Thank you for your mail.
So sorry to read that you think a Dad role is difficult and that the first year has not gone quite as expected so far. I know it’s hard and I know it’s a struggle, believe me, I’ve been there myself. And it struck me first when I got the email from you that indeed they have never told anyone about this before. I might have talked about how things can go a little erratic the first couple of years, but I’ve never really told fully how difficult I think the first time was. For I am like you, I think it was very tough in the beginning. Although I immediately felt a bond between me and my son, so it took me a long time until I got there that I felt like I actually restrained role of father. I hated changing diapers, it seems the time at home went unbearably slow and I struggled to find my place. I did not know if I would have children or if I at all would be able to master the task as a father, and especially the first half. I doubted very much on myself.
I carried on much guilt and often pulled myself away. And I think it was difficult.
Just as you saw, I tried, but it did not seem to work. I did not feel I got so much back and the time spent at home could get on my nerves. The walls winced around me and I got panic, just like you. I just wanted to run away from everything, live freely somewhere in the world where neither time nor place exist; felt that I could not take on the responsibility I had been given. Did not feel I was able to complement the role of father and uncertainty ate me up from the inside. It was a time marked by a lot of bad conscience.
But then, one day, something happens. Maybe just a tiny thing, perhaps so small that you will not even notice it, but something snapped, albeit very very low. You feel that you master something, you get some contact. Maybe it’s a look, maybe there is a warm feeling in my neck. Something is there.
Your child is only around six months yet and although no others say this, so I can say it, man to man: The first year is by far the most crappy. Although it is full of large, touching moments, then there is also that year with you mostly standing in the shade and trying to help as best you can. But mom takes a huge space and dad are often left on the sidelines. Of course it can help to make that you may not feel it quite large for your child yet. Do not panic, it comes. I promise you, it will. For me, every birthday has been a milestone. New things to enjoy, new big step on the journey through life. And with every step the child comes closer to you, Dad.
It may seem like it all is very far on the horizon, but your time comes, you just have to persevere through the crappy periods that feels tough. Neither do I think the first year is particularly enjoyable, I do not think it is especially popular to say it, but I speak straight from the heart here. It is a time of little sleep, very much chaos, new routines, remember your daughter remembers, do not pass on the whole day through. A relationship to the child’s mother is also seldom more vulnerable than a child’s first few years of life. Especially the first one. Man is constantly tired and all of the energy and excess goes into the small. It may sound a little rough, but especially the first half is mostly a lot of work for little return. But then it gets better, trust me man, it is so much better! And this I know, for I have gone through exactly the same as you with the first one, I know what to expect.
Lying on the bed in the evening and chatting and hearing your child reel off gold nuggets that can get you to pee with laughter. Children are honest you know, they say and do exactly as they please. If they suddenly will say “We are best friends, Dad” and will wholeheartedly kiss you on the cheek as they do. And nothing feels better. Playing football on the grass, sitting on the dock and dangle your feet while eating ice cream, dine and play with your food, watch children’s television sows with your child in your arm and much more…
You just have to persevere and remember why you’re doing this. You do it to go through the rest of life hand in hand with a child who looks at you as king of everything. But the child is only half the solution, your relationship with the child’s mother is the rest. This must act lest the whole house of cards tumble. I actually recommend that you take a tough grip here.
Sit down with your wife and tell her what you told me. Say it like it is: You think it’s hard, you feel you slipping away from the child, that their relationship may eventually unravel and that you no longer know what you want. And it’ll tear you in the heart. You simply need a little help, so stretch out a hand and ask her about it. Maybe it turns out that she has problems ans you can help each other. Maybe she does not know how much you struggle and how deeply you care?
It is such a shame that I think there are many who have it like you do. Many. But not everyone sees the truth, only when it is too late. I know that I am actually proud of you as the man up to send me a message and ask for help. It is a big step in the right direction.
But … How you describe your wife has taken full control in the home and you have been pushed onto the sidelines. This has resulted in much bickering and you feel powerless. Pssst, here I’ll say another thing you’re sure not read in some books: Like that, I think there are too many! It is something that happens In their heads that make them specific hen mothers with an almost morbid appetite for control. And they feed on your insecurity. It is a vicious circle that constantly makes you more insecure and tightens her grip on the child.
Remember I became annoyed at my wife and regarded it as both a scapegoat and rival for the attention of the children, for a breast is a wonderful thing to have, but it also throws a long shadow. How best to proceed in order to assert your right unfortunately, I know not, for I do not have the right skills to get a list of arguments, but I know one thing: You will. Otherwise you never sent me the message and asked for advice from a father to another. Man to man, just as we men are so bad on each other. But you did it and I’m so happy you did. You will and you are desperate to get this to work, it’s even though it looks bleak right now.
Talk to her, put it forward in a calm manner when both of you are calm, do not take it up in the middle of a fight, wait until the child is asleep. Sit down on the couch and say in a calm voice that you want to talk before you slip too far apart. If she does not want to meet you with open arms then and try to arrive at a solution, I am afraid the problem is deeper than I can help.
I could of course sprinkle sugar on the situation, but the reality is that many couples go apart in the first critical years of the child’s life, simply because it is so tough and stressful relationship. Furthermore, no communication and interaction is a painfully long and arduous task in a relationship. Talk to her, tear down the walls between you and try to rebuild it with understanding and love. From both of you. Not only for each others sake, but primarily for the child. The child should be the protagonist in your life now.
Here in the house we really just decided that the first couple of years now so we act as a team and our job is to stick together and get the kids up and stand. Call it a job. It’s not particularly romantic perhaps, but this is not the time for romance, not for our part at least. To succeed in raising children is far more important and do much more for the heart than anything. When standing together in everyday life and getting things done together, one gets more than enough love out of everyday romance and find love in it.
This will of course not be the same for everyone, but let us at least start there. Not having such high ambitions for life outside the four walls for a little while, so I think things will fall into place sooner. Just as well accept that putting everything on pause for a little while, then you can also look forward to all you can do later. I promise you that one day in a new town with a 2 year old in tow is like being on the jungle safari. To be part of a small child who is beside himself with excitement the first time he sees a tram, is for me far more rewarding than taking photographs of a monkey hanging on a branch. Such things can be done later 😉
I am writing this long answer to you because I have faith in you. Not only you but all the Fathers who are like you. Plunged into a situation you do not quite have control and who suddenly find yourself thrown out on the sideline, dazed and uncertain, groping for answers.
I wish I could end with some kind of morality quotes; “The answer is within you” or something in that direction, but I have none unfortunately. I have no miracle cure that will fix your relationship with your wife and your newborn in a snap. I only know that I have gone up this trail before. And for me it has just gotten better and better every single day, but it’s tough at times. Tough fight, bordering breaking point. But it gets better, believe me, it is so much better. And I’m so glad that you show that you are willing to fight for this, for nothing is more important, nothing is more rewarding. I am no believer and I’m not so hung up on faith, but if there is a meaning to life as it must be to go through life hand in hand with your family, nothing feels more important, better or rewarding. Just hold out, you will get there someday.
Good luck, Aren.