I miss my old life, pre-baby & feel extremely guilty...is this normal?
April 8, 2016 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Nobody can prepare you for motherhood, nobody can even come close to describing the joys, sadness and all other mixes of emotions that come with adding a new life to your family. And nobody really shared the struggles or "not so pretty" side to motherhood, so with my feelings of yearning for my old life I feel so guilty that I haven't embraced this new life with an open heart and arms...are these feelings normal? Do mothers and fathers roles cause resentment, because there is inevitibly more responsiblity on the mothers (by nature to nurture if that makes sense)? How do you maintain a relationship with your SO when life seems to be so seperate now that a baby has arrived? A lot of the fun we had together is now seperate.

A lot of these emotions comes from the fact that neither my SO or I were ready or prepared to become parents, we wanted a couple more years under our belt of being "selfish" traveling, exploring our relationship, sponeineity, etc. My birthcontrol failed and now I have a beautiful 8 month old daughter, I love her, I am connnected and bonded with her, I miss her while I'm at work full time, and I'm forever thankful that I had the opportunity to have a child, we are both mid 30s so it isn't that we aren't capable or responsible enough, or aren't financialy stable. My SO is a free spirit, very spontaneous, loves to travel, stay busy, be surrounded my friends, go to bars...and having a baby hasn't changed his life much. Whereas I enjoy all those things too but I know I can't do most of them as easily anymore.

I have fleeting moments (a lot) when I yearn for our old life back, I yearn for it just being us, picking up and going to a movie, not having to plan everything or take a week to plan a road trip, and it makes me feel like a bad mom. I think a lot is in part of the fact that as a Mom we take on a lot more of the responsiblty because by nature we are the more nuturing care takers. My SO helps a lot with her (it's nuturing me and our relationship I feel is lacking). I want to be there more for her, for her bed time, to feed her, not be out till the wee hours of the morning because I know the responsiblity I have the next day, and I just feel more "grown up" or mature, my priorities have changed. Now, my SO (although he is great around the house with cleaning cooking taking an active roll in her life, helping with feedings bed time changing, drop offs, staying home from work, fixing things around the house), he is having a hard time with the loss of his independence. We are both having a hard time with this, the difference is I think I am more willing to accept life as is and make the best of it, where as he is just living life the way it used to be in order to keep that independence and sense of not being "tied down" or change just because we have a baby, and I'm not sure if this is a phase that will pass or if this is who he is, and I don't know how comfortable I am with it.

This is making it very hard on me. When does it come a time in a man's life that he hangs up the going out until 3 am, or hanging with single bachelors that aren't in the same frame of mind or life that we are? I that enough of a reason for me to throw in the towel, that his friendships and lifestyle don't align with my vision of a family? I want him to have freedom and independnce just as much as I want to but he doesn't want to lose that part of him because he is very social, he needs interactions and "fun" with others to feel happy. The problem is that he goes out with 10 years younger people who just don't have the responsiblity as we do, maybe to keep himself young again, but then I'm looked at as the boring mom who would rather be home, and then our relationship I imagine will deterirorate because he is still living the life we once had while I am home, or we do our seperate things. He goes out and has fun with others, the fun we used to have. We do have a babysitter and get out but it's just not the same as picking up on a whim and saying okay going out to meet some friends for a drink, lets go. How do you maintain a close relationship and build on that when your SO still does everything we used to do together to have fun and keep things light, but with others. Example, he goes out on a whim with friends (both genders), stays out at the bars till 2-4 am, drinking socializing, to me that just isn't what a father should be doing...go out and have a couple beers whatever but nothing good happens that late, maybe that is just my narrow minded thought pattern that I need to work on. I go out with my girlfriend for a girls dinner or what I think is appropriate in my situation, and get home at an hour I feel is appropriate, usually before midnight. He still goes to the gym almost every night during the week for 2-3 hours because that is his passion. I feel like giving up and doing it on my own, but at the same time I see in him what I don't see in a lot of relationships and that is the responsibility help drive and motivation to be a good partner and father. I just feel like if he continues to live his life how it once was without me, we will no longer be, how could it be? We plan date nights once a month, but the fun is sucked out because of the extensive planning. We go on road trips with our baby, but again the fun is sucked out because of the amount of prep time it takes, the planning, the crying in the car, the having to get back for nap times etc.

I feel alone a lot of the time, like im not even in a relationship. He will cook dinners for us, we spend time together, watch movies...but I feel his happiness is outside of the house... on the weekends or every other weekend, he wants to get out with his friends but stays out late and then is gone 3-4 days during the week at the gym and I am in bed by time he gets home. Maybe he will grow out of it, but I don't know how much more to take, if I'm being supportive or if I need to realize that I am being taken advantage of.

I miss everything about what we once were, but I know I need to learn to focus on what I do have, I feel terribly guilty for even having these feelings because I see how much Mothers just love their life, their family life. I'm hoing this is just a growing period for us both during her first year, I never want to make an ultimatum because I want the man I am with to chose his path in life without me having to give him my option. Are these feelings "normal" during new motherhood/parenting?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have kids, so you'll have to take this with a grain of salt, but I think you've buried the lede in this question. It seems to be your partner that is the problem, not the fact that you miss your old life.

No, it's not normal for a new father to be out all week doing his own stuff and then out until 3am during the weekends with his friends... not normal at all. And not fair. He's selfish, immature and unkind - he doesn't appear to want to deal with your needs or your daughters well being. He has a family now and that doesn't mean his (or your) life is over, but there are new priorities that need to be addressed, and he's running away from them.

Say something to him NOW, or he'll continue to run and you could really find yourself alone (although, as you've phrased it, you're pretty much alone now).
posted by JenThePro at 7:41 AM on April 8, 2016 [94 favorites]


Ok, I feel like there are a few things to address here.

1. YES. IT IS COMPLETELY NORMAL TO MISS YOUR OLD LIFE. I hate that no one tells pregnant women this. I try to counter it by saying "your life is going to suck for at least a year!" to every one I meet.

Seriously though... we become parents later in life than we used to, and unless you've served in the military or something, you have never had this kind of 24/7 responsibility. It's jolting. It's hard. It's ok to feel resentful.

2. All of those "mothers who love their family life"? I feel like 90% of that is fronting for social media. Don't believe the propaganda. Everyone has hard days.

3. That being said, I agree with JenThePro: your main problem here is your SO. It sounds like you're adjusting just fine to parenthood, but he is not, and he's leaving you with far too much of the burden. I would not have been ok with my partner going to the gym for 2-3 hours a night, much less staying out until 2-3 in the morning on a regular basis. I don't buy that women are naturally more nurturing, either - we've just been socialized to take on more of the emotional labor.

Hugs to you. The parenting part will get easier as your daughter grows (my ten year old and I have a grand time together), and your SO can shape up or ship out.
posted by missrachael at 7:53 AM on April 8, 2016 [24 favorites]


"My SO helps a lot with her"

Helping is something one does when one isn't the parent. Helping is a favor. Helping implies a lack of responsibility.

When you are a parent, you don't help. You don't babysit. You step up to the damn plate and do what needs to be done. He's just as much of a parent to your child as you are. Being male doesn't make him incapable of being a grown-ass adult. Being female doesn't give you some magic innate and unlearnable skills.

I'm sorry you are having to go through this enormous life change alone. And I'm sorry that you have to parent an infant and an adult man.

You might consider reading the epic thread from this past summer on gender and emotional labor.
posted by mcduff at 7:54 AM on April 8, 2016 [123 favorites]


My SO is a free spirit, very spontaneous, loves to travel, stay busy, be surrounded my friends, go to bars...and having a baby hasn't changed his life much

This needs to change immediately.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:55 AM on April 8, 2016 [45 favorites]


I am a father to two kids. Being a responsible dad and caring SO means taking on more responsibility, not being an absentee. It also means that my primary priority in life is raising my children and being a supportive partner to my wife.

Respectfully, you did bury the lede here. It would appear that the problem isn't so much that you're missing your old life, but that your partner is selfishly continuing on with it, while pushing you away. So I ask you this: what does that tell you about his priorities? They're severely skewed.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to think about your situation differently, from that perspective? Because this situation isn't normal and neither is the way he is acting. Unless you speak to your partner about this now, it seems likely things will get worse.

Also, to answer your question: Yes, you are being taken advantage of. It's selfish and immature of him to be leaving you with all the responsibility and to avoid supporting you. It's also rather mean.
posted by zarq at 7:57 AM on April 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


Oh sweetheart - I don't have kids, but I'm giving you a huge hug anyway. You deserve to be taken care of. You deserve more than this.

Please try couples therapy or couples counselling. They may really help your SO understand where you're coming from.

But in the meantime: please take all the hugs.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 8:02 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


8 month old

Congratulations, and welcome to the earliest stages of adjusting.

Everyone handles this differently, but the best thing I can tell you right now is that time is on your side (yes it is).

It's not the most popular thing to say, but infants are a drag. What I mean by that is they 100% require your attention to survive, so there's no escaping the transition from freedom to feeling imprisoned. It can be maddening and exhausting, but it will change. And then you'll watch a little personality develop, and then you'll be able to really engage with your youngin. That changed everything for me: talking, interacting, listening, playing, thinking, once you get to start doing things with your kid rather than for your kid the experience becomes its own motivation. Honestly.

It's ok to "mourn" the loss of freedom, though. My youngest just turned 15 and I'm still like, dang, remember when we had total control over our schedules and could do anything we wanted whenever we wanted? I lament that I once knew about and was comfortable with spontaneity--a sudden weekend camping trip, lets say, something I fantasize about often.

The silver lining of that mourning will become clearer by the day as your kid grows, and you and your SO adapt. You're both probably so tired right now that it's hard to talk to each other about this sort of thing right at the moment, but I encourage you to start that conversation sooner than later. Your coping mechanisms may be so different that he's not even thinking about this in the same terms that you are, or maybe he's got the same fears and anxieties but has a different outlet for them.

Take care.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:03 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


One thing you failed to mention was whether you are both working. If he is going off to a job all day and you are a stay-at-home mother, this could skew answers a bit differently.
posted by zagyzebra at 8:06 AM on April 8, 2016


I feel like you have two separate questions here and I'll answer them that way:

"so with my feelings of yearning for my old life I feel so guilty that I haven't embraced this new life with an open heart and arms...are these feelings normal? Do mothers and fathers roles cause resentment, because there is inevitibly more responsiblity on the mothers (by nature to nurture if that makes sense)? How do you maintain a relationship with your SO when life seems to be so seperate now that a baby has arrived? [...] I feel terribly guilty for even having these feelings because I see how much Mothers just love their life, their family life."

100% absolutely normal, and even moreso if it wasn't planned in advance. I'm a person who always wanted to be a mom, I love being a mom, I've always loved spending time with children in general, and I STILL (7 years in) resent my loss of freedom sometimes. I know it's hard in the first year but try not to take "other mothers" with perfect lives too seriously; their lives are imperfect too, they just have good PR. Like, one time I was at baby swim class with a friend who posted on facebook and instagram and god knows where else every single day about how much she loved being a mom, and her daughter, and being a housewife, and how blessed she was, and I was grousing to her that I was so bored I thought I was going to lose my mind, and she looked around furtively and then whispered, "I hate being at home, I constantly feel like I'm about to blow my brains out because I hate it so much, but I feel like I should be grateful that I get to stay home with her." She went back to work full time not too much later and her facebook is no longer full of such overweeningly twee expressions of fake joy because she's no longer struggling to convince herself she's happy and she's fine and everything is perfect, okay, it's perfect!

I feel like a lot of parenting books don't tell you this, but that whole first year is a total loss for the spousal relationship. You just muddle through as best you're able because you have a tiny ball of constant need who takes all the extra energy and attention. Part of me says, don't even WORRY about it until the first year is over. But the dirty little secret is that year two, while considerably better, is still pretty intensive, although at least you have a LITTLE spare energy. It's not until they get a bit older that you start to find significant energy for couple things again. It's not (necessarily) a death sentence to your marriage if you both understand this as something you just have to muddle through for a while.


Question Two:
"When does it come a time in a man's life that he hangs up the going out until 3 am, or hanging with single bachelors that aren't in the same frame of mind or life that we are? I that enough of a reason for me to throw in the towel, that his friendships and lifestyle don't align with my vision of a family? I want him to have freedom and independnce just as much as I want to but he doesn't want to lose that part of him because he is very social, he needs interactions and "fun" with others to feel happy. The problem is that he goes out with 10 years younger people who just don't have the responsiblity as we do, maybe to keep himself young again, but then I'm looked at as the boring mom who would rather be home, and then our relationship I imagine will deterirorate because he is still living the life we once had while I am home, or we do our seperate things. "

I feel like there are at least three things going on here:
1) Your husband isn't pulling his weight in terms of changing his life to accommodate the baby's needs;
2) You don't like your husband's leisure activities and friends and don't feel they're suitable for a father (regardless of whether he's pulling his weight) and want him to grow up; and
3) You're not communicating clearly to your husband about either of these feelings.

In terms of #2, I mean, who cares if they're 10 years younger and don't have kids? There's no rule that once you're a parent you have to give up your non-parent friends and activities because they're unseemly for a parent. (I mean, who cares if they think parenting is boring as long as they don't interfere with either of you parenting?) I have a good friend who's basically totally maintained his bachelor sportsbar ways with all his bachelor friends ... he just takes his toddler daughter along with him to the sports bar about half the time and she eats pretzels and flirts with the bartender while they watch their sports, and she loves going and spending time with daddy and his friends. (She's been going with him since she was a baby.)

But if he's really just disappearing and not doing his share and not leaving you time for what you need, that a different issue where he needs to be pulling his weight. And I think maybe you need to address these two issues separately -- "Look, if you're taking 2-3 hours at the gym every night, you need to find a way to give me 2-3 hours away every day, whether that's switching to a gym with childcare so you can take her with you, or you taking her to the park for 3 hours so I can have a quiet nap." as separate from "I don't like the things you do in your free time." You need to separately negotiate "here's all the you-time you have, so I need you to reciprocate and provide me with that much me-time," (Or half that much me-time, or whatever your needs are.) from "I don't like the things you're doing with your me-time." I also think "I need more couple-time" is a perfectly reasonable ask but it's also a logistically complicated ask so that's going to need more negotiation. (Cause you're going to need a sitter, and then to negotiate how much is couple-alone time and how much is couples-with-friends time, and this is all going to have to come out of some OTHER time.) This last part in particular is a great thing to discuss with a couple's counselor in 4 to 6 sessions or so, if you feel like you can't talk about it without going in circles or you feel unable to bring it up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:07 AM on April 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


You might consider reading the epic thread from this past summer on gender and emotional labor.

Where's My Cut? On Unpaid Emotional Labor
posted by zarq at 8:09 AM on April 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


The conflict of your emotions is completely normal and I don't know how much consolation this might be to you, but almost every woman I know, including myself, has had to face such challenges in one form or another.
I know so many incredibly capable and responsible women like yourself who unprepared as they might be for things life brings their way, they step up to the challenge quickly and carry out the responsibilities they need to as adults.

"We are both having a hard time with this, the difference is I think I am more willing to accept life as is and make the best of it, where as he is just living life the way it used to be in order to keep that independence and sense of not being "tied down" or change just because we have a baby" This contains the core and essence of the problem; you are behaving like a responsible adult should, adjusting to things and making the best of them, while your SO is refusing to align reality with wishful thinking. I'm glad he is helpful and supportive with other things in your home, but I think that a lot of that resentment you are feeling is coming from the fact that you feel "abandoned" in this new role, to which you are undeniably tied to by nature, while your SO has the privilege of freedom to participate only as much as he feels comfortable with. And he sure is abusing that privilege.

I wish to say this in the least offensive or accusing way and with all due respect to the man you have chosen as a life partner, but he is being incredibly selfish and irresponsible. It may not be consciously so, and it might be the result of too much pressure but that is irrelevant. You don't have the option to be selfish and neither should he. Sharing house chores is the bare minimum; his family and their needs to be his priority. Planned or not, you are in your mid 30s and you have the emotional tools to deal with unexpected challenges responsibly, like you are doing. What he is doing is escapism and running away from responsibility, and it might have been understandable if you were in high school but it is unacceptable in this case.

Talk to him; please talk to him without worries of pressuring him and all that jazz that women are convinced to keep in mind before they hurt some poor little man's feelings who can't handle real life commitments. He has left you to do the heavy work for 8 months now, you have every right to demand he grows up steps up to his new role. Your wish to respect his right to choose a path with you is admirable, but sometimes not applicable. After you are a parent, choices are made with the child as a priority like you are doing. Talk to him now, and tell him how much this is weighing on you, don't let this become ok, don't let him think parenthood is you doing all the heavy work and him coming and going as he sees fit. There will undoubtedly be many more times where you'll need to handle issues as a team and if this is how he'll be responding to untimely life challenges (which make up about 90% of life) you need to know now.
posted by ariadne_88 at 8:14 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Good news: you all survived the toughest part of baby-hood, and your little person will let you sleep in longer blocks, which can make a huge difference in how you and your SO feel, and in turn, interact with each other. There's nothing like sleep deprivation to make little disagreements into big battles.

Bad news: your SO hasn't come to terms with being a father, or at least being a co-parent. If you're nursing, that is the only thing your SO cannot do that you are doing. In other words, all duties, activities and chores should be shared evenly, with the caveat that work schedules get considered to some degree. For example, my wife is home earlier than I am, and with two boys under 5 years old, if I made dinner, we'd all be up too late, so she generally makes dinner, so put the boys to bed and we split dish washing.

More good news: this doesn't have to be DTMFA time. Talk with your SO, discuss what work needs to get done, who does it now, who could/should be doing it, and how you can both have a good home life/social life balance.

Point blank, he's being selfish. He has the same feelings you do about your old lives, but he's not accepting his role as a father and your partner. My wife and I often joke about dropping our boys off with her parents and going back to sleep, or just taking the rest of the day off, or doing errands and chores without our little helpers. They're a handful, but there also a LOT of fun. And it's more fun if you can share the duties more evenly, both the fun stuff and the things that need to get done.

You can still go out with friends, but it may be more afternoon/weekend activities, or you take turns going out solo, or hire a babysitter so you can go together. Your life is no longer your own, so you make compromises, but that should happen as a couple.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:16 AM on April 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


2-3 hours a night at the gym??? I'm single, have a pretty 9-5 job with almost no commute and I find going to yoga an hour a night 3-5 times a week takes up a huge chunk of my free time and leaves me having to be pretty efficient if I want to cook, clean and still see friend a couple times a week. And again, I am single with virtually no responsibilities other than going to work and making sure I eat.

Between this and the partying until 3 am thing (and yeah by your 30s it's a pretty rare night I'm out that late and again I am free to do whatever I like and I like to go out and I have lots of younger friends), I find it hard to believe he's really at home at all. Let alone "helping out a lot."

I have lots of friends with kids. None of them live their lives like this. Unheard of. They might go to happy hour with us once a quarter. Some of them try to make big events like birthdays or weekend trips away a few times a year. A lot of them can't even be bothered with that and I see them mostly at family friendly bbqs and things like that every other month or so.

I don't have any answers for you, but this is neither a normal nor an ok state of affairs. It sounds like you are basically a single mother who is casually dating someone that stays a few nights a week at your house and helps out around the house a little. I'm really sorry. I hate to be a cliche but I'd be going to a marriage counselor stat or at the very least having a very difficult and blunt conversation.
posted by whoaali at 8:21 AM on April 8, 2016 [38 favorites]


When does it come a time in a man's life that he hangs up the going out until 3 am, or hanging with single bachelors that aren't in the same frame of mind or life that we are?

That's a very easy one: when his child is born.

I'm sorry if this adds extra stress to the already great pressures of parenthood, but you need to draw a line in the sand early on this. If he can't get it together for a wee tiny helpless infant, he's not going to get it together until, at best, fifteen years down the line, when he's enjoying being Fun Divorced Weekend Dad.
posted by praemunire at 8:22 AM on April 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


1. It's perfectly normal to miss your old life. My kid is almost 4 and I still miss it. I'm counting the days until he's old enough that I can take him places I want to go with me and have it not be a huge hassle. I'm pretty sure that new parents who don't feel this way are unicorns.

2. It sounds like, however, that you're doing a pretty good job at adulting-up and aligning yourself to your new reality. You get sitters and still go out sometimes (you'd be shocked at the number of new parents who feel like they can't do this, due to guilt or anxiety or whatever), and that's great.

3. Your SO on the other hand, is being selfish and juvenile. And while you say he "helps" at home, I'm having a hard time reconciling that with your reporting of the kind of schedule he keeps. He can't help at home if he's not at home. Or he is at home but he's in bed with a hangover until noon.

Here's what the mister and I did to alleviate some of the pressure of being parents: Once a month, we each get a day off. An entire 24 hours to do whatever we will. We can sit at home and bingewatch House of Cards, we can go out with friends, the world is our oyster for 24 hours once a month. We arrange that day in advance so the other parent knows they are 100% on duty for that entire day. We get our ya-yas out, whatever those may be (yes, I did spend one entire day sitting on the couch playing Goldeneye), and come back to parenting ready to be full 50/50 coparents.

Now, clearly your SO is not going to go for that just out of the goodness of his heart because he's got one hell of a good thing going here right now. Y'all are probably going to need some couples therapy to get past this hump because I have a feeling he's not going to go gentle into this goodnight, but once you do, give yourself each some permission to have some time off. Some for you, some for him, in equal amounts. It's the only way to not resent the hell out of your partner for decades.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:27 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have been in your shoes. I became pregnant on accident in my late 20's with the man I had been dating for two years. I decided to go for it and keep the baby and then I had another two years later. They are now six and eight.

My super social spouse did not alter his personal life much at all after the arrival of our first child. He continued to go out several nights a week and when he was home he spend a lot of that time on his hobbies rather than helping out. I was resentful, but had so many things going on that I didn't really have the energy to deal with the problem head on. That was a mistake. Once the youngest got to be about two and I finally had the energy to deal with the situation, we were already entrenched in a years-long pattern and he simply could not understand why he should be expected to change when I had gone along with the status quo for years up until that point.

You need to deal with this situation right now. I suggest you really think through what your expectations are for your spouse's involvement in your family life. Write them down. Really think them through and make sure they are both attainable and allow you and him to continue to enjoy your personal lives. Then talk to him and make your case. He will absolutely blanch at what you are suggesting because he does not want to change his cushy way of life. Be consistent. There will be times when he wants to go out and you will need to tell him that, no, you need him at home. Practice using those words, because in the moment it will be easier to let him have his way than to stand up for yourself.

I am still with my spouse. If I'm being honest with myself, I recognize that he was not at all ready to become a parent at the age he did. He probably would have made a great first-parent if he had his first child in his late 30's or early 40's. Things have gotten slowly better as he's aged, but I do still really regret not expecting more of him when the children were young. Don't be like me.
posted by scantee at 8:28 AM on April 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


Are these feelings "normal" during new motherhood/parenting?

Yep. Parenting is incredibly hard on emotional, mental and physical levels. Sure, seeing the kid smile at you is incredibly heartwarming, but make now mistake, there's a ton of work involved in raising a kid. It's perfectly naturally to ask yourself if it's worth it, feel resentful of the enormous time suck it is and just generally want to either scream or curl up in the fetal position and say "fuck this". No need to feel guilty about this at all.

A big help with these thoughts is making friends with other parents so you can commiserate with them about the hardships (and joys). Few things are better than knowing that parents who you think have it all together are also regularly thinking "I'd just like to run away for an afternoon and not have to deal with being a parent".

As to your husband, others have rightly pointed out that he's fucking up parent wise. He needs a come to Jesus meeting toot sweet, because this shit he's pulling can and will destroy your relationship with him. It's totally up to him on whether he can make this work, there's literally nothing you can do other than talk to him, wait a little bit and then move on if he continues this way.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:32 AM on April 8, 2016


scantee: " There will be times when he wants to go out and you will need to tell him that, no, you need him at home. "

I want to add to this. My husband does step up to the plate and dads it up, even if much more of this supposedly shared parenting gig falls to me because I work a standard 9-5 whereas he works unpredictably longer hours. I get that some days he wants to go have a beer with his friends. That's fine. Sometimes he does it and sometimes he recognizes that the kids need his presence more. Some days I want to go to my knitting group with my friends, too, and sometimes I don't get to go because life happens. That's fine.

But what enrages the hell out of me is how, when he declines invitations to go out, he puts the blame on the ol' ball and chain. "Wifey has me locked down, haven't got permission to go out." Fuck that shit. Your partner also needs to agree that he is staying home because he WANTS to dad it up, not because some woman has him pussy-whipped (oh how I hate that phrase, on so many levels).

As for coping techniques, it's a bit silly, but something I've really found comfort in lately is listening to the One Bad Mother podcast. They end the show by telling each other "You're really doing a good job. You are nailing this mom thing." And while they're saying it to each other, they're also saying it right in my ear, each week. And you know, that feels good. Really good.
posted by Liesl at 8:48 AM on April 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


This is a relationship question much more than a motherhood question. You really did bury the lede. Thirty year old out all night drinking with twenty year olds is going to seem strange pretty quickly, even if he isn't a married father. But the 2-3 hour nightly workouts strikes me as an even larger disparity. Would he work out at home with you instead? Or if you're too tired, maybe he'd run on a treadmill while you both watch a movie? On weekends you could have family hikes or bike rides when baby is a bit older. I think he needs to compromise on the workouts because "life's passion" shouldn't take such a big chunk of time away from his life's priority, which is his family. I hope he'll find a way to come to a better arrangement with you. Please memail me if you need to vent about babies and social life. I'd be glad to talk. Good luck.
posted by areaperson at 9:05 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'd be tempted to do some cold. hard math. Add up the hours he spends doing whatever the hell he wants without the responsibility of being a parent. Compare it to yours. That kid is 8-months old, he should be taking on an even share of parenting time. The only thing he can't do is express milk and you can always pump so he can bottle feed. I agree with scantee, unless you stand up for yourself, he will always assume that parenting for him is babysitting once in a while and that's not going to do you or your child any favors. He needs to put in the time to both appreciate the changes you have made for the good of your family and to enjoy being a parent despite it being hard work.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:19 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am dad of four kids and I say to you: congratulations! And, it's hard! And: high five, you can do this!

"The gym is his passion" you say, but maybe that needs to be re-framed as "the gym was his passion -- but now his passion is his family": your old life is a country with closed borders. There's so many things I miss from the Before Kids years, and which I know I won't be going back to by the time my kids are grown and I have The Time again. But that's because making infants into adults human beings is a big damn deal, you know? :7)

Are these feelings "normal" during new motherhood/parenting?
Yes -- and even more so with mothers, I think, because of the pregnancy hormones. For you, it's definitely a game of emotional crack-the-whip which makes the fatigue even worse.

...to me that just isn't what a father should be doing...
YOU ARE CORRECT.

Your partner is simply not doing their share. You can just come right out and say, "I am burned out by all this work and my body is making me a little crazy, so it's even harder to take. I have sacrificed a lot so far, and you need to take a bigger hand in the housework/baby-changing/late-night feedings/grocery shopping/laundry/bill paying/whatever."

You can do this, but it kind of sucks for a while. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


You can just come right out and say, "I am burned out by all this work and my body is making me a little crazy, so it's even harder to take. I have sacrificed a lot so far, and you need to take a bigger hand in the housework/baby-changing/late-night feedings/grocery shopping/laundry/bill paying/whatever."

Alternate suggestion: come out and say "I'm doing 95% of the work in parenting and I'm feeling like you're bailing on not only our child, but also our relationship as a couple." He doesn't need to "take a bigger hand" in things, he needs to pull his weight.

It doesn't have to be a 50/50 split on everything. Sit down and talk about your work schedules, and then write up all the things that need to get done. Then look at who likes (or hates) to do which things. My wife hates shopping, but likes doing laundry. I don't mind either, but I'll go shopping while she does laundry, and I'll take one of the boys with me.

I'd be tempted to do some cold. hard math. Add up the hours he spends doing whatever the hell he wants without the responsibility of being a parent. Compare it to yours. If you want to do this, I'd suggest doing it as a couple. He can work out the math with you, realizing how much you put into everything, and how he probably takes you for granted.

It's all about balance, which is currently lacking in your life. Work together, and he should be able to change. This is not you getting him whipped, but him realizing he's not doing his part.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


One thing you failed to mention was whether you are both working. If he is going off to a job all day and you are a stay-at-home mother, this could skew answers a bit differently.

The OP did state that she is back to work full-time.

Even if she weren't, it doesn't skew the inequality here. Dad still should not be spending 3 hours a night at the gym or be out until 4AM.

I'm not a shaking person but I want to shake this guy.
posted by Dashy at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


It's more than just the actual parenting tasks here that your husband is falling down on. I read a lot of loneliness in your question. Even if the house is spotless and there's a week's worth of meals ready to go in the freezer and the kid is fed and bathed and happy, you still want your husband to want to be around you and his child. At home. That is, IMO, a perfectly reasonable desire. To both share the going-out fun with you (obviously that can't happen as frequently or spontaneously but it can still happen) and to share the home family bonding time with you.

I'm single and childless, so maybe I don't quite get it, but I just worry that if you give him a list of tasks to complete and he completes them, he'll still leave you feeling alone because he's not actually participating fully (emotionally and priority-wise) in this whole starting a family thing. It's okay to want him to want that, on his own, without lists or having to feel like you're holding him back. Good luck.
posted by misskaz at 10:33 AM on April 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


Does he have siblings or extended family you can go to for a little diplomatic assistance? It sometimes has a different impact when someone tells him, "Dude, you're at the gym? When does she get to go the gym? You were out last night until 2am? Wow, when does she get to do that?"

I didn't have an example I could follow of what a father is supposed to do, so a lot of the time I had to adjust. That's not easy and it wasn't intuitive either and more than once I needed prompting. It was hard and I screwed up a lot of the time but I so didn't want to duplicate my own childhood, that I shut up and tried harder to do it right.

So maybe find someone to prompt him. He'll hopefully pull it together. It took me a couple years - the secret nightmare of parenthood is that we have to figure out what our parents did, figure out what was good and what was bad, figure it out on the fly and some of the feelings that get pulled to the surface aren't great.

And always, taunting you is how great it used to be. Well, ten + years in, all the miserable was worth it. I am so glad I did this, even when I don't look back on it with fondness, necessarily. Where I am now vs ten years of partying and hanging out? Pffft, please.

(I have a friend who had a hilariously horrible approach to fatherhood at first. It's taken him about nine years to pull his head out of his ass. So, it can be done.)
posted by From Bklyn at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


You might consider reading the epic thread from this past summer on gender and emotional labor.

There's another thread about the fatigue and costs that comes from being the primary caregiver parent -- The Default Parent (get past the first 30 comments or so). What you're feeling is totally normal, but that doesn't mean it's right or that you should have to shoulder those feelings alone.
posted by gladly at 1:05 PM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


My SO is a free spirit, very spontaneous, loves to travel, stay busy, be surrounded my friends, go to bars...and having a baby hasn't changed his life much.

Your SO is being a jerk. I'm not saying your SO is a jerk; that remains to be determined. As a lot of people have said, you need to call him on this, tell him that his place is at home with you and your (you, plural) baby. He will say "But I'm a free spirit, honey! I need my freedom!" This is perfectly natural; nobody reacts well to having their life limited. You will then gently but firmly point out that you understand very well, because you feel the same way, but you (plural) have a baby now and things are different and he needs to step up to the plate and carry his part of the load. Hopefully, after a little muttering and kicking he will realize the truth of what you are saying and learn to be a father. If not—if he sticks with the "I'm a free spirit" playbook and keeps hanging out with his twentysomething friends—then he is in fact a jerk, and you will have to deal with that. But you need to have this conversation now: the more time goes by, the more entrenched he's going to become in his free, spontaneous life. Remember, this is how many, many couples lived in pre-feminist days: daddy hung out with friends till all hours and got plastered, mommy did all the household and childrearing work (and tried to look fresh and carefree for hubby when he chose to make an appearance, and gritted her teeth when he said "Say, you've got the easy life! What do you do all day, talk with your friends?"). That's why feminism was (re)invented.
posted by languagehat at 1:28 PM on April 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


If it's good enough for him, why isn't it for you? In other words, turn the tables on him to put it in perspective. If he's gets to go to the gym 3 hours 4x per week, then you should be able to go off and do back-to-back yoga/spin classes 4x per week (or wtf-ever-else you want to do). If he's not willing to pick up the slack while mom is getting her me time in as well, then he's not meeting you even halfway and this is a recipe for disaster.
posted by zagyzebra at 1:37 PM on April 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


You need to have a long, difficult discussion with your partner about the role he sees himself having in his child's life, because he barely seems aware he has to do anything at all. Partying until 3 every weekend and working out 2-3 hours a day is not a lifestyle compatible with parenting, period, and he is going to choose between having his lifestyle and raising a child. I'm sorry you're in this situation but the above posters are right: the longer you go without bringing this up the harder this conversation will be when you finally do.
posted by Ndwright at 5:02 PM on April 8, 2016


If this were my relationship, and my partner (which I can imagine too well), the advice I would give myself is this:

1. Do not read the emotional labor thread (again). It will make you angry and unable to see your own relationship for itself, because of all the ghosts of other people's relationship problems haunting you. Even if the problems are similar, "you damn men always do X, I know because I heard about one guy --" is not a good way to approach a conversation and I always end up there when I read the thread.

2. Use "I" words and nonjudgmental language. Your case - your case alone - is strong enough without any appeal to authority of "should" or "other fathers". *you* are feeling abandoned. *you* are missing your partner. *you* feel unloved when he doesn't show consideration for the impact the late nights have on you. *you* feel overwhelmed and all alone in this strange new world of parenthood. That is what matters here, and you matter to him: that is why he needs to change.

Sometimes it's easier to talk about "a father shouldn't" than about "I need you not to". But the second one is much more direct, stronger, and harder to argue with.
posted by Lady Li at 5:24 PM on April 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


When does it come a time in a man's life that he hangs up the going out until 3 am, or hanging with single bachelors that aren't in the same frame of mind or life that we are? I that enough of a reason for me to throw in the towel, that his friendships and lifestyle don't align with my vision of a family? I want him to have freedom and independnce just as much as I want to but he doesn't want to lose that part of him because he is very social, he needs interactions and "fun" with others to feel happy

That time in his life is now. You cannot be the only one making major changes.

Fatherhood carries responsibilities just as much as motherhood does, but it's very easy for men not to realise it. There's really not the same culture around fathers as there is around mothers, and it's very easy for men to end up blind to the fact that they're offloading most of the work onto their partner. It doesn't make him a bad person... yet.

You're well within your rights to sit down and talk with him about the changes in your lives. You can talk about the adjustments that you've had to make, and ask that he make some changes too. Ideally, he should be able to see the problem here: you've lost most of the things you loved about your old life, and he's only lost a little bit. That's not fair on you, and if he's a reasonable person he ought to be able to see that.

For what it's worth, I'd suggest a conversation in which the two of you talk about your everyday routines, moment to moment and day to day. Those are super informative and you can use it to gently call attention to the unfairness, and use it as an invitation to discuss solutions. Why can't he can stay home with the baby more often while you go out? Why can't that happen just as often as the reverse? He's a grown man, perfectly capable of looking after an infant, is he not? Sure, breast feeding makes it tricky (if you're doing that), but other couples manage to work around it just fine. When you do come up with solutions, make sure you come up with formal arrangements (e.g., Friday he can go out, Saturday you can): if you leave it as an informal thing, you'll both slide back into old habits.

In short, it sounds like you're both unintentionally buying into the idea that parenting is your job and not his. It's very common and your feelings are entirely understandable (as is his blindness to the problem), but there's no reason it needs to be like that. Call his attention to the issue, and from there it is absolutely his job to start making big changes, and to start doing so immediately.
posted by langtonsant at 6:01 PM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree with everyone, he's being a big baby-jerk. I just don't know if conversation is going to be enough to turn him on to wanting to fully participate in family life (i.e., in his family). I've seen people eventually cave into pressure ("nagging") and at least act like they're on board, not without some initial resentment. Some people seem to find their way there on their own, after getting sick of partying and whatever.

Can you force that, I don't know. He may feel resentful and move further away, in ways. However, I don't think it's a good idea to let it pass without comment, regardless of that risk. That'll set existing patterns even more deeply. It needs to be addressed. You're on your own in this family. Maybe say it like that, "I feel like I'm on my own in this family, I feel like you're not wanting to be a part of it". It might guilt him a bit (which might mean more resentment), but it might at least make him think...

Try everything people have said. Breaking things down timewise and comparing schedules may at least bring the reality home, but logic doesn't always work when people are strongly emotionally committed to something. (Even spending 2-3 hours at the gym*, daily, with all this going on, suggests he's got some kind of existential thing happening, never mind the partying. He is hanging onto a particular idea of youth with a fair bit of seriousness, here.)

I don't know. All you can do is try those things, and then decide if you want to wait until he comes around (which is what I honestly think it'll come down to), or part ways and be as on your own as you are anyway, but with some clarity, and maybe give yourself a chance to be with someone who wants to be there. Not suggesting rushing to that, by any means! If it were me, I'd maybe give him/myself a secret internal timeline by which he needs to step it up (giving e.g. therapy an honest shot, maybe a couple of years), and go from there. Would try to not lose any ground career/income-wise in the meantime, just in case, and would get as much support as possible with childrearing from wherever you can get it (e.g. family). Because he might not come around, you know? Or, it might take a decade :/

*i mean ok, my workouts take 1.5 hours, and my gym's 5 mins away. but it's possible to make them shorter with a different split, do them less often, or do them at home, he can be with his family and be fit. he just has to want to.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Staying out until 3AM.. reliving his bachelor years with much younger people.. these are not acceptable activities for a father of an 8 month old baby to be engaging in. You should absolutely have high standards for his behavior now that you have a child together. Whatever you do, do not make excuses for him or let this become all about you and your issues. You are not the problem. This is not the time to self-blame or try to fix the issue on your own. You need to have a serious discussion with him about his behavior. You started out your question by presenting the problem as being yours, and then the truth came out as you elaborated. It sounds like you're trying very hard to empathize with his feelings of not wanting to be tethered now that your baby has arrived, and that empathy is turning into an excuse for his bad behavior. You're not the one staying out until 3.. you come home at a sensible hour. You aren't 'helping out-' you're doing your job as a parent. If he's living in the stone-age and his philosophies on gender roles are that women should do all the child-rearing while their husbands go play and have fun fun time, then I think you're married to an ignoramus that either needs some hardcore therapy or the boot. You aren't the one who's failing to adjust. Please remember that and stop making excuses for him.
posted by Avosunspin at 7:35 AM on April 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I never want to make an ultimatum because I want the man I am with to chose his path in life without me having to give him my option.

I understand where you're coming from here, but if it comes down to it, sometimes it does take the threat of losing what one has to make one wake up and smell the coffee. I know I've heard numerous times from folks here telling their story that they were able to make serious changes in their lives once they realized they were going to lose their spouse or family over it.

However, I don't think you're near that point yet. He needs to take time off from the gym and get to marriage counseling with you. I know you want to make sure you're there for your baby as much as you possibly can be, given your work schedule, but think of marriage counseling as something you are doing for yourself and for her, and make time for it. Or you're going to end up at ultimatum or worse. Because the relationship you're describing is not sustainable.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:50 PM on April 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


...but I feel his happiness is outside of the house...

I'm glad people are focusing on your happiness here; you are focusing on your child enough already. But you know, kids can tell when their parents are focused elsewhere.

Your partner reminds me a lot of a friend of my own partner's from childhood who has two kids but is always out playing sports and going to bars and justifying it by saying that's who he was when he and his wife got married and she knew it. He's got two DUIs now . In my view, the fact that this guy is athletic has been masking a serious alcohol problem. Which your husband may well not have. But I think our (US for you too?) drinking culture is such that it tolerates levels of consumption and patterns of behavior that are OK, until they are not. I wouldn't make this about alcohol unless you think it is, but it's something to watch. Is his blood alcohol level legal when he gets home? And you are right, nothing good happens in the wee hours when you've been at a bar.
posted by BibiRose at 5:06 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


An addendum about the drinking thing-- even if you think it's a problem, I would be cautious about addressing it as the main problem, or even addressing it directly without some guidance. Otherwise you risk having that become the main bone of contention, and bugging people about their drinking before they have become aware of it usually just drives them further into it. Plus if the people he's with are heavy drinkers and very invested in it, they will reinforce the idea that you are wrong and just being a bore or whatever.
posted by BibiRose at 5:27 AM on April 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree with most of what has been said here about the SO & his immaturity in this family relationship. Will he 'grow out of it'--not without the hard conversations & work that it will take on your part. He's not going to have a flash of 'I need to do more.' You really do need to get this change started now, because while an 8-month old is a lot of work, toddlers, preschoolers, grade schoolers, teens etc are even more. The older they are, the more time they take. Time doing things, but also emotional time.

So, let's look ahead at how this will play out as your baby gets older. Will you be the one doing all the doctor's appointments, sick days, and other health care activities? Who does the shoe/clothing/diaper shopping? Who handles the temper tantrums--and how will you talk about that? What about all the decisions that kids require--what daycare, which preschool, summer activities, allergy testing, vacations, relative visits--whatever, the list is pretty endless & it can be lonely & isolating making all the decisions.

What about when she is in school--will he still be at the gym 3 hours a night or out with pals or will he be there to help with homework/projects and parent-teacher visits? What about school release days? Will it be you at the ER alone with her? Who takes her to Girl Scouts, soccer, hockey, acting classes, play practice, or whatever her interests are? As you will learn, her interests become your interests & I hope you will want to be part of the activities as leader, coach, cheerleader, whatever. I hope he does, too, but how will you explain his absence if he doesn't? Saturdays can be filled with kid activities & friend visits/sleepovers/parties. Who wrangles her schedule? You, if this continues as is.

And, heaven forbid, what if you or she gets sick for a long time? Or your (or his) parents/siblings whoever need your help because of a health crisis or accident. Where do you see him providing support in that scenario?

On a brighter note, you will become experienced in wisely using the kid-free hours you have because of playdates/birthday parties/whatever for yourself.

You get the picture. You need to work hard through counseling or other means to become a family--Team Us as they say here, not two people who lived like carefree friends who could flit about without a care. Both of you are parents and there is a shared responsibility to work out before you are so resentful & he is so set in his patterns that you can't work it out. He needs to wake-up & become a dad who is committed to the deal and you need to light the fire of discussion.

You might also seek out other families with kids the age of yours. Some communities have classes or groups to offer support & info for new parents. It will give you a chance to see what other families are like & how they manage these things. You will find people to do family stuff with--a trip to the zoo as a group gives you adult conversation, as well as kid entertainment. If dad will go, he may make a friend to share his frustrations with, too.

Parenting is the long game & it is easier with two parents on the same page. I hope it works out.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 4:54 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


GO ON VACATION. Just you. Or you with your friends or family or whoever. Point is, NOT WITH HIM. AND NO KIDS ALLOWED. NOT EVEN OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS.

Leave your daughter along with her dad for a week.

If that doesn't get him to grow up, probably nothing will.
posted by quincunx at 8:46 AM on April 11, 2016


Do mothers and fathers roles cause resentment, because there is inevitibly more responsiblity on the mothers (by nature to nurture if that makes sense)?

FYI, this is not inevitable, and it's not true in our household (the uneven division of responsibility.) If anything, my husband takes on a bit more responsibility for our 5-month-old.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 11:40 AM on April 11, 2016


I agree with the substance of what's above, and want to add something. Your SO is missing a huge part of what's amazing and wonderful about being a parent. In between diaper changes and nose wiping is the pleasure and joy of seeing your child learn, a lot of warm snuggly moments where your infant sleeps on you in total trust, and the very adult sense of having a tiny person depend on you totally, and knowing that you are doing it right, and so much more. It's time for adulting. It seems like a drag, but having a done A Lot of adulting with a husband who steadfastly refused to accept responsibility, and a very demanding child, I'm far happier with my role as a parent. I got to be there for the 1st steps, for the conversations, for a lot of fun times.

You need time to go out for coffee or even just to the grocery store alone, or at least without having to do all the work it takes to get there by yourself. He needs to learn to be a partner and parent who steps up, and not just because somebody tells him to You will both be happier in the long run. Or, you will not be together, which is a genuine possibility. For me, as difficult as it was to be on my own, it was a better choice. Relationships aren't static. He'll either get worse, be less responsible, play more, or better, and be a better parent and partner.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


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