Remember when you got married? That moment of looking into the eyes of your love, envisioning growing old with them, having babies, and holding hands until death do you part? There wasn’t a scrap of resentment, it was all love for you and your lovebird!
Yeah….those were the days.
After having our first child, one of the most surprising emotions I experienced was resentment towards my husband. Of course, I was jealous that he didn’t have to experience pregnancy or labor, but it also felt like he was missing out on the new emotions I was experiencing as a first-time mom. While he was cuddling our bundle of joy, I was massaging my tender c-section scar wondering if I would ever be able to sit up without pain. I felt like he was getting all the fun, and I was stuck with all of the work.
So you could only imagine the amount of frustration I felt when he would get frustrated with parenting issues. The frustrations he was experiencing for the first time, such as being exhausted because of baby, I experienced for 9 months before him.
As a new mom, I was so surprised to discover that lots of new moms feel the same way! 67% of couples report becoming very unhappy with each other during the first three years of their child’s life! At first, I felt rude for being frustrated with my husband, but realizing that it was more of a common issue than expected took some pressure off of me. Through many months of working together, my husband and I were able to work out a lot of those points of resentment and develop peace in our household, even with a screaming baby.
Before we go into the nitty-gritty of combating resentment, you need to realize one thing about working out a new marriage dynamic with baby…it will take WORK! And it won’t be only you doing the work, your husband needs to be involved in this too. I recommend going through these points with your spouse and discussing them together.
1- Remember, this is hard for him too
Do you have resentment towards your husband because you feel like he’s getting the easy way out of bringing a child into the world? He’s definitely getting the easy way out physically, but this is hard for him to deal with emotionally too!
I spend lots of time discussing maternal issues such as postpartum depression on The Overcoming Mom, but not a lot of people talk about paternal pressure! We often neglect that having a baby doesn’t just happen to mom, but to dad as well.
Yes, they didn’t carry a large human in their body for 9 months, but they watched you do it. They may not have experienced labor pains, but they watched you do it. Watching trauma can be just as difficult as experiencing it first hand. You may resent him for not feeling the pain of pregnancy, labor, and birth, but he was there. He saw you fight through it, and that’s hard too.
In my case, I had an extremely difficult pregnancy. I had gestational diabetes, and I developed high blood pressure. I had to be induced early, which lead to a very traumatic birth experience, and eventually led to an emergency c section. My husband, nor I, didn’t get to watch our son be born. I had to be intubated. That was just as much of a painful experience for him as it was for me.
Of course I got angry when I found my husband weeping over a crying baby, because he didn’t know what to do. Of course I resented him, because I felt like I was suffering more than he was. But then I had to realize that this is hard for him too. Just like I need time to physically and emotionally heal from 9 long months of creating life, he needs to heal too.
Don’t forget this is hard for him too. Yes, you did the hard work, but he watched you do it. And that is hard in its own right. Be gentle with him, as well as yourself.
2- Divvy up the to-do list
Do you have resentment towards your husband because you feel like he doesn’t do enough around the house? Then don’t do everything around the house! Share the to-do list love!
I am a huge proponent of equal partnership in marriage, meaning that each person in the relationship should be doing an equal amount of work. Mama….that might mean you need to educate your husband on how to do things to your standard. Oh…and please be nice!
If you want his help with doing the dishes, but you hate how he does them, then show him how you like them done! Perhaps you want his help with cooking dinner, but he can’t tell the difference between the crockpot and the Instant pot…then help him!
Take time and look at all you have to accomplish during the day and see who would like to take different tasks. Let me give you some examples of what kinds of tasks my husband and I divvy up throughout the day:
- We rotate who does bath time every night
- When our son was still bottle feeding, we would rotate feedings when we were both home.
- We rotate who helps Micah with dinner
Rotating can help eliminate the “but I ALWAYS…” or the “but you NEVER…” kind of arguments. If you have a hard time remembering who does what, get a dry erase board and write it down. Even a piece of paper on the fridge can be perfect for dividing up tasks. The purpose of sharing the love when it comes to chores is to ensure that nobody feels overwhelmed with their to-do list. Everyone feels like they’re doing something!
WHAT IF MY HUSBAND WON’T PICK UP THE SLACK?
This is a really hard question to answer. I think the most beneficial thing to do in a situation like that is to find out why. Frankly, some men need to have expectations slapped on their foreheads, and if the expectation hasn’t been communicated clearly, then frustration can breed at that moment. Parents.com has an excellent article about getting husbands to help out around the house. The article gets bonus points because it was written by a husband!
Don’t think this is going to be an overnight success though! Your task list will probably be ever-changing, and that’s ok! If you and your husband are both on board with splitting up the daily load, you’ll figure out the ways that work for your family the best.
3- Help him discover his fatherly instincts
You may have resentment towards your husband because you feel like he doesn’t get anything right. That might be because he actually doesn’t know how to do something. So help him!
We know what maternal instincts are. For some women, they feel those mysterious instincts even in pregnancy. Men don’t get that experience until the baby is in their arms. Some men hold their children for the first time and they feel absolutely LOST! I know women feel that way too, but from personal experience, my husband really struggled with finding his paternal instincts.
Once again, you may need to educate your husband on some things. You may know why baby is crying….but he might not. TEACH HIM! Show him how you can tell, or maybe your process to soothe baby. Does he change diapers in a totally non-sensical way? Show him how you do it! Your husband may really appreciate the help!
I remember one time when Micah (our son) was little, and Matt was very frustrated, because he couldn’t figure out how to get Micah to burp. He tried and tried, yet I was the only one who could get him to burp. He kept saying that he felt like a bad dad because he couldn’t get his own kid to burp!
Yes, I could have agreed with him and made him feel like crud for not burping babies with great finesse, but instead I taught him how I did it. I let him watch me, and I gave him chances to practice with my help. I was kind to him, and let him know that it’s ok that he doesn’t know how to do everything. We’ll figure it all out together.
People don’t know what they’re not taught, and some husbands need a little extra help. Don’t be afraid or annoyed at the fact that he may need some assistance. Don’t make him feel stupid if he doesn’t know your child like you do.
If your husband is receptive to being helped, then eventually he won’t need the help! Just remember to be gentle…nobody learns well by being yelled at! Which leads me to the next point…
4- Keep communication open, not hostile
Resentment ends where communication begins!
It can be so easy to point fingers and name call in marriage, but it’s important to keep the first point in mind. This transition in life is just as hard on him as it is on you…just in a different way. Remember to have grace with him when communicating feelings, and expect graceful conversation to be given to you in return.
Graceful communication in marriage should be a Harvard level class! It is DIFFICULT to learn, and it takes TIME and CONSISTENCY! Here’s the down and dirty of what I mean about graceful communication:
- Let you or your husband (whoever starts the conversation) state how they’re feeling in their entirety. Do NOT interrupt, even if you disagree.
- Summarize what the other person said, and get clarification on anything if needed before moving on.
- Let the next person (you or your husband) make their rebuttal. Listen all the way through. Let the listening person summarize just like before.
- Once all the opinions are out in the air, get right to the SOLUTION! State possible solutions and work more diligently on the solution than the problem!
Yelling and screaming helps NOBODY! It may make you feel good to yell at him, but is he going to be a better dad because you yelled at him? Probably not. When you focus on finding a solution instead of fighting about the problem, then progress begins.
This is another point that will not happen overnight. Learning this kind of healthy communication takes time, as well as buy-in from you AND your husband! I have found that when Matt and I focus more on finding a solution than yelling about the problem, we are happier, more peaceful, and much calmer.
5- Just like you need your time, he needs it too
I remember reading about a woman who had so much resentment towards her husband because he would stay out longer riding his bikes after having a baby than before. She didn’t understand why he was avoiding being a parent.
Maybe he’s not avoiding parenthood, but instead trying to keep some of his personal identity intact.
I’ve spent time on here preaching self-care for moms. I know from experience how VITAL it is for moms to take care of themselves, but I cannot forget that men require self-care too! Men have batteries that need to be recharged as well!
My husband enjoys reading and watching tv, so in the evenings when the chores are over, he will sit down with a book or watch whatever show he is into at that moment. After having our son, I felt resentful of his freedom to have his me-time. I had to realize that just like I need my morning cup of coffee in peace, he needs his quiet nights reading a book. Nowadays, I don’t get mad at him, or wonder why he gets to chill while I’m not. I let him. He worked hard for that time, so he gets to have it. Just like how I work hard for my time, and I get to have it as well.
Now we can get into some sticky topics when we have husbands who possibly abuse their me-time and spend more time away from the family than with the family. This is where point #4 comes into play. Talk to him about that! I know the possibility of confrontation can be scary, but if it is harming the family dynamic, then compromises should be made.
Your husband needs a change to practice self-care, just like you do. I know it sounds really formal, but you may have to find a way to schedule it into your day together. You know that feeling you have when you have a little me-time and you feel like you can parent again? He needs that feeling too.
Work together on finding a balance in both of you having your self-care time. When you both feel recharged, you’ll both be better.
6- Spend time together
I know candle-lit dinners and long strolls on the beach are a thing of the past with a baby, but you can still spend time together! It’s just going to look a little different after a kid than before.
There’s a little phrase that people say that is kind of corny, but totally true. You need to date your spouse!
Dating your husband is going to look way different than dating him as a boyfriend was. Your “date” might have to be popcorn and Netflix, or buying a weird soda and eating ice cream. The romantic nights on the town might be hard to relive, but you can certainly create it at home!
For my husband and I, spending time together was much more pared down after child than before. We simply put our phones away and talked about our days. I started asking him how work was, and actually listening intently to his response. I actually learned that he had a much more intensive job than I realized, which allowed me to give him more grace when he seemed spent at the end of the day.
Dates are going to be different, but you can’t let them disappear. Keep it simple. It’s not about how grand your time together is, but about the quality of the time.
Final Word: Grace over resentment
I struggled with resentment towards my husband for a while after having our son. It felt like I was carrying the entire weight of the world on my shoulders, and he was out living blissfully unaware of how hard parenting is. The truth was that he was feeling the pressure just as much as I was, but he was displaying it differently. I may have been crying, complaining, and demanding, but he was quiet, distant, and apologetic.
When we started working out this resentment together, I realized that we were both struggling with our newfound parenthood. Yes, his struggle was much different than mine, but it was still a struggle. Just like how a new mom needs help navigating motherhood, fathers need help too. For them, their only help is probably going to come from you.
You deserve grace in this transition, and so does he. When learning to let go of resenting your husband after having kids, keep the word “grace” in your mind. The struggle is real for BOTH of you. But when you both actively work through the resentment, then your family can achieve that sweet blissful new-parent peace.