We truly understand where you are coming from: Jan gave Rick pretty much
the same speech at least a dozen times when our kids were little, plus
we've heard similar comments from many, many mothers. It's natural to
feel both absorbed in your baby and worn out, so that any extra tug on
you from someone else can seem like a hassle, if not an intrusive burden.
Having said that, from painful personal experience and much professional
contact with literally thousands of parents, we also think it's a
terrible mistake to set your husband or partner aside when baby makes
three. It is as big a mistake as the one many fathers make, to downplay
the impact of motherhood on their partner and to fail to pull their
weight with childrearing and housework.
Frankly, if all new mothers made a serious effort to stay emotionally
and affectionately connected with the father, and if all new fathers
made a serious effort to understand what the mother is going through and
be a strong teammate in making a family together, we believe the divorce
rate among couples with children would be cut in half.
And even if there's no divorce, the impacts of events during the
sensitive years when kids are little are so great that they can lead to
permanent coolness, cankerous wounds, and a vulnerability to challenges
down the road (e.g., an illness, unemployment, a temptation at the office).
So there are plenty of reasons - some altruistic and some enlightened
self-interest - to take good care of a father. (The ones who stay
engaged, to be sure, not the pitiful ones who abandon their children.) A
few months ago, we published a column titled "10 Reasons to Take Good
Care of a Mother" (it's posted on our website, www.NurtureMom.com) --
and here is its companion piece. (For simplicity, we use the terms
"marriage" and "relationship," and "husband/wife" and "partner"
10 Reasons to Take Good Care of a Father
1. He's a person - Every human being deserves a chance to be happy and
2. He does real work - Most fathers step up their efforts to be a
provider when kids come along. Plus the typcial dad today is doing more
housework and childcare than his own father did. Any kind of demanding
work calls for respect and replenishment.
3. He contributes to others - Every day, for twenty years or more,
engaged fathers help make a family for innocent and precious children.
Their giving gives them moral standing, and a valid claim on the respect
and support of their partner and society as a whole.
4. The workplace isn't very friendly to men who put their families first
- While it's certainly hard for women to juggle home and work, men who
stick up for their role as fathers often get even less understanding on
the job than mothers do.
5. It's good for the children - A father's well-being affects his
children in a thousand ways, and shapes the course of their entire
lives. A vital way to take good care of children is to take good care of
6. It's good for the mother - Fathers who are happy in their marriage
are usually more empathic, helpful, and loving with their wife.
7. It's good for the marriage - Fathers who feel cared about, listened
to, seen and valued as a lover and mate (not just a co-parent),
respected and appreciated, and - frankly - sexually satisfied are much
more likely to stay married than those who do not. Besides the rewards
for children and their parents, lasting marriages benefit society in
many ways, such as bringing stability to communities and fostering
respect for family.
8. It helps the economy - Family and marital problems stress fathers and
lead to physical and mental illnesses that increase the nation's medical
costs and decrease workforce productivity. These are public health
problems, and addressing them would add hundreds of billions of dollars
each year to our economy (with related benefits to tax revenues).
9. It's good for society - A culture that takes a stand for families by
respecting and supporting the fathers as well as the mothers at their
center will be more humane and decent for everyone.
10. It's good in itself - Being compassionate, considerate, and generous
with a father feels good in its own right. It is also a deep form of
spiritual practice to "love your neighbor as yourself" - including the
one sitting with you at the dining room table.