By Claudia Guerra
One evening as I was cleaning up the aftermath of dinner with my 1-year-old, I asked my husband to get her bath ready.
I was expecting him to get the bath started, go into the bedroom and turn on the TV without actually helping me bathe her. To my surprise, he picked her up and carried her into the bathroom. I heard the water running, splashing, and my baby giggling.
I couldn’t believe my ears. ”Did my husband just do that?” I thought to myself.
You might be wondering why it is such a big deal for a father to bathe his daughter. That’s what parents do, right?
Not my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I know he loves our baby girl more than anything in the world, but it used to be a challenge to get him to help care for her.
Maybe it was because he was too tired from working 11-hour shifts six days a week. I would let him come home and relax, knowing he had to be up again in a few hours. That would leave me doing all the cooking and cleaning, plus getting our munchkin to bed. It was exhausting and frustrating.
One day, I snapped. I told him I couldn’t handle doing everything on my own and needed his support. He understood where I was coming from and said he would do more to help.
I am very lucky to have a partner willing to do all he can for his family. He started to help more after that, but I hovered over him like a hawk, criticizing his every move.
“You’re doing it wrong,” I’d say over his shoulder while he changed a diaper.
He would just give up and say, “You do it, then.”
And I would. After weeks of trial and error, I began to resent him for going back to his old ways. I also felt guilty but didn’t understand why. I was a ball of confused emotions and tired of fighting with him.
Finally, I realized we could not move forward in our relationship if I wasn’t willing to understand him, too.
I watched his behavior when he would lend a hand and tried to figure out what I could do to help him. I noticed that he really just didn’t know what to do. He was completely lost when he had to switch to the role of parenting.
I’ve been our daughter’s main caregiver since day one; I know when she’s hungry and why she’s upset. I’ve spent more time with her than he has because he has to work full-time. He doesn’t have the luxury of watching our baby grow and develop.
I didn’t want to fight anymore, and I knew I was discouraging him. So instead of yelling at him for not doing it my way, I instructed him and gave him the space to mature as a father.
He eventually became comfortable with the feedings and started helping when he was needed. We even developed a bedtime routine; I bathe her, and he gets her ready for bed, meaning lotion, diaper change and jammies.
I no longer have to ask him to do something because he’s confident enough to know what needs to be done. I learned something from this small bump in the road: I can’t just expect him to know what to do.
Daddies don’t have the same natural bond a mother and baby develop during nine months of pregnancy and labor. Our motherly instincts kick in right after birth, or at least that was the case for me.
Sometimes Daddy just needs a little help from Mommy, too.