I’m one of the lucky ones. When my eldest was born, my husband was as helpful as could be. My husband doesn’t help at night, but that was really my duty with breastfeeding. But he still laid the foundation to be helpful as much as he could.
Fast forward to now, and my husband gets angry when I ask for help with chores and such, but that’s a whole different story. Today, I want to talk about what to do when your husband won’t help with the baby. I’ve gotten some questions recently that kind of tugged at my heartstrings. I feel for you, ladies.
My husband is not perfect. And the friends that post all about their so-called perfects husbands? I can guarantee there is a husband that doesn’t help with the kids in there. It’s all a façade.
And honestly? It’s not our business, is it? As long as they aren’t being harmed or in danger, relationship problems are something we need to work through with our husbands.
When your husband doesn’t help enough with the baby, that’s a big problem. But it can be resolved with a few tips, of course.
How much should the husband help with the baby?
This is an interesting question because there really is no right answer here. It all depends. Allow me to explain by way of example.
My friend, Letty’s husband, is an extremely successful man. He made all the right investments, and he is mega-rich. He’s also mega-busy. When he is home, he is definitely a husband that doesn’t wake up to help with the baby. It’s not that he’s a jerk, but he’s got to be up very early to work.
Letty has 2 other kids too. But she also has a live-in nanny. So it’s not like she is stuck all on her own taking care of the children. She doesn’t work, so while she wishes that Rick would do more things with the kids, she’s grateful for a solid provider. And he’s wonderful to them when he is home and does fun dad things, well, sometimes.
In this situation, I’d say the husband doesn’t have to help that much because he’s taking on the other responsibilities. And he’s spending time with them when he can.
Unfortunately, someone that wrote me (I’ll call her “Kelly”) told me a very different scenario. “My husband never wants to be home. I feel like my husband doesn’t want to spend time with our family, and my heart hurts. We have 3 kids, the youngest is only 2 months old, and I feel so incredibly lonely,” she wrote.
Oh, Mama! How I wish I could hug you right now! When a husband acts like that, it is definitely time to activate some tips, which I will get into shortly.
In the meantime, if you’re wondering about your husband and how much he should help, go through this checklist:
- Do you have hired help?
- Does your husband have a job he must be alert for in the morning?
- Is your husband the only breadwinner in the family?
- Does your husband spend time with the baby and/or kids during their wakeful hours?
- Does your husband participate in any of the housework at any time?
If you answer “no” to most of these, your husband needs to help out more.
After all, he is partly responsible for the birth of these children. And even if you are the one that is primarily caring for the kids at home because he goes to work, that doesn’t mean he has zero responsibilities to the children or to the home you share.
Why is it my husband never wants to do family things?
In 2008, there was a study from Family Process called “Withdrawal from Coparenting Interactions During Early Infancy.” In this study, it was found that husbands may withdraw to avoid change.
And if you think about it, your body was the one changing the whole time during pregnancy, wasn’t it? But not his. So as you’ve been changing the entire time, now the change for your husband comes when this tiny person comes out.
Anyway, this creates a demand and withdrawal type of pattern where you ask more of your husband, and he holes up in his man cave (either literally or figuratively or both!). As he pulls back, you demand more, and this causes him to pull away even further.
You’re not wrong, but it’s a psychological thing going on with him. You want his closeness for you and the baby, and he doesn’t want to fight, so he puts distance in between you all. Additionally, this same study revealed that new dads feel very excluded because they see that bond between you and the baby.
Depending on your husband, he may try to get more attention from you, put his attention on the baby, or pull away even further. Those that withdrew in this study were less open-minded. And in most cases, the marriage wasn’t going so well before the baby came along.
For those of you that have told me, “My husband does nothing for me,” or “My husband never wants to be home,” or “My husband doesn’t want to spend time with family,” I have a sneaking suspicion that your husband’s ego is still adjusting to having a baby around the house.
And if this isn’t your first baby and this is how he’s been the whole time, I have to ask, why have you put up with it? You deserve better than that!
How to get your husband to help with the baby and around the house
It’s not my business to meddle, so I’m not going to. I don’t know your husband personally. Maybe he’s a nice guy with a lot on his mind. Perhaps he grew up in a bad environment. But whatever the case if he’s not helping with the baby or around the house, you have seen his behavior.
If you continue to do the same things over and over again, guess what? He’s STILL not going to change. Most people don’t change unless they want to make a change. You can try talking to your husband since relationships are based on communication.
However, some men take great personal umbrage with this approach. So try it, and if you get a diatribe about how he did the dishes once back in 2016 (like my husband tried to pull in recent years), then you can move on to my other tips on how to get him to help.
The tips below will not help if your husband is utterly uninterested in you, the children, or the life you’ve built together. I’m sending you a huge hug if that is your situation. And if it is, I hope that you will recognize your worth and move forward with grace. You deserve so much more than to be with someone that doesn’t want any part of you or your children, so please remember that.
For the rest of you, you’re likely coping with husbands that are now going through this mental shock of having a baby around the house for the first time. Even adding more babies into the family can have the same effect on men. So, if your husband is merely a bit reluctant or clueless, these tips should be able to help.
- Create a routine and do it together
Most men that I know don’t like to be told what to do. But if you ask them for HELP, the keyword here, they want to come to the rescue. It all depends on what each of you do for a living too. In Letty’s case, making her husband stay up all night with the baby is absurd. She doesn’t work outside the home, he does, and she has a nanny to help her.
But not all of us are as fortunate as she is. For things that need to be done with the baby, other children in the house, and chores, sit down together to plan. Have him actively participate.
“But Leslie! How do I get my husband to participate if he’s reluctant?” Ah, my dear. It’s simple. Say something like, “Hey honey, I really could use your help. I’m trying to put together a routine for the family, and I really want your input.”
Men jump at this chance.
Yes, even my husband.
I asked him recently if he could wash the dishes. “I don’t want to. I worked all day,” he said, putting his feet up on the coffee table. I had to resist the urge to lob all the dishes at his head.
For as you recall, I work from home now. I cook. I clean. I take care of the kids. So why the @$%& can’t he pitch in with the dishes?
But I wised up. The next time, I said, “Hey honey, I could really use your help with these dishes because I need to help the girls with homework.” Suddenly, he was a different person. “Oh sure, babe, I’ve got it,” he said.
See the difference?
The first time I asked him to come to wash the dishes. The second time though, I told him I needed some help. “Help” is the keyword that triggers a positive male response in almost every situation.
- Be reasonable with your expectations
With my husband, I can’t expect him to do a good job on the dishes. I can’t. But unless I want to redo all the dishes and everything else, I have learned to let it go.
The same is true when he spends time with the girls. Your husband is not a parent clone of you. They will have their own ways of doing things.
Think about chili, if you will. We all have our recipe that varies, yet it’s still chili. That’s what parenting is like. As long as the children are safe and not in harm’s way, how your husband does his share of the parenting is perfectly fine.
If he’s ignoring you all completely, there are bigger problems at play. But if you see he’s pulling back because he seems a bit lost, you can coax him back over by inviting his help. Don’t correct him on anything unless he’s genuinely doing something unsafe.
Men have very frail egos at times, and I know it sounds silly, but he just wants reassurance that he’s still important and special. I get it around here too. I always tell my husband how much I love our girls. And then he acts all weird. When I make it a point to let him know he’s loved (and they jump on him and tell him how much they love him), his attitude changes.
- Do not control everything
Remember what I said at the beginning? He’s partly responsible for making these kids. That means you are partly responsible too. So he should get control over the way some things are done. You can’t control it all.
Some men are naturals at spending time with the baby. When you leave the house to run errands or meet a friend, he’s got all the diapers organized, he’s cooking dinner, and the place is clean. Men that were raised with lots of siblings tend to be better at this because they remember helping out.
My husband, in the grand tradition of most Chinese people, is an only child. Leaving him with the girls when they were babies didn’t bother me. Oddly, it was leaving either of my children with my in-laws who lacked common sense that did.
Anyway, if your husband is still getting the hang of things, leave the stuff he’ll need for the baby in an easy place, front and center. Most husbands will get the hang of it.
Like I said, I was lucky when my girls were babies. Now we have our moments when he won’t help around the house, but if I ask for help, that crucial keyword, he springs into action.
Focus on what you can control instead, and you will be a far happier person. For example, make meals easy by prepping them. If your husband tends to relax on Sunday and loves to play and cuddle with the kids, ask him for HELP while you get the week’s meals ready. If he’s anything like my husband, he’ll be so excited for all the delicious food, he’ll happily oblige.
If you have older kids like mine are now, have them help with chores. Both my daughters clean up after dinner. They’re responsible for keeping their rooms clean too. Obviously, this won’t work if you only have an infant in the house, but even toddlers can be given chores and rewarded to keep them doing them again and again.
And if your husband doesn’t help with putting the baby to sleep, then take charge of the sleep routine. Newborns can’t be put on a schedule, but you can set the stage for that by dimming lights, doing bath time, and reading in the same order every night.
One last thing about husbands…
Some husbands just aren’t very helpful and that, quite frankly, sucks. These tips should help, though, in most cases. When he feels empowered, he’ll be more likely to help and keep you from doing it all, so give it a try!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.