Home About Dr Gayle Counseling Services Speaking Services Online Seminars Articles Press Room Books Contact

Ask Dr. Gayle

Has to Beg Husband to
Spend Time with their Child

QUESTION: My husband seems to be addicted to the computer. He goes into his own world, and you have to yell to get his attention. We have a little girl who is a year old, and I feel he spends more time on the computer than with her. He goes to school from 8 AM to noon and works from 4 PM to 12:30 in the morning, then gets on the computer as soon as he gets home. On weekends and his days off he turns it on as soon as he gets up in the morning. I have to beg him to please spend time with our child. I know he loves her a lot, but I don't know how to make him see that family is more important than a computer. Please help me!

ANSWER: It is possible that your husband is burying himself in his computer as a compensation for the loss of couples' time, which decreases dramatically when a baby arrives on the scene. Your concern about your husband's withdrawal is valid (unless of course this is a temporary problem stemming to intense work deadlines he is faced with). It is important for the two of you to realign your relationship before the gap widens any further.

Becoming parents requires a major reorganization of your family system. It is all too easy for couples to lose their connection to one another in the first year of parenthood. Our own parents represent our first role models. Your husband may be repeating his father's patterns of withdrawal into "his own world." Or he may be handling feelings of depression by separating himself from the family, particularly if this was a coping style he developed in childhood in response to stress he felt helpless to solve any other way.

Consider carving out some couples' time to explore the changes that have occurred in the last year. Ask your husband what becoming a father has been like for him. Be sure to let him know that you can hear both his negative and his positive feelings. Share your own journey as a new mother. It is natural to lose sight of your relationship when so much time is spent apart, and when you have separate responsibilities. But it is time to catch up with the transformation each of you has undergone this year and to establish a shared vision marriage and the family.

Your marriage is experiencing growing pains. Take a proactive approach to regaining intimacy and steering a new course together. Shared activities which reinforce the joy of parenthood must develop as part of the family's growth in order for the endeavor to be enriching for all. Plan weekend outings to the zoo and other experiences that help you see the world anew through your child's eyes. And reserve regular dates for just the two of you to help your couples' relationship thrive.

Intimacy is a one-on-one experience. Your relationship is the foundation of your family life. Strengthening your couples' bond will be the best insurance your child can have that she will grow up in a cohesive and loving atmosphere. Consider joining a mother's support group, and suggest to your husband that he attend a father's support group in your area, if possible. He may also benefit from reading the book "Pregnant Fathers" by Jack Heinowitz.

Invite your husband back into the marital relationship. Remind him that he is married to you, not his computer! Now that your daughter is here, there are fewer opportunities for spontaneous intimacy. You must be willing to build in quality time to pay attention to one another. By making your relationship a priority, you give your spouse the message that he matters.


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.

Return to Dr. Gayle Peterson's Home Page

Copyright 1996-2003.  Gayle Peterson All rights reserved.

Send Comments and Inquiries to Dr. Gayle Peterson at gp@askdrgayle.com