Baby, what is going on?
The birth of a child is a major life event for both mothers and fathers, as well as for other family members. Coming to terms with the magnitude of the event and its impact requires time and takes significant emotional resources. In addition it proposes an immediate impact to any existing relationship within the couple or family dynamics by its nature – an arrival of a new member. When a child is born there is social and cultural expectation that it would be a joyful and happy time, and sometimes the contrast of reality, could cause devastation in the parent’s life.
Mothers, Fathers and Myths
Our operations as individuals and as family members derive from a greater social and cultural context. We are influenced by the culture, family and gender expectations from us as parents, women and man and this has a great influence on our experiences. In the process of working with men and women I have encountered several messages such as “Men don't want children as much as women do”, “Men are insensitive to babies”, “Dads don't make much difference”, “Men can't multitask" which are social norms rather than absolute truth.
Most parents I have worked with, dealt in some level with the disillusion from the "maternal instinct myth"; the notion that women have some biological drive that would kick in the moment that the baby is born and therefore she ought to know what she is doing, she ought to love the baby from day one and she ought to be happy. It suggests that a fountain of knowledge is accessible to her merely by the fact that she has given birth because it is natural and therefore easy. Culturally speaking, the image of mothers is one of serenity, happiness, softness and care. The father would be OK less involved and play second fiddle to the mother. This invites a socially acceptable discount of the father’s ability to take a proactive part in child care. This can create difficulties for both the mother and the father from different reasons.
This is a great opportunity to reflect on your expectations from yourself and from your partner, and work together to create an understanding, a "family contract", of who does what, what are your needs and how are they met. It is likely that this will change on a regular basis and it is good practice to revisit it from time to time. If this process is creating great conflict, then you could benefit from couple therapy where both of you can discuss this in a safe and confidential space. If your partner is not interested than you can still invite change by coming on your own. Change does not happen without changing something...