Husband Not Spending Enough Time with Baby - How to Change This?

Updated on May 17, 2010
R.M. asks from Tucson, AZ
16 answers

My husband and I have been together for 5 years, and are first-time parents to a 6 month old baby. I would like to get your thoughts on how much I can expect from my husband in terms of involvement with our baby, and how I might be able to get him to spend more time with her.

Here's how things are now: When our baby was born, my otherwise super-caring husband, who would normally go to great lengths to take care of me if I had the slightest cold, disappeared - figuratively. I would sit in the nursery by myself, dealing with a newborn with no help, hungry, thirsty, and he did not stop by to see if he could help. (I have been fortunate to have my M. around to help, so that saved me.) At this early stage he held our baby maybe 5 minutes a day, OCCASIONALLY trying to help soothe her seemingly endless crying. Later, he would come on walks with us in the evening - SOMETIMES. I commented on all of this - in not the most levelheaded way - read: crying, shouting, etc - and that has resulted in increasing his time with the baby to maybe a total of 15 minutes a day. At least now he stops by her room to say hello, takes a minute here and there to go "gooo gooo, gaaa gaa" with her.

I feel like this baby is just an appendage to his life, and I have become that too. He works from home, so it's not that he is outside the house all day. He needs a lot of sleep (really, for health reasons), and is night owl, so he is either not awake or not fully awake for large parts of the day. By the time he is available, the baby is asleep or going to sleep.

He is not a very emotionally open person, and I recall him talking about his father's hands-off approach with him and his siblings when they were young. But in every other way he is a modern guy: he will cook, clean take care of the house (for which I am grateful). I am sure that his father's influence matters in this case, but I suspect that it is only used as an excuse for the distance that he keeps from the baby.

I had imagined that he would have been MUCH more involved with the baby. I don't care if he changes diapers, I just would like him to have the baby at the center of his world too - so that he knows when she needs to eat, sleep, etc. Right now it usually feels like I am talking to a stranger when I am explaining to him what is coming up next in the baby's day.
I am concerned that he is going to remain this aloof and that will certainly hurt our child. 15 minutes of goo goo time just doesn't seem like a way to build a father-child relationship, but that is all we have now.

I know that there are dads out there that are fully involved from the get-go, and I realize that my husband is not one of them. But how can I get him to be more involved? Why is he so distant?
Your thoughts are much appreciate.

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answers from Orlando on

All men "bond" differently with their babies.... but I refuse to listen to the others who say that 5-15 minutes a day is normal or acceptable-- especially since he is physically there in the house! Find ways to get out of the house to run errands and leave him with her.

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answers from Tulsa on

My little brother won't have anything to do with a baby till they are 2 and then he is all over them. reason he is literally afraid he is going to break them. if you hand him a baby to hold for a second he will hold it at arms length saying are you done yet? men tend to get nervous around anyone that cries. women and babies alike. crying makes them nervous. I say give him time when he realizes the baby won't break he will be there. and you will never convince him he isn't going to break the baby. ever. so don't try. I tried it with my brother with no avail.

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answers from Fresno on

Go get a hobby that will take you outside of the house. When it's time to go, hand the baby to him, go get in the car, and have fun at your hobby. Your husband will figure it out. I started scrapbooking when my oldest daughter was about 6 months old, and my husband and daughter had many adventures together! (Not all of which I approved of, but hey, they spent time together and that's what it was all about, right?)

Remember that a lot of men are really freaked out by babies. Like my DH said, "They cry all the time and have fluid coming out of every orifice of their bodies." When our girls got to an age where they could semi-communicate, my husband transformed into Super Dad. No joke. I travel all the time for work, and this darling man not only drives them to ballet, he DOES THEIR HAIR for it! Yes, really! For a man who described our newborns as "oozing," I think that's pretty amazing. Right this minute, he is patiently explaining how to grill a steak to our 5-year old. So, there's hope for your husband yet. =)

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answers from Denver on

He is new at this too. He is confused, frightened, in awe, intimidated as hell, sure he will screw it up, clueless and not going to guess well.

Chances are high this man has never even really held an infant, feels like he will crush it or get something wrong, or accidentally be responsible for a horrible accident with this fragile creature.

He's lost and clueless and not going to intuit things you don't ask for. He's not going to lose his fears and feelings of incompetence because you want that. But you can give him specific instructions like "I need to do x, please hold her and see if you can get her to settle down. Try swaying or gentle bouncing." And then hand her off and do what you need to.

Also, help him bond. He has no model other than his father's lack of presence for what a man should do. Stop yelling at him and teach him. Have him take his shirt off, and lay down. Lay her on his chest in nothing but a diaper and cuddle up next to him and touch him and the baby. Encourage him to let her wrap her fist around his finger and hold it. Teach him bonding. It's not obvious to most guys.

And don't punish him for his failures. Reward his successes with your obvious appreciation and praise. Tell him you think he's good with her. Tell him how much you love watching him with her.

But assume internally he's a scared and baffled little boy who needs your help to figure this out, not your expectation that he leap in to your rescue on his own.

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answers from Redding on

Some men are born nurturers.
Others, not so much.
It doesn't make them bad fathers, necessarily.
Many, many, many men simply do not really know what to do with a baby. The dads I've known who were like that came around as the kids got a little older and their personalities came out a little more and they didn't have to worry so much about doing the wrong thing.
If they spent more time, they'd know what this or that cry means, but until the kid gets a little older, I think many of them just don't know what to do.
I don't think it means they don't love their baby.
I wouldn't try to force anything, but I would encourage your husband to hold or feed the baby while you take a shower or while you change your clothes. Little by little as he sees that nothing will happen that he can't handle, it won't seem so foreign to him.
I literally have known men who were so proud to be fathers, but scared to death to have anything to do with the kids until they were about a year old. Usually, they were men whose fathers weren't real hands on with them.

Don't get discouraged. Don't give up on him. It's my guess when she starts getting a little more mobile, he won't think of her as such a little "alien".

Best wishes!

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answers from Dallas on

I hear you, sister! My husband and I were married for 11 years before our daughter was born. He wasn't aloof, but he didn't know the routine or how to soothe the baby, dress her, put her in the car seat, etc. He seemed and still seems to an extent to be intimidated by her. I suppose this is partly me enabling this. This went on for about 4 months or so, and I expressed my feelings much in the same way you did and got much the same response. He told me that none of his friends were into the baby thing either and that it was more of a M. thing.

He is definitely in love with her and he spends more time interacting with her (9 months). I did a couple of things to facilitate the increase of interaction. 1. the library had a Daddy and Baby story time that was their time (no moms allowed!) for 30 minutes every Saturday. I went along the first week and then after that I insisted they go together. It was stressfull for him but the story time was all about how to interact and nuture the baby. More than that was me not being there and he got to KNOW her himself. I think this is very important because up until then everything he knew about her was translated through me. 2. They have bath time every night. I do it occ. when he goes to poker or something, but other than that it is their time together. At first he tried to make it a "when he felt like it", but I was very firm about him owning it. I didn't tell him how to do, but I was there for safety,etc. He loves it now. (He gets in the jacuzzi with his swim trunks on with her now).

All I can say is help him. My husband has a heart condition and also doesn't have the stamina I have, but 15 minutes a day is far below what he should be aiming for!

Good luck and love that baby...isn't it more wonderful than you ever imagined?

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answers from New York on

My husband was very much like that with our first daughter. I had two kids from a previous marriage and was very relaxed and comfortable thaking care of a new baby. His experience with newborns was very limited. It used to bother me that he didn't take a more pro-active role with her as an infant, but I also DIDN'T ASK! I think sometimes out husbands see how capable we are... how easy we make it look... and assume we don't need help. If I were you I would ask him to do specific things for the baby. "Gee Honey... I could really use a shower. Could you give <insert baby name here> a bottle, bath, change diaper..." Don't wait for Dad to jump in and take the initiative. Give him a job to do!

Just so you know, after wer had our second daughter, my husband was MUCH more involved with her daily care. He even took Family Leave from his job to care for her!

I hope this helps!

Good Luck!

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answers from Boston on

First of all, I think this "women are born nurturers, men don't know what they're doing" stuff is hooey. I felt full on ridiculous when people talked to my belly when I was pregnant, and I certainly never had a conversation with my kids when they were in there short of "hey! quit kicking me!" Still, as soon as they were born, I loved them to bits and "bonded" with them (although, honestly, bonding is a long process in humans, research proves). My husband is no more or less a "natural" nurturer than I. But we both did have role models of dads who were very involved in our day to day lives, and we had talked about how we were going to share child rearing. It's clear that you had that, but your husband didn't.

The thing that caught my eye in your post was "I had imagined that he would have been much more involved with the baby." Have you talked to him, rationally, about what he sees as his role in this baby's life? He didn't really have a dad role-modeling behavior here; he's got to make his own way. Maybe he hasn't put any thought into it at all. Maybe he wishes it were different but he doesn't know what to do. Maybe he's content with things the way they are. You have to find out what it is he thinks is going on, and then work on expressing your belief that you would like him to be more involved. It's not really his fault that he hasn't lived up to your expectations if you weren't clear what your expectations were.

You really need to make room in your head and your heart to listen to your husband on this. And he needs to make room in his head and heart for how it makes you feel. Things aren't going to get better until you can both understand that this is hard on the other, and find a way to rectify the situation. I think the other suggestions that basically imply that you should "trick" your husband into spending time with the baby are going to leave you both resentful (you because you have to trick him, and your husband because he's way out of his comfort zone). Good luck.

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answers from Portland on

My son-in-law, who is one of the most terrific daddies I've ever had the privilege to know, wasn't sure what to do with his son until he was learning to walk and talk. He did help with diapers and housework, but not so much walking or playing with the baby. Since then he's been deeply and actively involved in parenting. My first husband, father of my only child, would seldom have anything to do with her until she was walking and talking, and then he played with her often (never changed a diaper, if he could help it, though).

This is a really common pattern. Men, as a rule, hate to feel inept and helpless, and with a baby, that's pretty much how they feel. Men frequently have fathers who were distant in one way or another, and that's certainly part of ongoing expectations. And they don't have the hormonal connection that begins for most women during pregnancy.

If you want him to be more involved, don't blame him for what he is not. Don't compare him to men who nurture – yes, they exist, but the ones I know were older brothers who were taught my their moms how to help with younger siblings. Do tell him you'd like some relief from ongoing nurturing, and SHOW HIM what to do, how to do it, and better yet, how much fun or pleasure there can be in becoming a part of his baby's parenting team.

Good luck. I hope you won't expect instant and complete transformation, but will make a point of appreciating whatever efforts he does make. It may not seem fair that you have to "coach" him in this way, but many guys really do need that to find joy in a learning a new activity, especially if it seems so alien to them.

It can get at least somewhat better. And your daughter will have years in which to form a strong and happy bond with her daddy.

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answers from Austin on

I'm sorry you are going through this. Men bond with their babies in very different ways & certainly not as quickly. Ask your husband to take on a specific task everyday. My husband gives all our daughters baths (not every day). He also has at least one feeding of cereal/food per day. This isn't only for bonding with our daughter but also so I have a little time to myself or to get something done. If you ask him to do something specific will he say no? Possibly instead of relying on your M. to help ask for his. Early on I didn't think my husband would be proactive in fathering but as our daughter gets older he doesn't hesitate as much.

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answers from New York on

I agree with everyone who has commented that this is pretty normal. I think that it is hard for men to know what to do with a baby (heck it was hard for me too!) and with your M. around to help, it was probably just easier for him to rely on her to help you.

My recommendation is that you just tell him what you want and need. I had to do that in the early days with my husband and he is a super dad now. One thing that really helped, was that after a night of waking up to feed my son I really needed some rest, so I would send the two of them out for a walk - the baby was so happy to be outside in the Bjorn and my husband was so happy to have him close and not fussing, that they would just walk together for hours. That gave my husband confidence that he could care for the baby. And things truly did get easier as my son got older and could communicate more. I travel for work and my husband takes care of the kids while I'm away, no problem.

The funny thing is that everyone in the neighborhood knows my husband from his walks. He recently broke his wrist and this woman that I don't even know said "oh no! what are you going to do? your husband does so much with the kids!" LOL! He really does a lot, but not so much that I can't handle it for a bit!

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answers from Dallas on

There are dads out there that are super involved....unfortunately that is not most them. The majority are like yours and mine. If you bring it up to them that you wished they would spend a little more time with the baby or kids they say they do. It's really frustrating. I even told my husband that if he wasn't careful "Cats in the Cradle" would be his theme song :-) I hope some how you get your husband to come around and be a bigger part of your baby's life. My kids are 4 and 19 months and I just know that I have a bigger role to play as a mommy so my kids are never without parental bonding (not sure if that's the correct term, but I think it gets my point across). My dad was the same way. Growing up he didn't spend a lot of time with us, but my M. was so awesome that my sister and I never felt like we lack anything.

Good luck! I hope you can find a way to get your husband to want to spend a little more time with your baby.

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answers from Davenport on

My boyfriend was the same way until our daughter was about 1. He had changed maybe 2 diapers, done 1 feeding, and 0 baths, etc until then. I felt like the world was upon my shoulders without any help! He never wanted to do any of the work, but was always the first to let me know when something was wrong. It used to make me so upset. She went though a very shy stage about 11 months, where she would cry everytime daddy came near her. I think this made him realize what can happen from not spending enough time with her. Now, they get along great. He spends alot more time with her (while I still do the majority or the caretaking) and he seems to be more interested in her with the more things she can do. I would just give your husband time, some men just don't seem to get it as fast as we do:) Good luck!!

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answers from Albuquerque on

I honestly think that being a father is something that has to be natural response. Mothers are immediately bonded to their child, in most cases, the moment they know they are pregnant. Men, on the other hand, do not experience the pregnancy or birthing experience. I also believe most men model after the role model that was most involved in their lives as a child. If they only had one parent, what was that parent like to them as a child? If they had two parents, who was the one involved in the child rearing?

You can almost tell what a father will be like during the pregnancy itself. Was he excited? Did he get involved? Did he talk to the belly and so fourth.

Unless he is put in a position where it was necessary to provide for your child in a more inclusive way, I think maybe as a family you should consider some parenting classes, being first time parents.

My experience...I am pregnant with #6. My ex husband, whom I had three children with, did not get involved with them until he absolutely had to, which was when they were teens. My husband, when he was a first time father was involved from the minute we knew we were pregnant. He continues to put us above everything else. I love to see him pick up our son first thing when he gets home from a long day at work.

Good Luck and I hope he will come around.

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answers from Phoenix on

i have two children one is 3 and one is 7 months when my first was only 6 months i had the same worries i thought they weren't bonding and he wasn't into him but after they were able to interact with each other and my son was able to laugh at daddy and grab his face etc they bonded quickly and now are inseperable now that i have a 7 month old its the same story all over again he loves his child of course but doesnt seem to be as interested in the second as the first but i have noticed over time he gets more and more attached. all men really do bond differently to children most men are actually a little weird around babies not only because of their size but they are scared of making them cry and fear of the unknown. give it time doll it will come together

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answers from Charlotte on

Lots of moms have talked about why your husband isn't as involved with the baby as you expected. Instead, I'd like to tell you in a nutshell what to do to get him involved.

Tell him that it is time for him to start giving her the nightly bath, no exceptions. It's his job. Show him what to do the first night. The second and third night, be there to give moral support. Then walk away - no more you with him and her and the bath. This is daddy and baby time. Then add on another baby/dad chore. Make it stick. No if's, and's or but's. If you need to go to the neighbor's house to leave him with her by himself, do it. If he does stuff differently than you, that's okay, unless it's not safe for her. Encourage instead of acting like he's not "doing it right".

Lastly, during a quiet and sweet moment between you, tell him how sexy he is to you, and quite the man, being such a great dad to what you created together. Then take him to bed.

You'll make him feel like a million bucks. He'll feel more confident in this new "manhood" deal. And yes, a father with his children can be sexy to his wife, the mother of his offspring. I remember wondering if my husband would even know how to hold a baby - he didn't seem particularly nurturing before we had kids. This new side of him in front of me was a real shot-in-the-arm after months and months of bedrest from preterm labor, no sex, and the stress of a tough pregnancy.

Try this and see if it works. Give it some time to blossom, but don't back down on him having to take the baby, really and truly.

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