Friday, March 18, 2011

How do partners prepare for parenthood? I mean, DO THEY AT ALL?

Several people have given Mr. Bunny books for expectant fathers. He has not read them. (I have: an all new take on the patronizing bullshit found in the books for ladies, now with added bonus misogyny sprinkled on top!)

Last week when we were talking about how much time he should take off post-Bun Bun, he made some remark about men of his acquaintance being desperate to get back to work because they're so damn bored. Wow, NOT what seems to be typical for women.

And my complaining about Mr. Bunny checking e-mail during infant care class, and seeming generally under-invested, appeared to resonate with some of you.

Leading me to wonder: WHAT IS UP WITH MEN?

Okay, I know men are actually individuals, with their individual ways of preparing for things and dealing with things. I happen to be married to what is sometimes called an arousal procrastinator: in order to get his ass in gear, he needs the impetus of a looming deadline. So while he stresses about things for months in advance, he doesn't actually do them until he gets to a certain point in his timeline. (Which drives me crazeeeee, as I am more or less a non-procrastinator, and can't fathom why someone would want to go through all that unnecessary stress.) I am also married to someone who is not into information seeking. For me, the only way to soothe anxiety is to do research and make spreadsheets. For him, assuming things will work out okay is enough (because, as I've noted before, he's also optimistic). So his approach to preparing for parenthood has been to pretty much leave it all to me (with some charming exceptions that I'll write about later). I've got the checklist, I've scheduled the classes, I've done the research, I've gotten all the little things around the house that needed to be fixed fixed, I'm the obsessing, listing, ordering, nesting one. He's the March Madness enjoying one. (Non-Americans: it's a basketball thing.)

This approach is totally consistent with his personality, and totally consistent with his behavior during our IF treatments. Leading me to think it's just him. And that when you've got a personality like mine and you marry someone with a personality like his, you're getting wonderful things (like some mellow to balance your crazy), but you're also signing up to feel a little alone and unsupported at times.

And of course I keep reminding myself that if I'd left it all to him and none of these things had gotten done, there's an excellent chance we'd be totally fine. That all you really need for a baby is a car seat (and hell, we could walk home!) and some rags.

Still, perhaps because I've read too many obnoxious, stereoytyping books, I'm also wondering if it's not just him. If maybe it's a MAN thing. Or perhaps even a PARTNER thing? Have any of you got partner who was a real partner during treatments, never making you feel the burden was all yours for an instant?* Have any of you got a partner who behaved this way during the run up to parenthood, however achieved? Is there any correlation between pre-parenthood behavior and parenting skillz? Do I need to just take a fucking chill pill on this whole subject?

*Warning: I might have to come beat you up  if you say yes and get all smug about how awesome he or she was...


  1. It is a TOTAL man thing. To be honest it only gets worse from here. My husband has woken up with our 11 month old MAYBE twice since he has been born. A woman becomes a mother the second she sees the positive pregnancy test - a man becomes a father when he sees the baby. Lower your expectations and you will be fine :)

  2. I have come to the conclusion that it is a most men thing - because if I thought it was just my hubs, it would definitely piss me off! My hubs was definitely not involved in treatments. Now there are certainly exceptions. I hear these stories about how women's husbands would make all the phone calls to doctors and insurance companies, prepare all the shots and do the injections. And my hubs complained about doing his thing in a cup...

    Which scares me a bit when I think about future parenthood. His father was one of those that didn't do anything. We've talked about it a bit, and he says he will help - but I don't have high expectations. Just like with the trash at home, just like taking care of the dogs now, he will do things - if I ask specifically for help - sometimes. And that's just how he is. Which sucks - but I have to live with it, don't I? I agree with Anonymous - you must lower your expectations.

  3. Bunny, i'm catching up on all of your posts... and I swear whenever I read your blog I laugh my ass off! I feel like I'm reading about my own life and since we're so close together in pregnancy, its so damn refreshing!!

    So, I have to say that I am TOTALLY with you on this one. Mr. Wannabe is exactly like Mr. Bunny. We have the books geared toward men (that I've read, he hasn't) and I've actually put what I call a "Ball Buster List" on the fridge that is filling with different things I'd like done around the house before the baby comes. He's finished some jobs, started but not finished others, and has all but ignored the rest! I'm losing my shit over it and he's having beers with the guys after hockey games!

    All of that said, I don't believe there is a direct correlation between this behaviour now, and parenting later. My best friend's husband was also a passive partner during her IF treatments AND during pregnancy but is the most delightful father. So... I think we still have hope!!

  4. It's a dude thing to a certain extent. KB only went to one or two IF appointments with me, and only the ultrasound appointments with my OB. But, then again, I always gave him an out to not attend any more than that. He always seemed less interested in the information being presented, but I must emphasize that word -- seemed. He's naturally more laid back than me, and so like the Bunnies, he is the calm to my crazy. But he was paying attention.

    It's true that dads don't become parents until the baby is born -- friends of ours have confirmed that this is a universal phenomenon. But I don't think it's fair to characterize all dads as being lazy or uninvolved just because some may be. KB has been incredibly involved -- he's changed many, many diapers and puts Jackson to bed every single night. Now, he rarely gets up at night, but he has done his share of going in to check on a crying baby and shushing him back to sleep (in the throes of our sleep woes). I usually have to wake him and ask him to do this, but he does it. Personally, I think that male behavior can change somewhat after the baby is born, but you have to be ready and willing to ask for the help you want. He won't read your mind or sense your obvious (to you) frustration. He won't take your complaints as hints in search of support.

    And as far as taking time off of work -- KB had the same debate, ended up taking just over 2 weeks off, and was happy to be home. It's kind of boring for everyone to sit and watch a baby sleep and eat, but it's also awesome. I bet he'll come around.

    Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, lower your expectations. He is your husband, your partner, the father of your baby. High expectations are certainly acceptable. Just make sure you're communicating, and that your expectations for BOTH of you are realistic. A lot of things will happen organically (as in, don't worry about what the books say) when you bring Bun Bun home and start to figure out your rhythm as a family.

    Also, those books for fathers are rubbish. Try an online site with weekly/monthly milestones that offers a phone app or something -- dudes love gadgets, and KB loves his iPhone app with monthly baby milestones. Worth a shot.

  5. P.S. I don't mean to be so emphatically contrary to others on the topic of "lowering expectations." But, I think it's really important to remember that we (women, mothers) tend to put crushing pressure on ourselves to be everything to everybody, and we just can't. It's not humanly possible. And yet. We try. You do have to learn to let some things go -- maybe the house won't be as tidy, or more meals will come from a takeout joint, or laundry will pile up a bit. You can lower expectations for perfection. But please, don't set the bar low for Mr. Bunny as a husband and father. I have confidence he is capable of rising to the occasion.

  6. I think you already did this - but get his ass to a breastfeeding class so that he may learn to serve you as a humble, obedient servant every day.

    Get him to a car seat installation class. THAT one is a doozy - right up their alley of fix-it mentality.

    I feel like this comment is poo poo - but wait til he gets his hands on Bun Bun. New man walking.

  7. omg, i wanna die. i wrote the longest comment and it f-ing disappeared. let's try again ...

    dh was super supportive *during* IF treatments, but not as much inbetween. *during*, he would offer to come to all my daily monitoring appts, prepped and did all of my shots, and was awesome. inbetween ivf's, he was soooo laid back and in love with the world (barf) bc he had sooo much hope and optimism that ivf would work for us. i, on the other hand, did research upon research and made spreadsheet after spreadsheet to compile info on anything and everything related to ivf, immature eggs, asians, etc ... and become super obsessed. something he did not like at all, and i couldn't understand how he wasn't doing the same. the inbetween treatment part was when he wasn't supportive of my (admitted) craziness.

    okie, now that i'm pregnant, he is reading every book he can get his hands on. neither of us is lazy and we're both *doer's*, but he's made ME look bad in the last 7 months. he's put together spreadsheets for MOI of things i need to get done before baby girl gets here, what he needs to get done, etc. he's done with his list and i'm a little behind on mine (to be fair, i am having these annoying contrax). my point: he is super involved and wants and expects to do his share once baby gets here but ... all i want is for him to be my servant once baby girl arrives and to do what i want when i want and how i want when i say i want it. i don't think this is going to happen. he's gonna want to be equal partners (again, barf) and do everything together. i am bossy (have you met me??!!!) and like things done MY way, and was hoping to just boss him around when time comes bc let's be real, i have good intuition and am just going to KNOW what needs to be done once baby gets here and he won't. i fear that he will actually have an opinion and want some things done his way. maybe, maybe not. i dunno ... i *do* know he'll be super helpful, but not someone who is TOO helpful, if you know what i mean??

  8. My husband is just as emotionally committed to TTC but like sienna mentioned, in between cycles he resets more easily than I do.

    He's also less into research and more hands-on in terms of how he learns things, so I do all the pre-trip planning and he does on the ground stuff when we travel.

    But, he's always always always wanted to be a dad (seriously, when he was a kid and people asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said a dad) so I have no concerns about how he'll be as a parent.

    I do agree with JB -- don't lower your expectations, and don't be afraid to ask him to do things, be it in the middle of the night or no.

  9. Is it mean that this post just made me feel better. I am sure you have heard my complainsts about E before, I tend to need to nag him to do something. Yesterday, I asked him to pick up meds for me at cvs and you would think I asked him to donate his kidney. I do think this becomes the dynamic in a lot of relationships. I find it hard not to take it personally. My mother took care of most of the household duties but my dad was VERY involved, I am hopeful that E turns out this way (his dad like to be catered to, I am not the catering to type).
    I have no good advice for you other than you are good company here.

  10. It's GOT to be a man thing. I mean, C is supportive and totally helpful as far as fetching me tea and taking the trash out--that sort of crap. As far as the burden of BECOMING pregnant, making appointments, deciding what needs to be done and when... you know, actually getting shit done? Well, that's totally all me. Men just think this shit magically happens. If it was up to him to do stuff, we'd still be sitting around saying we definitely want to have kids someday, and that would be the end of it. NOTHING would be done right now.

  11. wow, so many differing opinions already!

    my husband is more of works hard perfectionist type, while I am usually more big picture, planner, instigater. C was with me at all of the big appointments and tests (SHG, HSG, every consult, and every IUI) but I didn't feel it was necessary for him to be with me during the monitoring appointments. He never made me feel like IF treatments were my thing, he was always there when I needed him to be and didn't complain.

    There were times with the losses when I felt completely and utterly alone in my grief and I wish he was there for me more. He went back to work the next day while I cried for the entire day. I went by myself to get my MTX shots with the ectopic when it would have been better to have him with me. But he didn't feel the loss like I did and his way of coping was to get back into things.

    He is preparing for fatherhood in someways - he'll come to the classes w/ me (newborn care, breastfeeding, childbirth) he's reading the daddy books (expectant father, birth partner), but it still seems like he's not quite as invested as I am. I asked him the other day how often he would like to feed the baby a bottle and he just gave me a blank stare. eventually he answered "i thought you would feed the baby all the time." So, while he's reading the books and doing things (like turning the loft into a third bedroom - finally done as of last night!) I don't think he has any idea how to take care of a baby and it seems like he's planning to look to me for how I want him to be involved all the time.

    With time off, he is planning to take the full two weeks and offered to take more (though it would be unpaid), so I think he really wants to be there, but he has no idea what that really means.

    Obviously I have no idea how this will translate into him being a father. I'm sure the first couple of weeks he'll be hovering and asking what he can do since he's off work, but after that..he usually leaves at 7 am and gets home around 7 pm. So I'm just hoping he gets to see the baby and we figure out a routine that works and I get some sort of break at night and on the weekends.

    But honestly...neither of us know what we're doing. I don't know what I expect of him, but I do expect him to be a partner and helpful when he's here and to want to be involved and a parent to our child just as much as I am.

    I don't think you should lower your expectations. Like another commenter said, communication is key. Also, I think once the baby is HERE, something will click with our husbands and they will want to get to know and be involved with the baby. (but perhaps I am too idealistic?)

  12. It's not just you. My hubs is so laid-back that sometimes I wonder if he has a pulse - and I'm so wound-up and crazy that he probably dreams of a strait jacket for me at times too. Theoretically, we're a good match. However - as you pointed out - people like you and me tend to interpret their laid-back-ness as not caring. DH went with me to all of our IF appointments, but wasn't one iota neurotic about it. Apparently, I was doing enough of that for both of us. Now that I'm PG, I could sit with my hand down my pants every second of every day just to feel one kick a day, but he's not interested because he knows he'll feel baby move eventually. Grr.

    It finally clicked a few days ago when he said to me, "I'm just patient. I can wait for those things to come." This is true - he is possibly the most patient man ever. I thought that pregnancy and our long-awaited baby would be THE thing that made him impatient and anxious, but apparently nothing will ever do that to him. If I were being detached and logical, I would be grateful for a partner whose patience, pragmatism, and level-headedness makes up for my utter lack of those three qualities. But, I'm hormonal and weepy and crazy. So I'm trying not to take it personally... no turning back now, anyway. He's here, he loves me, and every now and then I catch glimpses of his excitement. Just don't let the little voice of doubt in your head tell you that his calmness = disinterest. It doesn't. They just aren't wired the same way we are, period.

  13. During treatment (and after my laps, Lupron and going to every u/s, appointment and even shooting up without his involvement whatsoever), Hubby was all "OMG, I have to do WHAT in a CUP? You have to make it happen" and generally quite hands-off. Um. Pun not directly intended, but still funny.

    During pregnancy thus far, he has tread lightly around me, as if I'm a foreign being in his home. His Preparation for Fatherhood seems to involve a lot of avoidance. Which somtimes makes me want to throttle him.

    But when I ask for something, he's on it. And usually right away, which is an improvement over Pre-Pregnancy. Do I wish I didn't have to tell him to do stuff all the damn time? Sure. But I also wouldn't want him fawning over me and making me claustrophobic, either.

    So, yeah. Men do it differently. That's fo' daymn shore.

  14. Yeah, I don't agree with the "lower your expectations" idea either. You're a behavioral scientist, right? It's time to get all operant conditioning on his ass.

    Seriously, there are some men who think the best way to be supportive is to just follow our lead (in some realms), rather than be proactive. That's generally true with my partner.

    He's hella caring, but I've had to nudge him to be more in the game for household stuff and pre-parenting stuff.

    I guess it worked, because he's all over parenting. Household stuff is still sort of on me (we share the tasks, but I'm the one keeping track of what needs doing) but with parenting, I'm delighted to discover that we're totally in it together.

  15. Oh dear. I'm the "man" in my relationship. I'm the arousal procrastinator, as my therapist (and professors) can tell you (thanks for the handy term! I always just called it "crazy" and "masochistic").

    We're nowhere near the prepping for baby stage, but I'm pretty sure DH is going to be on top of his game, because he's already the one who remembers to buy more toilet paper. I'm the one who has to scrounge through the garbage can looking for something slightly absorbent because I didn't realize we were close to running out.

    But I am the one who focuses on big project stuff-- buying a house, pursuing treatments/researching REs, redecorating, travel plans. I'm more a one-time researcher, he's more an every-day doer.

  16. Oh, lordy. I have one of those at home too. I sometimes wonder if the more planful and anxious I get, the more laid back he gets. I wonder if I regressed towards the mean, would he?
    Like other folks who have commented, I feel like once there is an actual outside Bun Bun, things will be a little different. The screaming infant is an imperative hard for anyone to ignore.

  17. Argh! Long comment eaten by Blogger!

    Short version: My H and I are BOTH "arousal procrastinators" and I appreciate having a name for it. There is some crazy shit up in here when one of us is on a deadline.

    Don't lower your expectations for Mr. Bunny. He needs to step the fuck up. If he needs to get to a certain point of freaking out before he actually does it, well, OK...but just letting you handle everything will not cut it. Do I need to march down there and tell him what's what?

    "Hi, you don't know me but I read your wife's blog, and you need to step the fuck up."

  18. Ok, I had these exact same thoughts and concerns. I felt like during IF treatments and pregnant he was very disconnected. Literally he would be on his blackberry at doctors appointments! He was so calm and seemed to assume that everything would just be fine while I would worry, research, obsess.

    BUT, shockingly, and I know this sounds clichéd, but it was like a switch flipped once the babies were born. I mean, he needs a super dad cape! I think men need a big dose of reality to get into gear. Hoping that happens with Mr. Bunny...and if it doesn't just give him a big kick in the butt!

  19. I also think it's a man thing. Forward planning? Not entirely a male's (or perhaps any partner's) natural habitat, especially when it comes to procreation, and what results. My guess is that a lot of men DO kick into action when they need to (though, their idea of necessity is much different from ours).

    I think we've had so many misses that my husband has had ample (and too much) time to consider things. He's as impatient as I am, and that really has resulted in a partnership. Had our first or second (or even third) pg come to fruition, though, I'm pretty sure we'd both be in different psychological spaces.

    I think one person always ends up shouldering more. Biologically, we're dealt that card. But even when it comes to Google research and appointment-making. As I may have mentioned, my husband becomes narcoleptic during consultations. I'd be lying if I said this hasn't irritated me. But as long as he's there/supportive/on the ball in the crucial moments (and he'd better be, she says, caressing the baseball bat) then I can deal. For the most part:)

  20. Don't worry Bunny, mother nature has taken care of this one for you, when little Bun-bun comes out he will look just like Mr Bun-bun (which is kinda annoying kick in the pants) and Mr. Bun bun will be smitten. Otherwise you will just need to kick his ass :)

  21. I distinctly recall an instance during my pregnancy where we were laying in bed for the night, and I started crying because I felt like there was SO MUCH still to be done, and I felt like N simply didn't get the urgency of it all. It was part-hormones, part-personality, really. When I am anxious, I tend to displace my own insecurities. When I start to feel inadequate (rather than confronting my own feelings of inadequacy), I blame him for being the inadequate one. (Not implying this of you, just sharing my own issue.)

    N and I are opposites in ways that at times feel discouraging, but, in hindsight, are quite complementary. Of course, in the throes of anxiety, it doesn't feel complementary at all. When he's not as ramped up as I am, I tend to feel that he's not invested or is minimizing...but really he's just far more mellow than I am, and I could take a page out of his book. It's a personality thing, and he has shown me time and again that he IS quite invested. His investment just looks different than mine.

    Perhaps you simply need to directly task him with something(s). I got all pissed off at N at one point and told him I wished he spent as much time researching car seats as he did researching his fantasy football trades. But then I seriously told him: pick out your top 2 car seat picks and bring them back to me. He responded when I asked him, but I had to pointedly communicate that need to him. Whatever your need is, pointedly ask him for it.

    I think he'll surprise you, Bunny, once Bun Bun is here. I felt a little sad for N that he couldn't feel the baby, that he had no idea how freakin' cool it was to feel this thing inside of you. You've been bonding with BunBun in a really intimate way throughout your pregnancy...and Mr. Bunny's time is coming.

    Anyway, I wholeheartedly second JB's perspective. Don't lower your expectations.

  22. My husband is super helpful and amazing and is an incredibly active father, but I sometimes need to initiate and ask for help or support. In some ways, I think a lot of the child rearing responsibilities still fall on the women - Yes, he changes diapers and takes his turn with bath and bedtime routines, but I'm still the one who takes the lead - booking doctor appointments, making sure we have wipes, sorting the clothes baby outgrows, making decisions about solids and sleep, etc, etc, etc. I really love JB's comment. I have high expectations of Mr. Bunny, and so should you. I have no doubt that any man you married will step up once BunBun's here (and probably sooner as the deadline approaches).