The Ugly Green Monster Under Your Bed

“He gets to go to the office all day and have a REAL lunch break!....and coffee breaks! – I can’t even get a break to go to the bathroom!”

“She gets to spend all day with our baby and gets to see all of our baby’s firsts! – I’m missing so much!”

JEALOUSY – that ugly green monster that lurks in the relationship between many new parents.  It often looks like anger when it rears its head, but when new moms and dads really think about it, they will admit that they are sometimes jealous of each other.

Many new moms struggle with the loss of their previous identity – perhaps they had worked outside of the home, or spent more time doing the hobbies they love. Perhaps they volunteered in the community and felt a strong sense of purpose for a particular cause.  Maybe they were able to help out and spend more time with their extended family. And suddenly, their life gets flipped upside-down and their new role as a mother completely takes over.  They are suddenly without coworkers, doing fun things with friends becomes much more difficult, and taking care of their baby becomes (what feels like) their sole purpose.  At the same time, it often feels to new moms like new dads get to hang onto their previous identities.  After a short paternity leave, most dads return to work as though nothing has changed.

Dads sometimes feel jealous about the idea that they don’t have as strong of a bond with their new baby as their partner does.  Dads sometimes envision that moms and babies are having fun all day without them, and building a closeless that the dads aren’t experiencing.  Even when they come home at night, dads often feel that moms are reluctant to let dads do too much with the baby – because moms know the best way to do everything baby-related.  New dads also sometimes don’t realize how incredibly hard and time-consuming taking care of a baby is, and see their partner’s maternity leave or ability to stay home as a “break” from working.

These different perspectives and the jealousy that ensues can cause rifts in the relationship between new parents.  Here are a few things that you can do to minimize the jealousy and its effects:

  1. Talk to each other about your jealous feelings. Often, moms and dads keep these feelings inside and they don’t realize that the other is feeling the way they are.  By expressing what’s bothering you, it helps your partner better understand your perspective and why certain comments or actions might trigger your emotions to rise.
  2. Reflect back what your partner is feeling. Show them that you understand why they feel the way they do.  Acknowledge and validate their feelings.
  3. Work together to find ways to minimize the jealousy. For instance, perhaps dad can give mom a few hours each weekend to have “me time”.  And perhaps mom can allow dad to do more things with the baby when he is home, even if dad’s methods are slightly different than mom’s.

By using these techniques, you should be able to keep that ugly green monster from terrorizing your relationship.  Better communication about your feelings and working together to find ways to deal with them will help increase your understanding and appreciation of each other, helping you build an even stronger relationship.

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