When you’re caring for twins or more… taking care of your wife or partner is just as important. Here are 5 tips about caring for your partner, written by a singleton father, and annotated by me (to account for life with multiples)…
I was sifting through some old boxes. And I found a little blue book.
I don’t know where it came from. I’m guessing it was given to me when Kathleen was pregnant, but likely before anyone knew she was carrying triplets.
It’s written by a guy named Brett Cohen and it’s called Stuff Every Dad Should Know.
It’s a pocket-size guide for new dads.
It kind of reminds me of the SAS Survival Handbook. Except instead of learning stuff like how to start a fire without a match, you’re learning the basics of domestic survival… how to properly hold a baby and how to be ‘there’ for your partner.
It wasn’t written by a father of multiples, and that’s apparent at times. But it is an honest, and somewhat funny attempt at preparing new dads for fatherhood.
I came across a small section near the beginning called Five Tips for Caring for Your Wife or Partner. And I’m going to share some of the author’s insights on the topic, along with some of my own thoughts and multiples-related commentary below.
Here are his tips…
1. Be Supportive
“A new baby can sometimes be overwhelming; you and your partner will have moments when you doubt your parenting skills, decisions, and sanity. Don’t let her fall prey to the second-guessing – assure her frequently and sincerely that she’s being a great mother.”
If a new baby (singular) can sometimes be overwhelming, I’d say that new babies (plural) are definitely overwhelming.
It’s easy to second-guess yourselves. You’re learning on the job, and you’ve got some very demanding customers.
The thing Kathleen and I tried to remind ourselves of at those times of uncertainty was something her mother told us.
And that was “your babies don’t know that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
And for some reason that made us both feel better.
As for moments when you doubt your parenting skills, decisions, and sanity…
That never changes.
2. Be a hands-on dad
“This book introduces you to the basic skills to help bathe, diaper, feed and burp your baby. Do these things. Your relationship with your children and their mother will be all the stronger thanks to your daily participation in the parenting trenches.”
Okay. Definitely not written for fathers of multiples.
If you’re a dad to twins, or triplets like me, helping is not optional.
Here’s a little story…
When Kathleen was still pregnant, and we were at the baby store organizing our gift registry, the woman at the desk asked me, very sweetly and sincerely, “So, are you going to be a hands-on dad?”
I was dumbfounded.
I didn’t know what to say.
I didn’t know there was any other kind of dad.
Apparently, there was a “hands-off” option I didn’t know about.
I’ve since realized that there are plenty of dad’s that take this “hands-off” approach.
And I don’t understand that.
Actually, I’ll be blunt. I’m shocked at how little some dads do for their newborns, or for their partners.
As far as I’m concerned, whether you’ve got one baby, or quintuplets, parenting is a team sport.
But that’s not every dad’s attitude.
I know one twin dad who couldn’t stand when his friends would refer to him looking after his twin girls as, “babysitting your kids.” His opinion was, it’s not “babysitting” when they’re your kids. It’s called “parenting.”
So, for me, it goes without saying. BE A HANDS-ON DAD.
It goes back to that word ‘partner’ from Tip #1. If your wife is your partner, it kind of implies that you’re her partner too.
3. Let her sleep
“Sleep deprivation can cause a lot of anxiety, and anxiety can strain your relationship. Relieve Mom of duty at every possible opportunity so she can close her eyes and recoup.”
I don’t love the tone of this last tip. It makes it sound like the parenting is mom’s job, but you should try to help out whenever you can.
You should want to lend a hand for more reasons than “sleep deprivation can put a strain on your relationship.”
You know what puts more of a strain on your relationship?
Not being an equally contributing member in that relationship! Or worse… sleeping when your wife is up all day and all night.
So, be sleep-deprived together to save the relationship!
But, yes… larger point taken. Make sure that mom is getting rest when she can.
This could mean letting her sleep through an entire night feed, by bottle-feeding the babies on your own.
4. Don’t let her hunker down
“After a new baby is born, Dad will often be the first to go back to a regular work schedule, leaving Mom to mind the home front. That means she’s on the clock 24 hours a day. Not only can such constant responsibility become mind-numbing, it can be extremely stressful as well. Whenever possible, kick her out of the house for a much-needed break. Encourage her to get a manicure or go to the gym or meet a friend for coffee. She’ll come back recharged and refreshed.”
Important. The first 4-6 months can be really isolating. If you or your partner are home with the children, you’re not getting out much.
So, getting out alone, but also with your babies, is important. A change of environment, fresh air, adult socialization… these are all good things!
But I’d say, most times with multiples, your wife or partner won’t necessarily want to get out and do much. More likely, she’ll just want to get away from the babies for some alone time… even just to take a shower… or take a nap.
5. Bask in the glow
“When things settle down for a moment, remind her about how great this whole family thing is. The sleepless nights will pass. So, too, will the constant self-doubt. Remind yourselves of that hopefully-not-so-distance future, and enjoy your baby in that moment.”
I don’t think things ever really settled down for a moment.
And, like I said earlier, I’m not sure the constant self-doubt ever ends.
But I do agree strongly that it’s important to enjoy your babies (plural) at every chance.
And that kind of appreciation is a habit.
You have to make a habit of taking a mental step back and actively appreciating your life.
Because “appreciative” won’t be your default state. Tired, yes. Grumpy, quite possibly.
Being appreciative takes conscious work.
The first few years with multiples can seem like a blur.
And if you’re like us, and all your kids are the same age… you will only get to live that baby stage once.
So it is important to be conscious, and appreciative, of those moments.
Tell yourself and your partner, “look at us… look at these babies we made… this IS incredible…. we are so lucky.”
Take a breath when you can.
Enjoy those moments. Because those moments are everything.
Alright, so those were my thoughts on that section of the book. I’m interested in scanning through the rest of it, to see what else the author has to say.
I’ve never had just one baby, so I don’t know how that feels. This book makes me think that a lot of life with multiples is similar, but just much more intense.
Challenges are amplified exponentially, the more babies you add. But then again, with twins and more, so are the precious moments.