Motherhood is a challenging journey that has its ups and downs. It’s harder for moms in the initial years, as it’s a brand new experience for both mother and baby. This is when support from the dad (spouse or partner) becomes absolutely essential.
When a mom gets the support she needs and deserves, she is able to tackle the challenges that come her way. What’s more, she’s likely to be less frustrated, anxious, or overwhelmed when she knows she is not alone in this journey.
If a mom feels taken care of and supported, she can come to her baby with her cup full. If her wellbeing is not given the attention it deserves (from her partner and herself), she’s most likely running on empty (exhaustion and frustration can lead to chronic health problems).
Husbands can play a major role in ensuring their wives feel loved, supported, heard, and cared for. This directly affects how moms nurture their babies; they become present, loving, and joyful moms.
Dear Dads, We See You
What many don’t acknowledge or realize is that husbands or fathers may also undergo an emotional shift when they become a father. Some experience stress and anxiety with the responsibility of a new baby. They may have self-doubt or worry about their child’s future. Sometimes, the dad just needs to feel seen and heard, just like the mom. We’re all human, and stress can totally throw us off balance. If you’re going through something like this as a dad, remember you’re not alone. Consider speaking to someone – a friend, your wife, or a professional; you will find that it eases your burden.
The dads on our Slurrp Farm team shared some of their own experiences with parenthood, what they went through, and how they consciously made efforts to be a pillar of support and love for their wives. Taking a cue from them, we have come up with some simple ways that husbands can be there for their wife.
Tips for Husbands: How to Be There for Your Wife
Tip 1: Be a good listener so she feels heard
New moms tend to be home all day with their new baby. She’s surrounded by children all day and she craves real conversation and affection. At the end of the day, they simply want to be “heard” and “seen” for who they are.
When you return home or see her after a long period, give her your undivided attention and listen to her. Here are some tips for being a good listener:
- First, keep that phone or laptop away. Don’t get distracted by calls or notifications.
- Listen actively, which means actually sit or stand across her, make eye contact, nod appropriately, ask questions, and show affection.
- Do not zone out; be respectful even if you disagree with her.
- Be empathetic. Avoid dismissing or trivializing what she’s sharing. Nobody can know what someone goes through unless they walk in their shoes.
- Acknowledge what she’s feeling and try your best to understand what she’s going through.
- Make these conversations a daily ritual or habit.
For many women, just expressing or communicating what they’re feeling or how their day was is enough to ease away their tension and anxiety and feel less alone.
Tip 2: Be a team; divide the responsibilities
Life is easier and more joyful when both partners decide to work like a team. Gone are the days when it was just the woman’s responsibility to take care of the household chores or raise a child. Today, most partners are dividing household and childcare responsibilities equally or in a way that works for them and their routines. Take part in daily rituals like putting your child to bed or preparing their meals.
You can also take up grocery shopping and laundry, so she gets some time to recharge or take a break. She could take a nap, take a bath, or simply relax with a book. Or you can be at home with the baby while your wife steps out for errands, which can be her way of taking time off from home and baby!
It’s important for moms to sleep well, eat on time, and get some exercise and self-care in the day. For this, she needs time, which is very sparse in a mom’s life!
Tip 3: Surprise her with small acts of kindness
Moms and women are usually the caregivers and caretakers in most homes. They are used to taking care of everyone’s needs before their own. That’s why spontaneous acts when she’s least expecting it will be appreciated.
Can see a pile of washed and dried clothes lying around? Fold them up. Can see she’s running around trying to get your baby’s food and has not had her cup of tea? Make her tea or ask your house help to make it.
When the dad steps up to voluntarily help out without being asked, it eases the burden from the mom’s shoulders. Such small joyful moments also make her feel seen and loved.
Tip 4: Encourage her to sleep
Lack of sleep can have a massive effect on a mom’s physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. And sleep deprivation is a reality for moms from the time their baby is born. Moms have to follow their baby’s routines. When moms are sleep deprived, there can be increased instances of mood swings, rage, irritability, and lack of focus. They may find themselves forgetting things or reacting more quickly than usual.
As a supportive partner, help her get as much sleep as she can. Divide the night-time waking up responsibilities and take turns to wake up. During the day, if you can take your baby, your wife can take a quick nap. Quality of rest and sleep is very important along with quantity.
Tip 5: Ensure she’s eating healthy food
Nutrition is a huge part of a mom’s wellbeing, especially when she’s recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding her newborn. Many moms don’t prioritize their own meals or hydration. They are so frazzled with everything around them that they’re moving on autopilot. A lot of them feel their nutrition is not as important as that of their baby. But that’s not true.
You can step in and ensure she’s having nutritious, healthy meals in a timely manner. As she’s taking care of your baby, you can take care of her.
Tip 6: Offer emotional support
Be there for your wife, listen with patience and without judgment. Often, women simply need an attentive and listening ear. Be that for her. Even on days where you may be tired or not in the mood, give your wife the space she needs to vent or express.
There are so many things going on, from hormonal shifts and lack of sleep to physical and mental fatigue. A woman’s body and mind undergo tremendous turmoil at childbirth, so be mindful and empathetic. With your support, she will feel more confident and calm.
Tip 7: Offer companionship
After a baby arrives, many marriages experience tension. The mom gets pulled into all the baby care duties, and the dad starts to distance himself and feels neglected. He may start to be away at work more often. The mom may feel lonely and unsupported alone at home. This can occur due to a lack of communication and quality time between husband and wife.
Spending quality time together will make a positive difference to your relationship. Go for a stroll (with or without your baby) or watch a movie together while your baby is sleeping. Remind her she can have her own joyful moments with you, sans the baby.
Quality time with a loved one is something that can boost a mom’s emotional wellbeing. It makes her feel safe and less alone. Define your own ways of spending time together, whether it’s cooking together or playing a board game, just you both.
Tip 8: Encourage self-care
As mentioned in the previous article, you can take over baby duties while your wife reads a book or takes a relaxing bath. She needs to find small activities or rituals that help her decompress and feel human. Make sure they’re things that bring her joy, and are not related to the baby or you. Some women enjoy decluttering or cleaning the closet and that gives them joy!
Tip 9: Learn about baby care
It’s important for both mom and dad to educate themselves about baby responsibilities. Along with your wife, you too should know about feeding techniques, diaper change, soothing techniques, and other dos and don’ts. Most of the time, this onus falls on the mom, and this adds to the pressures they’re facing.
As a dad, you can do a lot of research or reading and share this with the mom, who may have no time to do it. Like we said, divide and rule!
Tip 10: Show your appreciation
Kind words of affirmation and physical affection go a long way in boosting your wife’s self-love and mental health. They even help strengthen your marriage.
Be positive in your interactions with each other, acknowledge when the other does something to make you feel good, and thank each other, so you don’t take the other for granted. Whether it’s by small gifts, handwritten post-its, or frequent hugs and hand holding, show you care and show you’re there.
Tip 11: Coordinate, plan, and support
When family or friends visit to see your new baby, take over the coordination and planning support. It could be coordinating with people, checking with your wife if she’s up for visitors, and ordering food from outside so the menu planning and hosting does not fall squarely on your wife.
Also, make it a normal habit to set healthy boundaries as per what works for you both and your baby. Don’t get bogged down by “what will they say.” Feel free to say no to invitations or social visits. And stand by your wife if she wants to decline an invitation.
Tip 12: Acknowledge her efforts
Dads, show your appreciation and celebrate your wife for the woman she is. What she’s doing and what she has done are uphill tasks! She does not have the opportunity to quit this responsibility.
When you acknowledge her efforts and accomplishments as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, and all the other roles she takes on, it will boost her self-worth and make her feel loved. It also makes taking care of a baby a lot less challenging and a lot more rewarding! She will be more joyful and positive while doing it.
Most moms keep doing all the hard work silently, and nobody around them acknowledges their efforts. Human beings are quick to judge and criticize but slow to affirm and appreciate. Let’s change this!
Tip 13: Be vigilant
Watch for signs if your wife is struggling but is finding it hard to ask for help or articulate her emotions. Educate yourself about what new mothers undergo physically and emotionally. Also, know what postpartum recovery can look like, so you can watch for signs of depression, anxiety, or melancholy.
Observe your wife for any noticeable changes in behavior or mood, and encourage her to express herself to you or to a professional. Do not put her (or your) mental health on the backburner. If you notice concerning mood changes in her behavior or mood, encourage her to seek professional help. Mental health is crucial (hers and yours!) and there’s absolutely no shame in seeking support when needed. Learn and read up as much as you can, so you can notice the signs and offer solutions along with support.
Tip 14: Be patient and understanding during recovery
Postpartum recovery comes with its own challenges. Now is the time to master your skills of patience and understanding. Let your wife undergo physical healing and emotional adjustment at her own pace. It will look different for every mom and for every generation of moms.
Avoid putting any pressure on her, also help relieve the pressure she puts on herself. Reassure her from time to time that everything does not have to be perfect.
There you go, Dads. Just go about focusing on making new memories with your wife and baby, and let go of petty things that don’t really matter in the larger picture. All the best, you’ve got this!
Next week, we will explore how grandparents (if they are involved) and other family caregivers can be a pillar of support and strength in the parenting journey.