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New Mom Can't Stop "Being Mean"
To her Husband

QUESTION: I had a baby six months ago. Before I got married two years ago I use to have a really good sense of humor and I was easy-going. I have noticed that over time I am becoming more irritable.

Since the baby I have gotten a lot worse. I feel like my husband does not love me enough and does not pay any attention to me. My husband works long hours that include some nights and weekends. It feels as if he never holds my hand, never tells me that he loves me, never gives me a kiss. I just feel like he is not "in love" with me anymore. Not to mention that we NEVER go out by ourselves.

I also feel like I am the only one who does the house- work. My husband is wonderful with our daughter (gets up every morning and feeds her and gets her ready for me to take her to the babysitter) and will do anything to help out with her. But, when it comes to laundry, dishes, dusting, mopping (you know the routine) I feel like he does not do his part. When I confront him about it, he feels he is doing his part (I don't know what part he is doing, but he says he is).

Yesterday we had a MAJOR fight about everything! I asked him the night before to fold the laundry and to try to pick up the house while I was at work (he had a day off). So, I called him and asked what he was doing and he told me folding the clothes. I asked him if he had gotten the chance to pick up the house and he went crazy. He said I was treating him like a four year old that had to do his chores before going out to play! I only asked because all of the other times that he has had a day off while I was working he always comes up with excuses as to why he did not do anything around the house. But on my days off I have to do everything!

Dr. Gayle, my husband slept until 11:15 that morning! I asked him when it was my turn to have a day off and he replied to me that I get a day off on Saturday and Sunday! I told him that if he thinks getting up at 7:30 to feed and change our baby and clean the house and make bottles and do laundry and take care of the baby all day was a day off, then I guess I do get two days off.

Dr. Gayle, I guess after a really, really long story, what I am wondering is, could this be post-partum depression even though our baby is 6 months old? I am feeling as if my husband does not love me enough and as if I am the only one doing anything around the house. I am feeling very overwhelmed and like I can not get out from the groove that I have gotten in to.

He tells me that I am not the same person that he married (which I agree with) and that I am a lot more mean. He also says that I never used to have a selfish bone in my body, but now I am very selfish (I also agree).

I know that my husband loves me and I do love him, but I feel that if things do not change it will not last.

I do not want to be mean anymore and I would like to feel better about my home life and myself. I want to laugh again, but I do not know how to get out of feeling this way. Can you please give me some advice. Also, is this normal?

P.S. I love being with my daughter, and have never experienced such joy as being with her and watching her grow! I wish I could experience this joy with my husband.

ANSWER: You are lonely for your husband and though you love your daughter, it must seem unfair that he saves energy for her but not for you. Begin by letting him know that you are missing him! And that you depend on his words of affection and appreciation for the emotional nourishment that is a part of marriage.

The responsibilities of parenthood are initially confining and certainly you and your husband are suffering from increased responsibilities, decreased freedom, and less time to recharge yourselves as a couple. New parents often forget that their child's health and well-being rests upon their relationship to one another. Your relationship is the garden in which your child grows. She benefits from the love that flows between the two of you. But in your diligence to attend to her needs, you have forgotten your own! Your husband's increased absences may have to do with pressure he feels as a financial provider to be successful, but he will lose his vital connection to the family if his weekend and evening absences become excessive.

You love your child, but you also need to feel connected to your husband. As you adjust to parenthood, you must carve out time to be together. This precious couples' time no longer spontaneously arises. You must replenish from the well that is your relationship. But with Your husband's schedule, your lack of nurturing time together as couple, and your sense of overwhelm with domestic duties, it is no surprise that the well has run dry!

Let your husband know that you love him and you need him home. Insist on being part of the decision-making about the time he devotes to his career. Your depression and anger is likely a result of not having a voice to positively express yourself in the relationship. It is time to identify what you want and insist that your partner discuss a vision of how you want your family life and 'couple time' to be. Naturally, there are many responsibilities and chores to divide up. Put aside some time to talk about what needs doing and clarify responsibilities.

It is true that you may not be feeling appreciated for the work you do at home for your family. You may also feel that your husband has not really jumped "on board" as a team player with the amount of household duties that now abound, in addition to your work outside of the home. Let your spouse know that you need his love and appreciation for the household work you are doing, though it is "unpaid". Ask for his assistance in developing a schedule for sharing household responsibilities. It is true that you must depend on each other for your sense of value in your domestic roles since our society devalues "homemaking".

All of these forces can contribute to depression during the postpartum period, as self-esteem is a major factor in our everyday lives. But finding your "voting voice" and expressing your feelings will go a long way towards creating a solution, rather than repeating the vicious cycle of complaining and blowing up under pressure only to feel guilty about it afterwards!

Your husband also appears to be under stress. He may feel peripheral to the love and daily connection you share with your daughter. And no doubt he is missing you, too! The good news is that you are sensitive to the fact that he is trying to do his share. And your "meanness" may be a reflection of your need for him to be more physically and emotionally available.

Seek to recover the bond you previously shared. Begin a weekly night (or day) out together. Make dates with one another and establish time after your baby goes to bed to spend connecting with each other.

Take special time to explore what becoming a father and a mother has been like for each of you. Express your stresses, your joys, and grieve the spontaneous nature of your relationship before your daughter's birth. You are in the process of creating a new phase of your relationship. And it is time to devote energy to it. Your daughter will benefit from the time you take to be together.

You are at the beginning of your journey together! Becoming parents is one of the most profound transitions you will experience on the family life cycle. Though not an easy change, the challenge inherent in this transition is to strengthen your commitment to your relationship. Imagine yourselves on the other side of this problem, perhaps years from now, dancing at your daughter's wedding! Keep in mind that anything worth fighting for bears the capacity for deeply rewarding and long lasting satisfaction in the years to come!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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