All right, Second-Time Dads (or third-time, or fourth-, or…), here’s the deal: unless your name is William and your address is Kensington Palace, the mother of your newest little prince or princess doesn’t have a crew of staffers paid to provide her with the royal postpartum TLC that she deserves. Who does she have? You.
When you had your first baby, you probably spent a lot of time at the hospital. Whether you realized it or not, you noticed each nurse, doctor, lactation specialist, and dietician who came in and asked your wife, “Is there anything you need? What can I get for you? Would you like a pillow under your arm? Pads? Stool softener? Some ibuprofen for your pain? How about a banana? A ginger ale? Can I refill your water for you?”
When you went home, still reeling from the shock of witnessing what happened to her body during delivery, and maybe seeing her try to breastfeed or pump and feeling eternally grateful that you didn’t have to do that, you dutifully filled in for the hospital staff by bringing your wife food and water and cozying up with the baby on the couch so she could take a shower or a nap.
But with your second baby, you had #1 at home sucking up most of your caretaking stores, and you had wised up on how uncomfortable those hospital barcaloungers are. Chances are you weren’t at the hospital as much. You didn’t spend all that time watching people take care of your wife, and even when you were there, you weren’t paying much attention because you were hovering over your toddler to make sure she didn’t drop the baby.
You both have been parents long enough to put your kids’ needs before your own, and Mom’s a pro by now, but remember that she could still use some TLC. Sure, she looks like Super Mom in yoga pants when she reads a story to #1 while nursing the baby, but she’s not really a superhero. She’s a regular human being, who probably needs to pee, and having human needs doesn’t make her needy. So, for her sake, let’s review some things to keep in mind in the weeks following the arrival of your newest addition.
1. You’re not allowed to complain to her about being tired. I know. I know you are tired. Nobody is well-rested when a second kid arrives. But keep in mind which one of you was just pregnant for nine months, delivered a baby, and is now mom to a newborn and an older child. You can be tired, but don’t mention it to her. Find someone else to complain to: your dog, your toddler, your local barista. Just. Not. Her.
2. If she walks into the kitchen and you’re eating a sandwich, there should be another one on the table for her. Taking care of a newborn means your hands are usually full and you lack the physical mechanics necessary to make lunch. If you weren’t there, she would survive, probably by grabbing a piece of cold chicken breast from the fridge and eating it caveman-style. But just because she can do that doesn’t mean she should. If you make yourself something to eat, make something for her, too. And always check that she has something to drink.
3. She will be jealous of every shower you take and every opportunity you have to go anywhere without a child attached to your body. She’ll even be jealous of you going to work sometimes. She might not complain, but mark my words: she’ll be jealous. Of course she loves her children (and you), but her body is smeared with all sorts of bodily fluids (not just her own), her muscles are sore from taking care of multiple children and, oh yeah, giving birth, and she could use a break from being needed constantly. See to it that she gets at least a shower a day, and maybe a little extra time, too.
4. Keep a tally of how many naps you each get. You know who should get more. You know, right? Mom. Mom should get more.
5. By definition, paternity leave is for being paternal. It is not for building that chicken coop you’ve been thinking of, redoing your LinkedIn profile, or organizing a Beer-B-Q with your neighborhood buds. If you have to do some work from home, fine, but keep it to a minimum.
6. Do not come home with a Starbucks cup if you don’t have one for her, too. That’s just mean.
It’s true that Mom is very busy these days, but she notices what you do. You are welcome to ignore this advice, but be forewarned that she’ll mentally file away each shower, hardware store run, and hot meal that you enjoy in isolation until she uses them as ammunition in the next sleep-deprived, hormone-fueled blowout the two of you are guaranteed to have if you do ignore this advice. But keep these things in mind and I guarantee she’ll be able to better appreciate all the wonderful ways that you, too, are taking care of your family.
Related post: 20 Things I Learned From My Second Baby