By: Armin Brott
Dear Mr. Dad: I used to be the center of my wife's universe. Now that we've had a baby, I'm jealous, of all the time they spend together and I feel left out. Is this normal and how can I overcome my feelings?
A: First of all, it's completely normal to be jealous of your wife's relationship with your new baby-especially if she's breastfeeding. But who's really making you jealous? Your wife because of her close relationship with the baby and all that extra time they spend with each other? Or is it really the baby for coming between you and your wife, for taking up more than his "fair share" of her attention, and for having full access to her breasts when they may be too tender for you to touch? Probably both.
If you're going to get over your feelings of jealousy, you need to start by coming clean to your wife. Whether you're feeling that you need more attention and emotional support from her or more private time without the baby, tell your wife about it as clearly and honestly as possible.
This may not be easy: You may not want to bother her with your problems right now. After all, she's just had a baby and you, as a man, are supposed to be supportive, right? You may be afraid that she'll think you're wimpy, or you may already be thinking that yourself. Whatever it is holding you back, it's essential that you get over it. Soon.
The worst--and most dangerous--thing you can do with your feeling of jealousy is to bury it. Left unsaid, it'll make you resentful of both your wife and your baby and could ultimately damage your whole experience of fatherhood.
But important as talking is, it isn't enough. You'll also need to get some extra time with your baby--especially doing things that involve skin-to-skin contact such bathing, cuddling, playing, putting him to bed, and changing diapers. You can also do some bottle feeding if your wife is willing to express breast milk or if she's using formula. These activities and others, such as taking the baby along when you go grocery shopping, or even dropping him into a frontpack and heading out for a walk, will help you bond and build your own solid relationship with your child, independent of your wife. And once you've done that, there won't be anything left to be jealous of.
A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Father for Life, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, and The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.