I know you don’t get enough credit. This time of life is crazy hard for you too. People are gushing over the baby and checking on mom and you feel like only an afterthought, and that is if you get thought of at all. You’ve sacrificed too, but your part seems to go unnoticed.
It certainly can’t be easy adjusting to the role of dad and the added stressors and responsibility that come with the title. I can only imagine on top of all those feelings what it is like to watch your wife becoming someone you don’t even know. She used to be happy and carefree, the world was a blank canvas and she spent her days dreaming of the pictures she planned to paint on it. But now? Now, she is withdrawn and moody. This new life she cares for seems to have stolen the life from her eyes, and no one warned you this would happen. You were told she would “glow,” that watching her mother would be a beautiful privilege. Why is the only “glow” you see the seething look of anger in her eyes when she glances your way?
You are doing so much already, and I hate to add more to your plate. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to share a few tips on helping your wife through this time.
Pick up the slack.
You have been working really hard already. You’ve tried to wash the dishes, but your wife just criticized that you loaded the dishwasher wrong. She didn’t even notice or thank you when you wiped down the counters afterward.
I’ll be honest with you, it’s not fair to you. It’s really not. I get that.
But please understand those little jobs, even the unappreciated or criticized ones, are absolutely important right now. I am sure it is discouraging to spend all day at work and then come home to a messy house, an empty table, a fussy baby, and an irritable wife still wearing yesterday’s PJs and unwashed hair . . . and then be asked to do more work when you get home. For this season think of it this way, your wife’s job is fighting depression and caring for your baby. And although most of her job is not visible, it is a huge task. She truly does not have the energy or willpower to keep up with much else right now. She doesn’t mean to overlook everything you are doing.
No, not just, “you look beautiful,” or a generic, “you are a great mom.” Those just sound like obligatory husband remarks. She needs specifics. “I am so impressed at your selflessness in getting up with the baby so much last night. Thank you for caring for our baby even when it costs you.” Or, “You are doing such an amazing job teaching our baby already. I love how you read him stories and talk to him so much throughout the day.”
Right now, all she sees is her failures. She needs to know you are proud of her, that her efforts matter, and that you see her sacrifices. Will she return the favor and recognize all you are doing? Maybe.
Maybe (probably) not. I know you deserve praise too, I really do. I am not trying to continue to leave you overlooked. Remember this is just a season. You will get your wife back. And hopefully, someday she will look back and remember all you did and you will receive your well-deserved praise too.
Encourage, don’t force.
It is easy when we see someone we love hurting to try and fix it immediately the way we think it needs to be fixed. Maybe she has had absolutely no interest in romance or intimacy with you. In concern for your marriage, you planned a great date night and even lined up a babysitter. After all, everyone keeps telling you that you simply have to make time for date night.
Then, your wife cries the whole drive to the restaurant over leaving the baby and spends the whole dinner checking her phone and talking about all the things that could be going wrong for baby. Your entire evening backfired and you are rightly disappointed and frustrated.
But here is the thing, she wasn’t ready. She is just as disappointed and frustrated and she misses your marriage just as much as you do. But anxiety has taken over her mind, and she just can’t yet. Encourage her to find something she enjoys to make her feel normal, but don’t force her into anything. That only adds to the guilt and pressure that are already plaguing her thoughts and clouding her judgment.
RELATED: New Mom Takes Her Own Life After Silent Battle With Postpartum Depression: Why All Of Us Must Share Her Friend’s Plea
Encourage her to talk to a doctor or counselor, to find mom friends, to talk with you about how she is feeling. Hold her while she cries if she will let you, otherwise, just be near and ready to be there when she is ready to reach out to you. But let her go at her pace.
Let her know you’re in this together (and that you’re not going anywhere).
Right now she feels utterly alone and she is terrified of losing you because she feels unlovable, unworthy, and unattractive. There is no way for you to be able to fully understand what is happening to her mind and body right now, just as she can’t understand your experiences, but she desperately needs to know you are fighting this with her. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to take proactive steps to show you are still 100% with her. Frequently make comments about how you are a team.
Do your own research on postpartum depression, specifically finding stories of women who share their experiences so you can try to understand what she is feeling. (But please don’t ever tell her you know what she is feeling or try to “mansplain.” Acknowledge to her that you CAN’T understand but that you will do your best to TRY to understand . . . and then really try).
Take walks outside together. Pray together. Prepare a coffee and donut breakfast at the park for her. Find as many little ways as possible every day to say, “I am still here. I am with you. You’re not alone in this and together we will get through.”
You’re trying your best and you’re giving your all, and she is still snapping at you, neglecting you, and ignoring all your efforts. I am sorry for your part in all of this. She didn’t try and trick you into marrying a happy-go-lucky girl only to become a totally different person now. She is just as blindsided by this as you are. Remember your vows, remember that you are a team, and remember that this is not forever.
She’s not mad at you. Not really. She doesn’t understand what she is, she doesn’t know what she feels or she may not feel anything at all. She is hurting, she is struggling, she is lost.
Research postpartum depression and anxiety as a couple. Talk about which aspects apply to her and together make a plan to overcome it. Celebrate the good days and the small victories, give lots of grace as you work through the dark days. She needs you, even when she is blocking you out and pushing you away. That is when she needs you most. She can’t fight this alone. You were once her prince charming, riding in and sweeping her off her feet. Now she needs you to be her knight in shining armor and fight for her and with her.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are merciless wars to be caught in.
They cast their dark shadows through the entire house and affect everyone. Your wife may not be able to say it at the moment, so I will say it until she can . . .
Thank you for all you have given to your family during this time. Thank you for working so hard and so selflessly. Thank you for curbing your own hurt when she snaps in order to help her through hers. Thank you for being her hero and champion. Thank you for never giving up on her. She is absolutely worth fighting for, and together, you can overcome this.