Laura and Jonathan Bonck with Braeden and Jackson.
Q: I will be a new mom soon, and I have been preparing for life “after” a newborn. There is a lot of information on raising babies, and how dads can support mom, but I cannot find much on how moms can support dads. A lot of my mental preparation has been around my marriage. Specific questions: How do I preserve my marriage? How do we embrace the changes? How do I maintain my husband as a priority when we have a tiny human demanding everything? How can I help my husband bond with our new child?
A: I want to heap praises on this soon-to-be mom for understanding her marriage is a priority even when bringing a newborn home. Too often we see new moms turn away from their husbands and make the baby the center of her attention. It is natural to be in awe of new life. We all know a baby cannot take care of itself, and the maternal instinct is to sacrifice everything to ensure the newborn is not neglected. The mistake comes when we do this at the expense of our husband.
God created the institution of marriage, and it is a covenant that only includes the husband, wife, and Him. The parents of the bride and groom are not included in this covenant, and neither are future children. The love for our little ones and family members (although different) might be equally as strong, but our first responsibility is to our spouse. This does not mean we ignore the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of our children. I hope this goes without saying! But always remember, we swore an oath to nurture, grow, and protect our marriage.
Rachel and Chase Ryan with Elizabeth Mae.
When flight attendants review emergency procedures on a plane, they tell you, “If you need oxygen, the masks will drop. Place the mask over your face first, and then secure the mask on your child.” My gut reaction is always, “I’m going to take care of my child first!” The order of mask placement is vitally important, though. If you do not keep the oxygen flowing to your brain, you will likely pass out rendering you unable to take care of your child. The same is true in marriage. If you put your children ahead of your spouse, the marriage will suffer from lack of oxygen. But when you place your marriage as a priority, both husband and wife are in better shape to minister to the child’s needs. If you want your baby to feel loved, protected, and cared for, show them what a Christ-centered marriage looks like.
Physical touch is a top Love Language for my husband and me. While growing up our child regularly saw us hugging and kissing. When our son was in the “cootie” stage he would yell “Yuck” and try to pull us apart. My husband would hold me even tighter and say, “Son, I love Mommy, and nothing can separate us, and we love you, too.” Each time my husband uttered these words, our son would go from pulling to squeezing in between us while wrapping his arms around whomever he was facing. He felt safe and secure when his dad and I displayed our commitment to each other. From a child’s perspective, it meant all was right in his little world. It was through our covenant marriage the trickle-down effect of love, protection, and security passed to our son.
The Lisa Lou team engages contributing writers to answer the variety of questions we receive from readers. To help our soon-to-be mother, I thought our Mentor Moms group would be the best resource. These women have nurtured full nests and seen their offspring fly the coop. They are full of wisdom and commonsense advice. When I asked how they helped their husbands adjust to a new baby in the home many of their answers matched, showing the importance of these tips. I took what they sent and compiled a list of the top 15.
1. Be intentional in your marriage. Schedule time to: show appreciation to your husband; for intimacy; to make his favorite meal. Know his 5 Love Languages and implement them into your schedule. Is he a words of affirmation guy? Then a simple note hidden in his briefcase saying what a great dad he is will give him a great boost. The key words are be intentional. Spontaneity can be a little more difficult with little ones in the house.
2. Husbands need to know they have the respect of their wives. One way to show respect is express how valuable he is to the family. If you are a stay-home mom and your husband is the only source of income, verbally thank him for the sacrifices he makes each day to provide for the family. If the two of you equally carry the financial load, bring attention to what he does around the house to help you.
Araceli and Arthur Babcock with David.
3. When Dad takes care of the baby, do not micromanage him. This was repeated by almost every one of our Mentor Moms! Resist the urge to give him endless instructions. Just because he does things differently than you does not mean he is wrong. And if he does do something wrong, he will learn from his mistakes. He does not need a “mommy” hovering over him telling him how to take care of his own child. Let him ask questions if he needs help, then you can offer some tips. You both are figuring out how to do this parenting thing, and you will both learn by your mistakes. What is best for your marriage is to learn together. You might diaper the baby one way, and he might do it a different way. That is alright! Either way, the baby’s diaper is changed. Belittling your husband because he might do things differently than you is damaging to the relationship. When my husband dressed our child, things did not always match the way I might like, but how demeaning it would have been if I continually said, “That doesn’t look good. Give me the baby so I can dress him.” Eventually Dad will feel like a third wheel who cannot do anything right. As the child grows, if the mom continues this attitude of “mom knows best,” the child may begin viewing the father as a less competent person that is not in an equal partnership with the mom. This is damaging to the parental relationship. As parents the two of you will, on occasion, clash over your parenting skills. When you have disagreements, have these conversations behind closed doors and figure out a solution or a compromise. As parents, you need to be a united front for your children and show them you respect and honor each other. And guess what? You might find out your husband is more natural at this parenting thing than you are. I can attest to this in my own marriage!
4. Scheduling regular date nights is a must. Every week would be great, but once a month is good. These outings can be hard, and you will not always feel like a date, but you need to make this a priority. Be willing to leave the baby at home and let your husband know he comes first. Tips on conversations for date night? Start the evening talking WITH Dad ABOUT Dad. How is his job? What is the latest on the big project he is working on? In general, what is going on in his life? Leave baby talk for later.
5. On average days (other than date night) of course you will talk about baby things, and you should. Dad wants to be included and kept up to speed as to how his family is doing. But also have regular conversations at home about things unrelated to the baby. Ask him how his day was. Talk about future vacations the two of you want to take. Discuss current events. There is life outside your baby, and it is important to remember this. New moms can slip into the habit of being singularly focused on all things baby. I remember attending parties during the baby years where my female acquaintances could not talk about anything other than changing diapers, what formulas worked best, and the best position to burp a baby. I wanted to scream. I needed mental stimulation and wanted to talk politics, current news, business. I usually ended up joining the men’s conversations. They were more interesting! Your husband feels the same way. Engage him in adult conversation outside of baby talk.
6. Brag about him as a husband and father to other people…especially when he is around to hear the praise.
Anna Laurel and Ryan Staskus with Cloteil, Quinn, and Hugh.
7. Continue pre-baby couple activities when possible so it does not feel you have lost your “normal life.” If the two of you danced before baby was born, then continue dancing after baby is born. If you attended concerts together before baby, attend concerts after baby. Bringing a newborn into your life does not mean you bury your old life. Your life will need to adjust to a new normal, but do not neglect the things the two of you enjoyed that brought you together in the first place.
8. Graciously allow his hobbies to continue, when possible, so baby is a welcome addition rather than the “end of life” he previously enjoyed. If he is a golfer, do not suffocate him by insisting he stay home all weekend to help you with the baby. Strike a deal. Twice a month, he golfs Saturday mornings, then he can watch baby in the afternoon while you go to the spa. Saturday night get a baby-sitter for a date night. It is a win/win for everyone. Your first thought might be, “But I can’t get everything done!” The reality is you will not get it all done. Although there is a balance you will need to find in your daily responsibilities, try to stay focused on your priorities. The health of your marriage is more important than making sure the laundry is always folded.
9. God gives us a set of parents for a reason. Usually they have different personalities and unique ways of doing things. This helps create a well-rounded child. Always remember both of you are this baby’s parents. God gave this child a combination of genes that could only come from the two of you. Each of you had something God used to create this baby for His special purpose. God knows exactly what He is doing.
10. The biggest thing I remember my mother telling me is, “Remember he is your husband. Keep time carved out to act like a wife and not just a mom.” Moms wear a lot of hats, but remember you had to wear a wife hat to get the mom hat. 😊 Your husband is not a means to an end.
11. One mentor mom had several "I Love Dad" bibs. She would place these bibs on the baby and then let her husband do the feeding when he got home from work. It was a special time of bonding for Dad and child. This Mentor Mom breastfed her babies, yet she still found a way to get Dad involved. Nursing a child does not give a mom carte blanche to push Dad away. Do not leave Dad out!
12. Dads are often good with things that need to be assembled, like car seats. Let Dad be the expert in these areas and allow him to teach you! Men like to fix things and solve problems. Utilize this aspect of their personalities. Ask his advice about baby issues: how to solve feeding dilemmas, sleeping challenges, scheduling, etc. Even if you have ideas as to how you want things done, you do not have sole custody of this child. Make decisions together and honor your agreements.
Laura and Brett Tritton with James Walter.
13. Encourage Dad to have regular activities with baby, without Mom around. They need to do fun things, like swinging in the park, but they should also do daily chore activities together. Dad can take the baby to the grocery store or to pick up the medicine at the pharmacy.
14. Read parenting books together so you will be of like mind with your thoughts. Great authors are James Dobson and John Eldridge. You Have What It Takes: What Every Father Needs to Know is a great book.
15. Keep Christ as the focus of the family. We can fail at everything else, but the only thing of eternal consequence is your child’s knowledge and acceptance of Christ. They will learn to love God when you and your husband keep a Christ-centered marriage.
As already stated, your husband was not a means to an end so you could become a mom. He was your husband first, and he will be your husband last. One of the number one times for divorce is the season of the empty nest. This often occurs because parents put the children first in their lives at the expense of their marriage. As women we love to say, “Mom knows best!” But we really know it is God who knows best. Mom and Dad are equal in marriage and equal in parenting. You each have something special to offer your new child. God designed the marriage covenant to be the institution for the family. If this institution fails, everyone in the family suffers. But when this union thrives, the entire family can flourish. Moms, and moms-to-be, love your children, take care of them, but do not take the eyes off your marriage. It is the foundation of every family and your best resource for raising healthy children.
Together with you,
Lisa Lou and the Mentor Moms
(Elizabeth Carlyle, Kim Cooper, Leslie Moritz, Betsy Sanders, Amy St. Denis)