There is an ongoing research study focused on dads. The study is an attempt to build stronger families by focusing on the father's role in the first year of the baby's life. We know dads are important to a child's self esteem, overall health, and their success at developing healthy relationship later in life. Some of these dads are in a second marriage, living with the baby's mother, or just wanting more information on how to be a better dad. I am part of the research study. I volunteer a 30 minute class on "Sex and Intimacy After Baby." The dads love it, and they ask questions. I volunteer my time, because I believe that dads who are involved in their child's life help create stronger, healthier families. I also grew up with a wonderful father, and have respect for the father's role in families.
When I began my part of the study, I did not expect what has happened. The dads are more open than I had anticipated. They call me when their wife goes into labor, and want reassurance. They call me with emotional issues after the baby. As with most things, if you put your soul and heart into a project, it will grow. This one certainly has. Dads are not passive bystanders as it may appear after the birth of their baby. They want to be involved, but many times don't know how. Moms and babies get a lot of attention and that how should be. However, that attention should be focused on dads too, if we want him to take an active role with the baby and marriage after.
When I go to the class, I take my time getting to know the dads, no moms are allowed in this class We talk about all sorts of things so they can relax and get to know me a bit. Before we begin with the slides and the lecture, I may ask this question: "What are you most concerned will change after the birth of your baby?" Some of the guys will say things such as, "That their wife won't like them or give them attention anymore." Some say, "She may not want to have sex anymore." Still other men will say things such as, “I'm afraid I won’t be a good dad or husband.” The wives never hear this, and I regret that. I think being able to hear their husbands fears may help women rethink their role as wife and mother after baby. Some women upon hearing these statements may go so far as to say, "How can he be so selfish," or "He is thinking only of himself again." Actually, that’s not what I hear. I hear that these future dads are afraid that their wife is going to change and will no longer include them, and they won't know how to connect with her, remember guys connect physically, women connect verbally.
Taking that new baby home is a gift. I have had two daughters and I understand the miracle of life, and how incredible it is that this small being came through me to be here. However, your marriage is a gift too, and its survival is more important to that small baby then either you or your husband's alone. Children born into a healthy marriage have better health, better finances, and a better chance of being educated and successful in life. I have listed five things you should not sacrifice for that new precious life. Talk to your partner during those nine months to negotiate what you think is important to continue a healthy marriage. Agree to have a plan, so both parents can feel loved and return the love to their baby.
5 things you should never let go of in your marriage:
1. Your date nights with each other. You can always find a sitter, and no matter how tired you are, take the time to get dressed up and go out with your partner.
2. Your marital bed. Kids have their room and bed and belong in them. They do not belong in the parent's bed. Keep that boundary.
3. Intimacy and sex. Sex is the glue of a healthy marriage. It should take priority. That becomes difficult if women feel like they have too much work or other family stressors. Guys, this may not make sense how a woman could not want sex because the dishwasher needs emptying. Don’t question it, empty it.
4. Self care. Each of you has a responsibility to take care of yourselves. The baby can never be used as a reason why you didn't exercise, or take care of yourself. If you don’t care for yourself first, you cannot care for the baby. Make sure you take turns with caring for baby to have that time to care for yourself.
5. Time to talk about your marriage and goals. The baby or young children should have a bed time. That time is for mom and dad to talk, bond, share a glass of wine, or whatever. It is also a time when the marriage is restored. Do not give that time up or sacrifice it.
I have seen many couples who love their kids, but no longer love or know their spouse. This is largely due to the fact that they put their parenting needs before their marriage. This is a mistake. Your marriage must come first, because it provides the foundation for a healthy family. The marriage is alive, and it is a creation of two people. Nurture your creation just as you do the child you created together. –Mary Jo Rapini
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