Good Dad And Loving Husband: Can I Be Both?

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Good Dad And Loving Husband: Can I Be Both?
Becoming a father and stay-at-home dad puts a strain on a couple's marriage.

As with all couples, the birth of our son, Emerson, on April 15, 2008, changed our family forever. For my wife and I, it ushered in an era of marital strife that we'd never experienced. Before Emerson's arrival we'd been able to focus exclusively on each other. Even without kids, our marriage required hard work, and we were only balancing the needs of each other. Now we had to consider him as well.

I had grown up in a service-oriented house, where actions were our way of showing love; my parents appreciated and rewarded obedience. As the middle child of three boys, I was always motivated to please. My approach to love was a challenge in our marriage from the start—I expressed my love by doing things.  Instead of sitting down and connecting with my wife by telling her about my day, I would spend my time doing the dishes, even if that's not what she wanted from me. I put my need to express love the way I was used to above my wife's need to be loved in a way she understood.

 

As a teacher, I was home during the summer to care for our son full time. It was quite an adjustment, and balancing my time was a challenge. As a newborn, my son required so much attention—bottles every three hours, fresh diapers, comforting him back to sleep. While my wife was home on maternity leave for six weeks, we split those chores. After she went back to work they were mine alone for the rest of the summer.

Even though we split many of the chores involved in caring for our son, my best energy, both physically and mentally, was going to our baby; my wife was getting the leftovers. She was understandably frustrated, but we both assumed it was just the natural process for a newborn. After a while, though, the position became untenable.