I can admit it: I don’t think my partner got enough credit for his efforts as a new dad. I mean, certainly within our household and within our family, we all recognized how invested and involved he was. But when we went to appointments? When we ran errands? Strangers assumed that I, the new mom, was in charge of all the baby stuff. I suppose it’s possible that we could be an anomaly for sharing so much of the work, but my hunch is that no, we’re actually not. In addition to caring for our son with just as much effort as I was, losing just as much sleep as I was, and changing just as many diapers (if not more) as I did, he was also caring for me in a way that I simply wasn’t reciprocating. Not because I didn’t want to, but because it was super hard, because I was healing from birth, crying over breastfeeding woes, and doubting every parenting choice I was making.
Thankfully, he stuck around, and now I have some serious perspective at just how much those early efforts really made a difference to me. Of course, every relationship and the people in it are different, so your mileage may vary, but still I humbly present the following suggestions about a few ways new dads can help out, in hopes that they makes some lives slightly easier.
Say Nothing Negative About The State of Her Hygiene
Trust me, she knows how long it’s been since her last shower.
Say Nothing Negative About The State Of Her Body
Yes, she’s also well aware that she still looks pregnant. No need to mention it.
Encourage Any And All Effort She Can Make To Function Like A Normal Human
It may sound weird, but my husband and I “woo-hooed” for one another when we were able to take showers long enough to include hair washes. It’s like a fun, sad game you can both play.
Bring Her Food And Drinks
No, no, I don’t mean wait on her hand and foot, just ... like ... grab her a glass of water if you’re up, or an extra granola bar if you’re passing by the pantry, or, you know, double the recipe for homemade lasagna and present her serving on a nice plate, with a cloth napkin, when it’s fresh out of the oven. JK! Kinda.
Draw Her A Bath
I’m not typically a bath person, but they were one of the few things that soothed me after giving birth. However, just be careful to make sure she’s not so soothed that she falls asleep, not that this nearly happened to me or anything (*cough*).
Bring Her The Nursing Pillow And Any/All Other Nursing Accessories
Sometimes, the only thing that sounds more draining (pun so intended) than breastfeeding for the 27th in 24 hours is getting up and searching for where you last nursed and left the nursing pillow.
Pick Up Her Phone When She Drops It While Feeding
Like, immediately. Bonus points if you do it without her even needing to ask.
Set Up The Breast Pump (If She Uses One)
Someday, you will both look back and laugh at a time in your laugh when you didn’t need to think about phalanges, like, “What were we doing with all of that carefree, luxurious time? Other than frolicking through fields of wildflowers and binge-watching our favorite shows more than once."
Make Bottles And Change Diapers
On the surface, it may appear as if these tasks are for your baby, but I assure you, no, they are not. They are one hundred perfect for her. OK, maybe, like 98%, but still. She appreciates the effort involved, while your little one probably doesn't (yet).
Be Specific When You Need Something From Her Because She Is Not Going To Guess
And I don’t recommend asking for 45-minute back rubs or, like, a freshly made prime rib dinner just because it sounds good to you. I’m talking more about the short and sweet stuff, like when you desperately need some sleep of your own, or a hot second to shower, or grab a snack. Just ask. Parenting requires adults who can actually function, so you've got to take care of you, too.
Give Her A Chance To Nap
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it bears repeating. There’s a good chance you will both be so distracted and delirious that she will need your encouragement to settle down and catch some sleep.
Help Her Get Up And Move Around (If Her Healing Requires It. Or, Just Because.)
I would assume this makes you feel like a gentleman, too, right? That’s pretty nice, I hear.
Handle House Guests
Even her most favorite people in the world are probably going to cause her a teensy amount of stress when they are paired with a hungry newborn, so the more you can be a host, the less she has to be a hostess.
Take Pictures Of Her With The Baby (With Her Permission)
Yes, I know everyone talks about how fast the time goes, and yes, it’s totally true. So I bring this up because those newborn weeks are gone so quickly, the opportunities for her snuggling with your new little person are limited. If she’s anything like me, she will love looking back on them in the form of artsy, candid, black and white photos.
Take Care Of Store Runs And Online Orders
In our household, the energy for errands was limited in those early early weeks (extra special thanks to family members who swooped in to help) but we had very hot fingers when it came to ordering from Amazon Prime. For things that aren’t super time sensitive (extra milk bags, spare jammies, more swaddles), she will be thrilled to hear you say that you took care of it.
Every meal that you can take off her plate (pun intended, again) helps. If you like to cook, great! If not, take-out totally works, too. Disposable plates and utensils help alleviate dishes if you can push the environmental side effects aside. (No judgment from me. New parents gotta do what new parents gotta do.)
Do The Driving To Appointments
The 15-minute nap she can catch between your house and the doctor’s office will be money.
Be Patient During Mood Swings
Oh, did you think they were over when the pregnancy ended? I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but they definitely weren’t.
Look Things Up Online To Spare Her The Agony Of Message Boards
The things I found myself Googling at midnight during our child’s first months at home are the things that nightmares are made of. Each piece of information you can provide that prevent her from spiraling into a web-based rabbit hole of doom will add at least a year or two to your relationship. OK, that last part hasn’t been proven, but I’m sure there’s something about it online somewhere.
Call The Doctor’s Office
Speaking of finding out scary information, there will probably be the need to check in with the pediatrician a few times, and she probably won't protest if you do it.
Expect The Unexpected From Her
Women recover from childbirth and react to motherhood in different ways (obviously). Sure, you may have a pretty educated guess about how it’s all going to go down, but I suggest leaving yourself some wiggle room for, um, surprises from her when it comes to how she recovers and adapts.
Be Patient When It Comes To Sex
I don’t need to be the one to tell you that no matter how your baby arrived, she went through something intensely physical, probably painful, and potentially traumatic. You will be a hero if you’re able to be patient and forgiving when it comes to allowing her to take the time she needs (while keeping your fingers crossed that she bounces back quickly, of course, because that can happen, too. You’re totally allowed).
Show Love At All, In Any Ways That Work For You As A Couple
I can’t begin to assume I’ve exhausted all the ideas or efforts that would work for you two. Consider this permission from an Internet stranger to be creative and considerate, because really, what more than you need?