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One of the most surprising emotions I experienced after having my son was resentment towards my husband. I used to actually brag to people about how solid my relationship with my husband was before our son came around, but once he was born it felt like every little thing made me angry at my husband! I felt completely ashamed of my resentment, but thankfully our marriage has come a long way since those early postpartum days. With time I’ve come to realize that feeling resentment after having kids is very common issue in new mothers. In fact, 67% of couples report becoming very unhappy with each other during the first three years of their child’s life! The both of us have learned a lot about managing resentment after having kids, and I’m grateful to be able to share those steps with you.
Bringing your first child into your marriage can make even the healthiest of marriages feel rocky. Nipping resentment in the bud before it reaches a boiling point can be an incredible blessing to your marriage as you both adjust to your baby’s arrival. In this article I’ll be discussing why resentment can happen after welcoming your new bundle of joy into your relationship, as well as several tips on combating resentment in your marriage after having kids.
Why Do I Feel So Resentful Towards My Husband?
Honestly, unpacking the “why” behind resentment can be a very personal journey for any marriage. Understanding why you may be feeling resentful is a positive first step in eradicating those negative feelings in your relationship. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here’s a few reasons some people may experience resentment towards their spouse after having a child:
- Non birthing parents often don’t get parental leave, which leave the birthing parent home alone to manage the massive life change of a new baby.
- Communication issues, whether they existed before or after having a child, often become more apparent after welcoming a child.
- Traumatic pregnancies and birth experiences can fuel negative feelings.
- The persistent feeling of being in “survival mode” and not getting enough assistance with the day-to-day activities can have a negative impact on any marriage.
Honestly there’s so many reasons resentment can happen in a relationship. Looking inward to finding the why in your relationship is a valuable step to take in conquering it.
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 in many ways, but this is hard for him to deal with emotionally too. In fact, about 8-10% new fathers also experience postpartum depression.
Yes, they didn’t carry a 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. Couple that secondhand trauma of watching you welcome a new baby into the world along with sleep deprivation, less time for the things you both typically have time for, and the massive adjustment to the new role of fatherhood, being a new parent is challenging for both parties involved. Starting the conversation with empathy and understanding can greatly help with dismantling resentment and maintaining a healthy relationship after baby.
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.
Divide The Labor Effectively
Do you have resentment towards your husband because you feel like he doesn’t do enough around the house? Then work with your spouse on dividing the housework in a way that feels equitable to you.
I am a huge proponent of equal partnership in marriage, meaning that each person in the relationship should be doing an equitable amount of work. If sharing in the household chores has always been a struggle in your marriage, then nipping this in the bud within the first year of having a baby will pay off for you in spades.
Occasionally when sharing chores, many new moms may participate in a maternal gatekeeping of sorts. Meaning that it needs to be done their way or not at all. The problem that can happen with that mindset though, is that if you gatekeep the way things get accomplished too much, then it may come to a point where you’re the one stuck doing it. Give your spouse the space to accomplish chores in the way that they feel best about, but also gets the job done.
Taking turns with child care tasks can be a great habit to make as well. 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 our son 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!
If dividing the labor effectively is a struggle for you and your spouse, I can’t recommend the book “Fair Play” enough. This books explains the need to divide labor equitably in a beautiful way, and it gives practical tools on how to make it work. I definitely recommend working through the book with your spouse.
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.
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.
I’ve also written a couple of articles all about ways to get your husband to help around the house. Here’s a couple that can help you get started with sharing the load in your marriage:
- How To Get Your Husband To Help Around The House
- Unloading The Mental Load, and Getting The Help You Deserve
Give Him The Space To Learn, Or At Least Screw Up Trying
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 don’t be afraid to help him, or at least give him the space to make some mistakes. Having a new baby is fertile ground for messing a lot of things up, and for most new parents, the only way to learn is to make mistakes.
For some moms, taking care of the baby may feel very natural, but the same may not be true for fathers. Just like many first-time parents, new fathers may struggle to learn the in’s and out’s of caring for a baby. Working together in educating yourselves can help.
Something my husband and I have made a point to do after welcoming our son into the world is educate ourselves on parenting tactics together. We’ve invested in parenting courses and bought/borrowed many books and work through them together. It can make for a pretty corny date night, but bettering our parenting strategies together has strengthened our marriage in wonderful ways!
Keep Communication Open, Not Hostile
Resentment ends where the lines of 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.
If you’re looking for more information on healthy communication in marriage, I can’t recommend the Gottman Institute enough. Drs. John and Julie Gottman are true relationship experts with tons of invaluable advice on bettering communication in couples. The Gottman Institute website also has a database of Gottman trained marriage therapists, as well as a ton of free resources to look through as well!
Just Like You Need Your Time, He Does 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 your partner require self-care too! Your spouse has 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 abuse their me-time and spend more time away from the family than with the family. This is where point open communication 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.
Spend Time Together
There’s a little phrase that people say that is kind of corny, but totally true. You need to date your spouse!
I understand, spending time together after having a brand new baby is intimidating. You barely have time to take care of yourself, much less make time for dates and quality time with the larger human in your who doesn’t poop their pants and need to be burped constantly. For a first-time mother, throwing quality time with your husband into the mix can feel like more work than necessary. The truth is that it doesn’t have to be work, nor does it need to be flashy and time consuming. Spending quality time with your spouse after having a baby can be as simple as you want it to be.
You could start with a simple “meeting” of sorts where you both sit at the kitchen table and talk about what’s on your mind. Even something simple like watching a tv show together can be a great way to decompress after a long day together.The amount of time you spend together is not nearly as important as the quality of the time you spend. Positive quality time spent with your spouse will pay off in many ways, such as increased sexual intimacy, more positive communication, and better relationship satisfaction.
Consider Getting Professional Help
Working with a couples counselor or family therapist can feel like a scary step for some couples. Though the fear of getting professional help is an understandable fear, the feelings of resentment are much more dangerous to your relationship than a therapist. Bringing a new child into your relationship is a massive change, and there’s no shame in needing a third party person to help you process the change in your marriage. Bettering you and your spouses mental health by working with a professional will almost always pay off in spades.
If you are looking for some resources in getting professional mental health services, I have provided a few resources to check out at the end of this article.
Resentment Doesn’t Have To Have The Final Word
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.
You both deserve grace in this transition to parenthood. You’re both going to go through major growing pains in learning to parent together, but if you’re both willing to learn and work together then leaving resentment behind is possible.
- The Gottman Institute – Is one of the premier resources in relationship building. They have a database of marriage therapists, and plenty of free resources for improving marriages. There’s even parenting-specific resources included.
- Anxiety And Depression Association of America – has a wonderful site that provides lots of information about anxiety and depression, as well as various tools for receiving help.
- Betterhelp – Is an online therapy service that makes therapy accessible and affordable for all people. They have a huge database of therapist with many specialties, and offer many ways to participate in therapy. From online counseling, to over the phone sessions, they odder a plethora of ways you can get help from a therapist.
- Faithful Counseling – Is very similar to Betterhelp, but is a database of online Christian therapists. If you would prefer to receive therapy from a faith-based perspective, then this could be just for you.
- Brightside – offers online medication and therapy treatments for depression and anxiety. You can get an appointment with an online provider in as little as 48 hours, and each treatment plan is catered to your personal needs.