One of the most important changes and transitions in an adult's life is having a baby. Becoming a parent is different for both men and women. The following article focuses on how men make that transition and how it relates to his relationship with his partner.
How a Baby Changes the Couple's Relationship
by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.
When a couple has a baby, it is a profound transition in their lives. It is the most important change in their adult life. How becoming a parent affects each of them as individuals and as a couple is still not well understood in our culture. Of all the Western industrialized countries, the United States offers the least support for family adjustment and development. Politicians would like us to believe that we put a priority on family life, but the reality is just not so. How a man makes the transition to parenthood and how a baby changes his relation to his wife is very important area for us as men to understand.
When a baby is born, the focus of the new mother's attention is on the baby. This is part of the normal developmental process. Mothers become preoccupied with the baby's needs, often to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. This is as part of her biological makeup. Most new fathers are unaware of this normal "maternal preoccupation" and are often surprised and frustrated at how abandoned they may feel. We have no information of what to expect after a baby is born. Men have very little preparation for this intimate part of life. Childbirth preparation classes often help us share with our wives the experience of pregnancy, but we are unaware of what to expect emotionally after the baby arrives. So what's a dad to do?
As a new father feels the emotional withdrawal of his wife's attention, he can take confront in knowing that her total attentiveness to their baby is normal. He can begin to notice if he has feelings of anger and hurt. Often the time after the birth may stimulate unconscious feelings that reminding the father of his own childhood. But what about his normal feelings for attention and intimacy?