There’s a lot of talk in the ‘mummy world’ about what it’s like for a woman to become ‘Mum’. How WE feel, how we change and how we cope. But what about our partners and husbands? How does becoming ‘Dad’ affect them?
I’ve been so caught up in my new mum world the past 18 months or so that I haven’t really stopped to think about how my husband was feeling.
I had a huge identity crisis when I stopped work to be home with our firstborn, because my career had always been my top priority. And yes, I knew that becoming a dad had changed my husband. However, he’s still working while I stay home with our two (19 months and 2 months). So, I guess I naively figured that because his status quo had continued he wasn’t as affected as I was.
It wasn’t until this weekend that I realised how wrong I was.
Out of the blue he mentioned that he feels like the ‘third child’. It shocked and upset me. And apparently this feeling isn’t one he's alone in experiencing. His friends, also husbands and Dads, feel similar.
I have often thought to myself about my husband “it's like having another child”, usually when picking his dirty clothes up off the floor or cleaning his beard hairs off the sink after he chose to shave literally just hours after I'd cleaned the bathroom. But, that was a joke, and one that many mums and wives make. I didn't know it was how he actually felt, albeit in a slightly different context.
I guess I got so busy looking after two kids under 18 months that I forgot to invest time in him. The lead-up to our second child being born eight weeks ago featured an interstate move, a new job for him (and much longer hours) and more work-at-home business for me. Since we have no help and have had a rough few months with both our bubs being sick we have had zero ‘us’ time. We’re a bit disconnected. But I didn’t realise he was going through an identity crisis of his own.
Looking back, as soon as we found out were were pregnant with Number 1 our relationship changed. The focus changed from being so wrapped up in one another, in our awesome love bubble for two, to being on our unborn son. My husband says that when he was born there was a feeling of unbelievable happiness that he was in the world but a slight feeling of loss because he knew that he would never have the same relationship with me, his wife, that he did before.
Don’t get me wrong, our relationship is better with children. But there are definite concessions. Previously, if one of us was sick, the other could focus solely on that person. Now, we just have to suck it up and keep going, as we have kids to look after. My body was his, now he says it’s almost like the kids own it (they did damage downstairs, not to mention they owned my boobs - well, one still does!). Each day they make me physically and mentally exhausted. He fights for attention as much as the kids do, and admits it, and struggles to find his place.
He also feels the unbelievable pressure of being the main bread winner. As hard as ‘mum life’ is, with the terrors of feeding, settling, sleeping, entertaining, tantrums and more, it’s also hard for him every single day. He has a knot in his stomach leaving us each morning and has to shut out thoughts of us during the day because it makes him lose focus. He just wants to be home, but he can’t. I was so "woe is me" about the troubles I’ve had every day with our two lately that I never stopped to think about that.
So what do we do, as mums but also as wives and partners? Don’t forget, as I maybe have, why we started along this crazy path that is motherhood.
Before anything else, it was our love for this person, our partner in crime. Yes, it can sometimes seem like a gesture towards them can be a little extra burden and another thing to add to the ‘to-do’ list at the end of a hard day. But it’s oh-so important. Some good quality ‘us’ time, and talking about how we’re each feeling as things change, needs to take top priority alongside the kids.
WATCH Ashton Kutcher talk to Ellen about becoming a Dad...