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New baby: "I'm resentful of my partner!"

QUESTION: Since giving up my full time professional job to take care of our new baby, I find that i am becoming increasingly jealous and resentful of my husband. I am lonely at home, and resent the fact that he can drive freely to work, socialize, go to lunch with co-workers, attend fancy business dinners, business trips, etc and not have to change a diaper in the middle of the second course, or leave dinner because of a crying baby. Whenever I try to talk to him about how I feel, he says that someone has to work, and the things he does are work-related, not social outings. I know I should be grateful for the opportunity to stay home and raise our daughter, but the emotional side of me screams, "NO FAIR!" How can I get over these feelings?

ANSWER: Your complaint about the nature of your different roles in the family is a common one: My life has changed more than my spouse's. You are right. It isn't fair! You do experience more immediate changes in your daily life in caretaking your daughter, than your husband does. Clearly you have chosen these roles at this time for a good reason, but this does not mean that you can instantly adjust!

Consider the following suggestions for remaining connected with one another through this major family transition.

1) Make room for feelings

Expressing feelings and being understood, comforted and appreciated by your partner is part of the solution. Do not expect yourself to simply get over these feelings. Instead, let your husband know there are special and precious moments you enjoy (that he does not) and that you are also lonely and lost in the enormity of the change in your daily life. Like a teapot letting off steam, you need to release these feelings in order to adapt. Let your husband know you are happy for the decision the two of you have made for you to stay home with your child and the financial role he plays in that decision is appreciated. But insist that he allow you to complain, without taking it personally! You can help by expressing your vulnerability rather than your resentments. Express your feelings in a way that invites him to reach out to comfort you, rather than pushes him away.

2) Reach out for comfort

Parenthood brings change to both of your lives. One of the most important things you can do as a couple is to stay in touch with your partner through the changes. Communicating in a way that can result in comfort rather than blame is essential. In order to adjust to this change you do indeed need your husband to appreciate and understand what you are going through!

It is common to hide our needs in anger rather than express what it is we need in a way that invites a connection with our spouse. When this occurs, our spouses are likely to become defensive instead of comforting. When you are feeling lonely, for example, consider saying, "I am feeling lonely these days. Can I talk with you for a few minutes on the phone during the day when I feel this way?" Rather than "It makes me so angry that you are out having a good time with your colleagues at lunch, while I am home with the baby!"

3) Let your spouse know what he can do to help

It is your partner's job to listen to your feelings and be available for comfort. Arrange to connect by phone or e-mail if you prefer, or both during the day. It is true that you are the partner going through greater change in your daily life, and you do need his special attention to this fact. A few 10 minute breaks are not too much to ask and keeps the two of you connected to one another's worlds. Ask him to create some emotional availability to you during his day. Do your part by refraining from blaming him for your feelings. But expect him to step up to the plate to be willing to take time out of his day to connect with you, rather than turn you away!

Also consider taking walks together in the evening to catch up and spend time together. Find rituals that allow you to decompress from your days and catch up not only on the events of the day, but on the feelings you are experiencing in your changing roles.

Another important part of understanding your changes is for your husband to experience primary responsibility for caretaking his baby. Father-daughter time which leaves dad in charge of baby's needs for an extended period of time, on a regular basis ensures that a primary bond develops between dad and his baby. And it allows him to experience some of the challenges you face in your day home with her.

Finally, don't forget to reach out to other moms in your situation! Peer support from others who know exactly how you feel will do wonders to help you through this transition. These women can hear your resentment without taking it personally. Sharing feelings with other moms who have made a similar decision will definitely resolve some of your loneliness.

Your feelings are as natural as the weather. Find productive ways to express yourself and seek comfort and understanding from your husband through this period. Like snow in sunshine, resentments will inevitably melt with the warmth of human connection!

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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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