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Can Only Spend 2 Hours Alone with Baby










QUESTION:

I was just on your site and found that a lot of feelings I am having toward being a new dad are felt by many other men. Of the issues I'm having:

  1. I get angry when my daughter cries almost instantly.
  2. I have anxiety when I'm around her to the point that my breathing speeds up.
  3. Because of 1 and 2, I will not stay home alone with my daughter for more than 2 hours at a time.
  4. I felt trapped by the situation.
  5. The Guilt

With #1, it was nice to hear other guys have the same issue. I'm just approaching the 3-month mark. Everyone has told me that there is a major change at 3 months and I already see it. My daughter cries a lot less, which I assume is from having less digestive issues which go away as her digestive system matures. Keep in mind though, my daughter wasn't a fussy baby to begin with. A few fits here and there, but nothing like a colicky baby.

With #2, the anxiety happens if I know I'm alone with her. When my wife is around, I know I have that safety net of passing my daughter off to her. It really helps calm me down. One solution we've come up with is to hire a sitter if I know my wife will be out for more than 2 hours. It's not all that expensive and it really helps alleviate the nerves, which is also the solution for #3.

Like some of the other guys, I had the worries of hurting my child because of my anger toward her crying, but I was always able to hold myself in check and I also noticed that if I got "rough" with her, it would only make things worse. Once I realized that, it really helped to keep me calm as I didn't want to make the situation worse. Why have a baby crying in my arms for 40 minutes when, if I just keep my calm for 5 more minutes, she'll be calm again. That's tough to do for most guys, but I like to equate it to the movie "Happy Gilmore". Happy just had to find his "happy place" in order to calm down and make the putt. For me, it was just a matter of concentrating on my deep breathing over and over again. As I did that, my concentration was diverted to at least muffle the crying for a few seconds. It's not a winning strategy for everyone, but just like every baby is different, every guy is different and you need to find out how to ignore the situation.

As far as the anxiety, for me it's bad. I get nauseous to the point where I can only eat saltines and ginger ale. My breathing gets labored and I would sink into a depression (to where I wanted to go into bed and not come out).

While I still have all of those feelings, expressing them and sharing them have helped me a ton. I have embraced the idea of going to therapy, even if it's just to share the happenings of the week. While I'm able to share everything with my wife, she tends to shoulder my bad feelings to the point where she feels bad that I'm having a tough time. And right now, her focus should be my daughter. So the therapy has helped both of us in that I'm able to still get the feelings out, and she doesn't have to bear the burden of hearing them. That doesn't mean we don't talk, but since I'm talking about them with a therapist, it frees up our conversation for other things.

The other solution we came up with was to share responsibilities a bit differently. My wife is OK with doing more with my daughter, because she enjoys doing them. She's in all her glory being a Mom. And I've taken on more of the peripheral household stuff, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, finances, home maintenance, etc. This way she doesn't have to worry about doing everything, and I still get to feel useful around the house.

Which brings me to #5, the guilt. Almost every new dad I talk to says they have the guilty feelings that their wife does more with the child than they do. But I'm lucky in that my wife profusely says to not feel guilty because she likes doing so much with my daughter. Not that she doesn't have her rough days, but she enjoys a good majority of the time. And she's happy to give up some of the chores around the house. But the guilty feelings are still there for myself and most guys. My best suggestions is to talk it out with your wives and see how they truly feel. If they say to not feel guilty, then it's something you have to come to peace within yourself to one day say "my wife isn't harboring ill will toward me for this, so I need to just let it go and move on". When I did this, the next month flew by and the guilt subsided a bit. With less guilt on my shoulders, the days were easier to get through. Still tough, but easier and it gets easier as you move on.

I guess my question is... am I headed in the right direction? It seems as though my solution to my problems has essentially been bargaining with my wife for avoidance. I’m hoping that as time moves on, dealing with my daughter will get easier for me. The reason I went this route is because everyone says it gets easier at 3 months and then again at 6 months. So my approach right now is to just keep getting further down the road. This seems to go against everything I was taught as a kid and how I approached things as an adult. Difficult things were to be approached head on and beaten. But this seems to be an entirely different situation to any that I've ever been faced with and now my mentality is to just make it to tomorrow any way possible.

I will say this though, since we've tried this approach, I spend less time with my daughter, but it's time I look forward to now rather than dread. Not that I'm to the point where I want to spend more time with her than I do, or that I enjoy every minute, but I believe my lifted spirit has livened the mood in the house, which I believe is good for us all as we go down the road together.




ANSWER:

Fatherhood is about manning up, and you are one of the finest examples I have encountered of a dad doing so. Most dads would have totally backed off from their baby under your circumstances, and yet you are doing everything you can, including writing me the longest email I have ever received.

You are also being smart by calibrating your involvement with your daughter to maintain involvement but limiting it to not push yourself over the edge. Talking to other guys is big; talking to your wife is huge - you have a great partner for what you are going through. Figuring out just what is happening in your head when she cries with the help of a therapist is a great idea as that seems to be the root of all the issues.

Other dads in your situation have written to me, and one thing that seems to help is doing something different with your child to address the crying issue. A particular one is taking her out in her stroller starting with a short walk with you wearing good headphones with the tunes cranked up. When ready, you might take the crying issue head on by learning some new techniques for calming her such as those in Happiest Baby on the Block. Put her into a front carrier and go for a walk, again with headphones. When she is not crying, try putting her to sleep on your bare chest in just a diaper on with her ear over your heart to give you a much needed oxytocin surge. When you get to the point of being able to comfort her, you will experience a sense of control that is now missing.

Stay the course and at some point you will get to a feeling of "dad to the rescue" when she cries; hard to believe but this is where the guys who hang in there get. Think of the times ahead (soon) when her crying diminishes and you can play with her more. If she takes to baths, make it your specialty; look forward to swimming lessons at 6 months and taking her surfing at 3 years.

This may sound impossible, but try to replace the guilt with pride due to the fact that under the circumstances, you are totally doing your best for your child. That is all we can strive for as dads, and over time as you continue to do so, you will become a great one (we actually never feel like great dads, but eventually the results speak for themselves). Hanging in there for our child when the going is tough, for whatever reason, ultimately leaves us with a commitment that stays with us forever, long after the crying has stopped.

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