No matter how wonderful your marriage and spouse may be, there are moments when you think your partner just doesn’t get it. Those “I love you but, you haven’t a clue and you’re driving me crazy” moments are especially frequent when you have a new baby in the house. Many first time moms are amazed at how clueless their husbands are about the level of work involved in caring for a newborn.
“When he comes home and tells me he’s had a tough day, he thinks he’s done. Doesn’t he know that I, too, am exhausted and have an equal desire to park it on the couch?”
—Mary, married 5 years, 2 kids
“My husband actually said to me, ‘What’s the big deal about taking care of one baby? How hard can it be?’”—Phoebe, married 12 years, 3 kids
Meanwhile, new dads are often frustrated when their efforts to help are shot down by their wives. Those powerful maternal instincts can veer towards maternal chauvinism – “no one can care for that child like me” – and, at best, many new dads have an assistant mom role foisted upon them. Criticized for buying the wrong brand of formula, holding the baby incorrectly or dressing the child in pajamas, many retreat to the sidelines.
“For three months she didn’t let me take Ashley anywhere near the tub, then in month four, she bit my head off because I didn’t know how to give her a bath.”
—Harry, married 11 years, 2 kids
“I got so annoyed with my wife hovering over me when I would change a diaper. I finally told her to back off.”
- Mark, married 6 years, 1 kid
These small misunderstandings can really wear a couple down, especially when you’re both trying to get by on four or five hours of sleep a night. The good news is that there is a relatively easy way to bring you both some perspective and mutual understanding (and hopefully a few laughs as well) as you adjust to new parenthood. Our patent-pending, marriage-altering solution is called the Training Weekend.
The Training Weekend requires Mom to leave the house for 48 hours, and leave Dad to man the house and kid ropes on his own. No sitters. No in-laws. No 1-800-Grandma. No cavalry whatsoever. The point is to let Dad figure things out for himself, to show Mom that he can do it and bring you both one step closer to the co-parenting ideal.
To All the Female Doubters Out There: Let Go of the Reins
To our surprise, when we suggested a Training Weekend, some women looked at us in horror as if we had asked them to donate their babies’ kidneys. One of them even said, “Is that safe?” They also said:
- “My baby needs me; she can’t survive without me.”
- “My husband wouldn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t do anything right.”
- “If I went away, it would be a Baby Einstein Extravaganza.”
- “I would have to write out twenty-two pages of notes before I could get out the door. It just wouldn’t be worth it.”
The baby will survive! Your husband is, we assume, a highly functioning adult in full command of his faculties. (If he’s not, OK, you have bigger problems and don’t have to do the Training Weekend.) He can do this. The occasional Baby Einstein Extravaganza never hurt anyone. And if you have to write twenty-two pages of notes, so be it. Just do it.
The one legitimate objection we heard was that it’s too hard to organize a girl trip. Most women just won’t go away on trips and leave their families. It took Stacie six months and over a hundred emails to organize her college friends to go away on a girl trip. Another friend’s first effort was aborted when one of the women wanted to bring her one-year-old along. By comparison, when men sense an opportunity for escape, they quickly organize themselves like flying geese in Perfect V Formation headed straight for the airport.
Don’t let a logistical dilemma prevent a Training Weekend. Spend two days and nights on your own if that’s the only alternative (sounds heavenly, actually).
The benefits of a properly executed Training Weekend are enormous:
By taking sole charge of all baby- and house-related duties for a weekend, a man better understands his wife’s challenges and frustrations. The proverbial penny drops. He gets it, because he’s done it. Mom returns to a grateful and more helpful husband.
“I had a list of things I wanted to get done when I had the kids by myself, and I was lucky if half of it got done. I didn’t shower and I didn’t shave. I could barely hold things together. It gave me an enormous appreciation for what my wife does. This was eight years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.”
—George, married 13 years, 2 kids
“I had no idea taking care of a baby was so hard. How does she do this day in and day out? I was truly in awe of her when she got back.”
—Brandon, married 3 years, 1 kid
Dad bonds with the baby. Dad will, possibly for the first time ever, connect with the baby on his terms. Once Mom is gone, Dad can figure it out for himself. He gets to play by his own rules. This knowledge makes him a more confident and competent father.
“It gives you a chance to get to know your kids better. It allows you to really fall in love with them.”
—Ian, married 7 years, 2 kids
Once she sees that her husband is perfectly capable of caring for their child, Mom starts to relax her standards a little. She realizes that while he won’t do it the way she does it, he can do it.
Mom gets a break.
If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Everyone benefits from a well-rested, recharged Mom.
“I didn’t know I needed it until I had it. Boy, did I need it!”
—Valerie, married 7 years, 2 kids
Training Weekends aren’t just for the newborn stage. Regardless of how old your kids are, if you think your husband is slipping a little in the appreciation and/or action departments or if your wife is showing control-freak tendencies, it might be time for some continuing education. And if you’ve never had a Training Weekend, well, what are you waiting for?!