Tiny toes, flawless pink skin, the smell … oh the sweet smell! I love everything about babies, and I always have. There’s a good chance that if there’s a baby in the room, I’ve got him or her in my arms – either that or I’m begging someone else to be the next to hold the swaddled bundle of tiny perfection. I could stare at a sleeping newborn for hours – watching their chest rise and fall as they breathe, gazing at their sweet, peaceful face. I’ll never understand how a still baby provides such endless entertainment, and yet their steady breath and occasional coos entrance me. This applies to all babies, but my love affair with the infant stage was even more pronounced when my son was born.
My husband? Not so much…
Somewhere among our many conversations when we started seriously dating, the topic of children came up. Do you want kids? How many? It would have been a deal breaker if he said no because I have always listed “Mom” at the top of the list of things I wanted to be. Luckily, he wanted to be a dad to at least two (three max) kids which fit my plan perfectly.
My husband, while he liked kids, had little experience with babies. When we went to visit friends or family who recently welcomed a new baby, he’d always decline when asked if he wanted a turn to hold it.
Why don’t you like holding babies?
I don’t get it. They don’t do anything.
Five years into our marriage, we found out that … SURPRISE, we were pregnant! For the next nine months, my mind raced with everything baby related – nursery designs, birth plans, and buying miniature clothing. I did my homework and listened to every podcast and read every article I could get my hands on. Preparing to care for a new life consumed me, and by the time my son was born I felt confident and capable as a new mother.
My husband though, was still very much a beginner to all this baby business.
I remember supervising the first time he changed our son’s diaper – which happened to be the first time he changed a diaper period. He got frustrated quickly.
“He won’t stop moving!”
I rolled my eyes and took over. If he thinks this is hard, how’s he going to handle pinning down a bouncing toddler to change him?
Our son was exclusively breastfed for the first 3 months, which didn’t leave much bonding time for my husband. I wasn’t very successful with pumping, so despite my attempt to give him the experience of giving our baby a bottle, the feeding responsibilities were left to me.
My husband felt like he couldn’t contribute. Meanwhile, my instincts were on high alert, and I had the experience to know what our son needed when he cried. I remember feeling annoyed that not only did I have to adapt to being a new mom, but I had to teach my inexperienced husband what I knew and how to do everything.
He’s crying because you didn’t burp him enough.
He’s crying because he’s wet. Don’t you know how to check his diaper?
He’s crying because he’s hot.
He’s crying because you didn’t swaddle him tight enough. You have to do it like this.
It was just easier to do it myself, so I took over a lot. Thinking back on the experience, I was probably a big reason why my husband didn’t care for the baby stage. If I had been on the other side of all that instruction, I probably wouldn’t have liked it either. I needed to let my husband experiment and fail without fear of judgment, but instead I quite literally pushed him away when I insisted that I knew best. The emotional connection my husband felt to our son probably suffered as a result.
We’re now three years into this parenting gig, and we’ve hit our stride together. As the father of a toddler, my husband feels deeply connected to our son and contributes significantly to his care. He’s one of the only dads in the preschool drop off line, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s a fun dad, the kind who reads bedtime stories in funny voices and allows throwing balls in the house. After watching a touching father/son moment on TV last night, he literally said, “Being a dad is my favorite thing.”
Watching him as a dad is one of my favorite things.
He’s an incredible father. His patience rivals mine, and he has an instinctive ability to calm our son down if he’s upset. He does this with creative solutions that aren’t suggested in articles or parenting classes. I often try to talk my son down if he’s having a tantrum, but reasoning with a three year old doesn’t always work. My husband, on the other hand, finds ways to get through to our son amid the intense emotions he’s learning to express. When our son was upset because he didn’t want to wash his hair, my husband handed the cup of water to him so he could dump water on daddy’s head. The toddler’s tears transformed into laughter. Brilliant! I would have never thought of that!
He still admits he’s not a baby person, and that’s ok! Parenting is an experience that is constantly evolving, and I’m sure I’ll find that I like certain stages better than others too. We make a great team because we both have different strengths. He may not be a baby person, but he’s rockin’ being a dad to a toddler!