It's Not That Hard, Dads
I've been spending any and all available free time these days (which, admittedly, is not much at all) with other moms. And I'm often stunned at how stressed, anxious, depressed and overwhelmed many of us are (I'd wager all of us mamas, at one point or another). What stuns me further is how reluctant we are to be vulnerable and speak about this pain with each other, therefore robbing ourselves of the chance to seek empathy and encouragement from one another.
But what stuns me most of all, is the common thread that runs through our experience: we're tired, overwhelmed, at the end of so many ropes... and our partners have no idea how to help us.
Most often, it's not a case of "my partner refuses to help me" (though I occasionally do hear that), but rather, "I'm just too <fill in the appropriate emotion here> to stop and explain to him how to help me."
I get it. So, I'll take that piece on for you, mamas. Just send this post to your partners, and I'll take it from here.
First of all, you're a great dad. Thank you for all you do to support your family and your partner in raising wonderful little beings.
However, do you ever get the sense that your partner is at her wit's end and you just don't know how to help her? You are right, she is probably damn near losing it, but I can help you, help her.
First of all: good news! It doesn't take much, not much at all, to reset her mood and restore her sanity. It can be done in as little as one hour per week. Yes, just one hour can put her back on the right side of sanity!
You can do that. I know you can! But to help you get started, here are three tips (I know, just the tip. Haha — you men are so hilarious!). I've also added a couple ideas to each tip so you can start helping your partner today. Feel free to freestyle from there.
She wants time to be alone in her house. That's right! She doesn't always want to have to escape her own home and go out and seek relaxation elsewhere. Sometimes—maybe most of the time—she would rather just have a minute of peace and quiet in her own home. And by "a minute," I mean, "at least one hour."
"What!?," you may be exclaiming. "So I'm supposed to pack up the kid(s) and all the stuff and leave just her there alone in the house?" Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying! Like she does, every day. But I'm suggesting you do it for just one hour a week to make a happier mom and partner. Here are two ideas to get you started:
- Take the kids out for breakfast on a weekend morning. Allow her to sleep in, wake up alone with no one touching her body, make herself a cup of coffee and drink it in silence, and make only one breakfast: her own. Bonus points for enough additional time that she can take a shower, read a book, watch an episode of her favorite binge show, or otherwise fill her tank as she chooses.
- Take the kids out to play for an afternoon. Maybe to a playground or a park in the summer or out sledding, snowman-or snow-fort-building in the winter. Something that really tires them out, so that you don't bring home wild animals, but tame creatures who, when reintroduced to mom's sacred time and space, will not undo in three minutes the zen she has mustered over the past hour.
She wants you to step up at home. I can hear you counter-arguing that you work hard all week to support your family and actually, it's you who needs a little more support at home. I hear you, and I bet she is incredibly grateful for all that you do and may, as a result, even feel guilty for needing more of your help. But also, consider this:
- Did you go to the bathroom whenever you needed to today? Yesterday? Every day this week? Alone?
- Did you eat when you were hungry? Was it food of your choosing or leftovers from someone else's plate?
- Did you have time alone to think, while driving to and from work, in an office by yourself, in the bathroom or the shower alone, or at any other point throughout the week?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, know that your partner answered no to most, if not all, of them. So, she needs you to step up. Here are two ideas:
- Do a little proactive yelling prevention. Let's say that you are in the kitchen and your lady is in another room. Your kid yells, "Mom, can I have some water!?" from the other side of the house, or more amusingly, from the kitchen. With you in it. Don't let mom come running from whatever other task she was in the middle of doing to find you in the kitchen, letting her take care of it. Step up! Say, "I've got it honey!" and get the water. But don't stop there. Check on them every so often, as she does, to do a little yelling prevention. Take on bedtime. Take on making lunches. Hell, make dinner! Just show your kids that they can go to daddy for help just as easily as they can go to mommy.
- Don't add your to-do's to her plate. Make your own doctor, dentist and hair appointments and pick up 'that thing you need' on your own way to or from work. It may seem like she has all the time in the world if she stays home with your kids, or that she's just better at remembering those kinds of things, if she works outside the house, too. But trust that she has, and is managing, her own very long list of appointments and pick-up's in her head and for the love of all that is holy: don't add yours to that list, you capable, strong grown man!
The last of the three tips I have for you today is this: she wants time to vent about you and your kids with her girlfriends. I know, I know, now I'm getting demanding!
First, I suggest you take them out for an hour every weekend, and now I tack on feeding and putting the kids to bed every now and again so she can leave the house to drink wine and bitch about you with other women. Am I crazy? Maybe, but that's what I'm suggesting and here's why: if she expels the poison with her girlfriends, she will not unleash it on you.
But there's also a catch to this one: when it comes time to leave the house and meet her friends, she will be too tired to go. Then she will resent you (and hint: it's this resentment that made her fake a non-existent headache last night). She's too tired to go because:
- She thinks she has to do everything before she leaves the house. Like, make the dinner, set out the pajamas, find the right stuffed animal to leave by the pillow and a pile of the favorite books du jour to read before bedtime. But you're the dad. Your sperm created this being (or these beings) in equal measure to her egg, so you should also know what to make for dinner, where the pajamas, stuffed animal and toothbrushes are, and what books they're loving. And if you don't know, find out. Ask the kids what pajamas, stuffed animal or book is their favorite. Say to her, "Honey, I've got this!" and allow her to get ready and leave without planning the events of the evening she is leaving in her wake, and you will be a hero.
- She feels like she has to ask permission for time out. That perception (real or imagined) is draining. Instead, encourage her to let you know when she wants to go out with the girls on an ongoing basis, just like you announce when you will be going out with the guys. Not ask, tell. If that freedom is a road that goes both ways, both roads will lead back to each other. Which leads me to the bottom line.
The bottom line is, Dad, and this may be the most important line for you to remember from this post: if you do these things, you will get more sex. I promise. If you give your lady some time to:
- Be alone in silence;
- Connect with and listen to herself; and
- Vent with other women;
Her tank will refill, and then—and only then—she will happily and willingly have something extra to share with you.
So, go get the kids and give.Mom.some.space!
(Amiright, moms? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.)