Thanks to the recent arrival of my newborn son, my wife is currently at home on Maternity Leave. Being a stay-at-home father myself, this is great in many ways. I’m not as lonely, I have some help around the house, and I can spend some quality time with her.
But this doesn’t mean that everything’s going to be beautiful sunshine and sugary sweet lollipops. No, a stay-at-home father can make some big mistakes when he’s no longer the sole voice of authority in the home. I should know. I’ve made them. But lucky for you, friend, I’m here to share my vast knowledge, and keep you out of the proverbial doghouse.
Demonstrate Your Effectiveness as a Full-Time Father
Or, in other words: “Don’t Give Your Wife Any Reason to Think that You’ve Been a Lazy, Good-For-Nothing, Terrible Influence on the Children”.
If you’re like me, you’ve been home with the kid(s) for a while now, nurturing them, encouraging them, and shaping them into successful adults. Or maybe you’ve just plopped them in front of the TV. Either way, now that she’s home it’s GAME ON. Show her that you are a responsible parent who will not:
- Let your children eat old, crusty food off the floor
- Ignore their twice daily tooth brushing needs
- Forget to change their diapers every now and then
- Feed them chocolate cake and jellybeans for lunch
- Neglect to feed them at all
- Turn a blind eye to their attempts to play with the sharp cutlery
- Let them ride the cat like a horse
And so on. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.
Help Out Around the House
When your wife is home with the new baby, that’s pretty much her full-time job. It’s a 24-hour one too. Therefore, it’s incumbent on you, valiant male homekeeper, to take up the mantle as far as everything else is concerned. What constitutes “everything else” you ask? Well…everything!
- Parenting the older child: Your wife will do her best here, I’m sure, but it’s your job to make sure the older sibling is getting the attention and care he or she deserves. Otherwise, you’re likely to have a nuclear situation on your hands.
- Household chores: Is the house a mess? Clean it. Laundry need doing? Do it! Do the cats need a brushing because their fur is tumbling across your kitchen floor like a desert weed? Brush them! It sounds simple because it is. But here’s the key: don’t wait for your wife to ask. Just do them on your own. Because you’re awesome.
- Cook the food: If you’ve been home with the kid(s) for a while you’ve likely learned how to cook something during that time. Well, I’m sorry to say that while your wife is home now, you can’t rely on her to go back to providing sustenance for you and yours. No, the job is still pretty much one you must tackle. Oh sure, I’m confident that she’ll help out in this regard as much as she can, but if that new baby needs to eat around dinner time, that’s likely going to leave you in charge. So plan on it so you’re not taken off guard.
Don’t Do Too Much Though
Taking on the responsibilities around the home is all well and good, but it’s important that you don’t take on too much. Heaping too much onto your weary, child-rearing shoulders is only going to stress you out and leave you in a state of exhaustion. So pick your battles. Ration out the chores. Do what you can, but space them out. You don’t need to be Superman here, after all, so go a bit easy on yourself.
As long as you’re trying, your wife will understand.
Don’t Be the Biggest Baby
If you, however, have not listened to my above advice, you are going to end up a big, wet puddle of stress. And stress leads to all sorts of bad behavior.
Who else exhibits bad behavior? Children.
So, should you find yourself beaten down to a manly pulp, don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t throw a fit. Because, if you do, you’re just another child for your wife to deal with. And that’s the last thing she needs right now. She’s got enough children to deal with already, so man up.
Listen to Her
This one’s classic Battle of the Sexes material, but it’s especially true during maternity leave. Listen to your wife. Do what she says. Heed her advice. Even if you feel like doing so is a disservice to her.
A recent example: After a night of very little sleep due to a very unhappy newborn, my wife suggested that I spend the next night on the couch. Not because she was mad at me, but because one of us needed to be well rested enough to watch our older child. I initially felt like this would make me a worse husband. I wanted to spend the night with her; share in her suffering if you will. It also didn’t seem fair for me to have a good night’s rest while she was up every few hours. But she insisted that I do so, and I can say after the fact that she was right. The following day I was calm, cool, and collected. Not a big giant stressed out baby, and things went much more smoothly as a result.
There are plenty more examples but you get the idea. So listen to her. It doesn’t make you less of a man. It makes you more of one.
And that’s what you need to be when you are home with your wife watching the kids.