Some people anticipate the birth of their first child with apprehension. But me? I wasn’t worried.
My wife, a nanny with five years of experience, was going to be amazing; all I had to do was follow her lead, right? She, too, felt a certain level of confidence.
We were wrong.
Shortly after our son’s birth six months ago, my wife began experiencing symptoms of postpartum mood disorder, a condition many women experience and which she’s personally written about.
My job as our son’s father and my wife’s husband has turned into a role both proactive and reactive. Not helping our situation: I work outside the home and am gone most of the day, including several recent trips for work.
So what have I found to be most effective in making my wife’s life easier? Here are my suggestions, from one new dad to another.
My wife is wonderful at caring for our son. She does so selflessly and without regard for herself. Note that last part: “without regard for herself.” I’ve made it a priority to make sure she gets her own time to relax and refocus.
How this looks: I often encourage my wife to step out of the house on weekends for a trip to the mall (a personal favorite) or to grab herself a coffee. I encourage her to text her friends to see what they’re up to and to coordinate a night out. I draw a bath for her with her favorite bath salts and the laptop opened to Netflix (for her, that’s some of the most calming medicine there is after a long day with a fussy baby).
Check-in — regularly.
My wife is a writer, and writing is her most effective medium for communication in our relationship. We communicate throughout the day via text; she highlights both the triumphs and struggles that she’s having with our son. Not only do these texts include me in our son’s life while I’m away, they offer me a sense of how she’s feeling.
When her messages begin to sound troubled or hopeless, I make sure to respond with as much upbeat and positive reinforcement as I can. I try, as much as possible, to keep her company throughout the day, if only to remind her that she’s not alone.
Share pick-up time.
I’m lucky to have a job with no clock to punch. My wife is lucky that she’s able to bring our son with her to her job as a nanny. But this situation also has its drawbacks.
Specifically, my wife never gets a break from taking care of kids.
To help, I often take advantage of my flexibility to leave work and pick our son up as she finishes up her day of nannying.
I know this option isn't available to all dads but we can all consider when our partners could use a break. If possible, shuffle your schedule (or perhaps even use a vacation or sick day, if available) to give your partner the space they need.
My wife and I are, as much as possible, trying to build a village to help us with the needs of our newborn. This network of people supports both of us, particularly when I’m traveling for work. Sometimes that means they call my wife or send her a reminder of exercises she can do to ease a panic attack related to postpartum mood disorder.
We don’t have many friends where we live due to our demanding schedules and zero family, but the friends we do have are faithful and dependable. And several family members know to do regular text check-ins. I encourage you to think who in your community could do the same for your family.