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When it comes to the fears and expectations about new parenthood, men and women aren’t always on the same page. And it doesn’t help that much of what divides them often goes unspoken. Here, a few brave couples talk about the issues at stake. Plus, 9 things dads can teach moms about babies.
You've got issues. Agreeing to get married, agreeing to have a baby, agreeing to have one appetizer instead of two: Your life up until this point has been nothing but childless child’s play! Most first-time parents become fixated on the challenges of childbirth. But you’ll be faced with equally demanding challenges as soon as you get home from the hospital, and they won’t end as quickly. So the next time you’re going back and forth about whether to order the guacamole, try verbalizing your thoughts on the more hot-button topics.
To help you out, we asked psychologist Pamela Brill, Ed.D., author of The Winner’s Way: A Proven Method for Achieving Your Personal Best (McGraw-Hill), to offer workable solutions to some of the often-unspoken dilemmas that bedevil expecting parents.
HE THINKS: “I’m afraid of what having a baby is going to do to our relationship.”
SHE THINKS: “It’s going to be the best thing in the world!”
Some men dread the third-wheel syndrome. Others dads fear they’ll be turned into baby-wearing wimps. In any case, the days of fun and games are over, right? “We’ve had eight great years together,” says Chris Gentile, a professor of English literature in the Midwest. “But we don’t know what will happen when the baby is born.” His wife, Susan, thinks she’ll have no problem finding a balance between being wife and mother.
“Maybe our needs as a couple won’t be met when they need to be met, but we’ll get it together,” she says. Or will they?
THE THERAPIST SUGGESTS: “Your ability to talk about things other than a child is what brought you together in the first place—you need to keep it going,” Brill says. Try to maintain some independence and interest in one or two of the hobbies or activities you enjoyed before the baby arrived, Brill adds; that’s particularly important for new moms.
HE THINKS: “We won’t have enough money.”
SHE THINKS: “We made a budget—what’s the problem?”
New stroller, new car, new house, child care … college! The list of future purchases overwhelmed John O’Connor, an actor in Chicago. “I know I need to make as much money as I can, so I have a number of projects going,” John says. At 36 weeks pregnant, his wife, Jan, can’t see what all the fuss is about. She doesn’t want John to turn into a workaholic, absentee father and thinks the money they once spent on meals out and vacations will take care of the baby’s needs. “I know it will all work—we figured it out on paper,” she says. “John just needs to see our new budget in practice.”
THE THERAPIST SUGGESTS: Such money issues may have a silver—even gold—lining. In other words, it’s great to look at pregnancy as a time for each of you to reassess your career paths. “Either recommit to becoming more successful in your present line of work or pursue other options,” Brill says. But you have to work as a team. “If Jan’s serious about wanting John to spend time at home, she has to stick to the new budget,” Brill adds.