think it's pathetic when grown-ups won't talk to each other like grown-ups. (Being frank there grin)

alexpolismum Fri 10-Jun-11 14:30:25

My DH wouldn't do this either. I just asked him and he said that men like this are very childish and wondered whether they were mummy's boys.

And regarding the breastfeeding - there are plenty of men out there who realise there are plenty of things they can do with the baby that don't involve feeding, like changing nappies, playing, giving cuddles, etc. And of course, it's perfectly possible to breastfeed your baby and then later on let your dh touch your breasts in a sexual way. (If you really want to - personally I wasn't interested in sex when I had a newborn, not with the epsiotomy and stitches and everything. I was sore for months.)

Ormirian Fri 10-Jun-11 16:07:52

It's funny. I posted on relationships about DH being too strict with the children and not enjoying their company and wanting more of me and my time that I could give hmm I put that down to his upbringing and his arse of a father. They are 8, 12 and 14. But when they were small he wasn't like that at all - he couldn't do enough for them (or for me). He loved seeing me bf them, he loved co-sleeping.

KD0706 Fri 10-Jun-11 18:02:41

My DH has admitted to feeling jealous of DD but he is conscious it's unacceptable and worked on it and I think is now in a much better place.

I've never asked his opinion on BFing but he is always supportive of me continuing (DD is 13 months). He did have this annoying habit though when she was younger - whenever she got grumpy he used to bring her to me and announce she was hungry. I think a bit of him viewed me BFing as being something that enabled him to get out of placating a grumpy baby.

Himalaya Fri 10-Jun-11 19:01:28

<a bit off topic>

Whollyghost "I don't understand exactly what you mean by small children always coming first - they are part of a family unit, and what is best for the family may not always be best for them."

I agree. 

I know people on this topic tend to think that evolutionary psychology is a load of old shit, but Robert Trivers' theory on sibling rivalary is incredibly useful in thinking about the parent-child relationship. 

it helps to explain why your children always want more than you can give, and have a hair-trigger reflex for injustice but only when it affects them.

<it's not about men and women at all, put your hackles away folks>

The theory is that the underlying drive for both parents and children is to make sure their genes get passed to the next generation—but children's and parents interests differ. From the parents pov it is best to share attention and resources equally among their offspring. 

Children see things differently. Each child is made up of genes from their parents, fifty - fifty  from their mother and father. A child is therefore twice as related to herself as she is to her sibling. 

To maximise their own genetic chances each child would prefer to get twice as much parental attention as their sibling (because each sibling is genetically 'worth' half of yourself). So if you have two children they both want to have 2/3 of your attention and for the other to have 1/3. Even when they learn that 50:50 is 'fair' they still feel slighted.

Altogether they want 1.33 mothers and 1.33 fathers. If you have 3 children they want 0.5 of you each - adding up to 1.5 of you altogether etc... 

This explains why we are always knackered (... Or it could be the late night MN habit).

HerBeX Fri 10-Jun-11 21:08:53

Sorry that just sounds like someone with a maths fetish has made up some crap

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