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Son's worries

(31 Posts)
LesleyC Sat 12-Dec-15 23:26:13

My son and his lovely wife had their first child 3 weeks ago at the age of 40. They were so happy about this although the birth ended up being an emergency Caesarean. He has looked after him so well, as my DiL is obviously limited in what she can physically do. We all get on well and I have shared some of the care with my DiL's mum when my son when back to work. However, he rang me this week to say he isn't coping with this life and is away from his son so much he feels he isn't bonding with him. He was promoted at work a month before the birth and it means him travelling a lot. He says he feels he has lost his life and his wife and is neither a good dad or husband. I am so sad as he appeared to be a wonderful caring dad. He loves his job and I don't think he is over stressed by it, but seems to feel split in two. He did have 2 weeks paternity leave, but unfortunately the planned induction didn't go according to plan and he had already spent 4 days in hospital and another 2 days before his wife came home, so only had another week at home with them.

I was sympathetic with him and tried to understand and reassure him, but now I feel quite cross and that he is being selfish and should just accept that this is now his new life. The old life is no more and my DiL is having far more adjustments to make. I don't think it would help to say this. He is in such conflict with himself and already berating himself.

Is there anything I can say to help? I can't bear to think that a happy marriage might go wrong after the birth of a much wanted baby. The man always has to go back to work after the birth, so do any others feel like this?

Elrel Sat 12-Dec-15 23:46:07

I can only suggest that you carry on supporting and encouraging your son and DiL as you are doing. Maybe, like many new mothers, he had a mental image of how perfect everything would be and is finding the reality so different that he's confused by his own reactions. I can see that he probably wouldn't want to involve anyone at work in view of his recent promotion but wonder whether he could confide in HR or talk to his GP or a health visitor.
Wishing you and your family every happiness with your new grandson.

Tegan Sun 13-Dec-15 00:09:06

I think it's very confusing for men these days as they seem to be expected to be wage earners and hands on fathers. Also, men can experience post natal depression as well as women. I don't think he's being selfish but is very confused [and very very tired]. Young parents these days seem to go into childbirth with 'birthing plans' that they expect to, well, go to plan, and it's difficult for them when they don't. You're honoured that he's confiding in you; in my limited experience most men seem to bottle things up at times like this.

soontobe Sun 13-Dec-15 01:18:29

I think he is being very brave to say that he worries that he is not bonding. And very loving too.
He may need to speak about his job to see if there is something that can be done for him to get a better balance for all concerned.

Eloethan Sun 13-Dec-15 01:19:02

It's still early days and a new baby can bring tiredness, worry and added practical and financial pressures, along with great pleasure.

I really don't think he is being selfish - it sounds quite the opposite to me.
Some men who enjoy their jobs would be quite satisfied with carrying on as normal and leaving the domestic side to their wives. He is concerned that he is apart from his wife and new baby and is missing out on so much. It sounds to me as if he must be feeling quite depressed to ring you up and talk about this. I believe there are support groups for fathers and I wonder if he might consider joining one of these so that he can share his worries with other dads.

I hope things are soon more settled and he can feel more relaxed about being a dad.

Synonymous Sun 13-Dec-15 01:40:13

Lesley -It is so good that he is talking to you, many parents/GPs would give their eye teeth for that.
Being new parents at around 40 is a huge adjustment for both of them so just carry on being as supportive as you can with lots of positivity and encouragement until they get the hang of this new life they now have. Hopefully your DDIL will soon be able to do more herself and the new little family will start to jell making the new normality apparent and life will settle down.
Enjoy your new grandson and nurture the lovely relationship you clearly have with your son. It is all change for all of you as there has been a seismic shift in all the relationships.
My mother advised me to always remember to think twice before opening mouth as even if asked for our opinion it was not really wanted! confused

thatbags Sun 13-Dec-15 07:07:55

Your son is a good argument in favour of more paternity leave, lesleyc. Some countries are beginning to cotton on to this.

Wendysue Sun 13-Dec-15 07:10:23

Hi Lesley! I'm so sorry that your son is facing these worries at this time that is supposed to be a time of joy. Though I agree that it's great that he feels comfortable venting to you, I'm also sorry that he's visiting these concerns on you. Especially since they are probably unfounded, he is probably a great dad.

As for those concerns, themselves, I agree with the others that they're understandable. Yes. perhaps, "the man always has to go back to work after the birth." However, today, I feel there is more expected of the man as far as childcare is involved, so I can see where some men might be as torn when they have to return to their job as many women are if/when they do. Besides, your son may be particularly attached since he did much of the care in the beginning.

So I also agree that you need to continue listening and being supportive, partly because I get what he may be going through and partly because I think arguing with him or dismissing his worries could very well backfire on you. Beware of offering advice, especially if it's of the "get over it!" variety. He has to work this out for himself.

Maybe just sounding off to you will help him do that. Also, most likely, as the baby begins to smile and laugh and so on and your son sees that he's happy, he (your son) will calm down and adjust.

Before you know it, all this will be behind you. Enjoy that baby!

gillybob Sun 13-Dec-15 07:32:02

Is it possible Lesley that your son is mourning the life of a couple that he and his wife once shared? And this "feeling" is just that it has finally hit home that he is now a father and part of a family. Some men find it very difficult to share their wife even if it is with their own much longed for baby. Could he be realising that their perfect life as a couple is gone forever. Also paternity leave cannot go on forever and I wonder would another week or two or 10 made any real difference? He can't be at work 24/7 and unless he is away for weeks on end will have lots of time in the future to bond with his child. It is important that he makes the most of the time they do have. Part of me is still wondering if he is a little bit jealous.

Leticia Sun 13-Dec-15 07:49:26

I think that it is good that he is talking about it- many men wouldn't. Traditionally men were just supposed to work long hours and miss most of it. The birth of a baby does change life and give you new ways of thinking about things. It is early days. Is it possible to get a better work/life balance?

cornergran Sun 13-Dec-15 07:51:19

Lesley I wonder if your son just needs reassurance? Adjusting to a new baby on top of the adjustments triggered by promotion is bound to be overwhelming at times. It could just be that the picture he had in his head of being super dad is just unattainable and there is more adjusting to do. So, no, I don't think he is being selfish but as others have said struggling with balancing his work pressure and his wish to be with his family. Does he have time off over Christmas? If so that may help. Or can he have some annual leave in the New Year? It's hard for us to hear our children have worries, no matter how adult they are, but wonderful they can share those worries with us. I think they often just need to offload. A space to acknowledge fears and pressures which helps them cope. You are supporting as you can, this stage will pass. They will work it through. Try not to worry and enjoy the new life in the family. Good wishes to you all.

Leticia Sun 13-Dec-15 08:16:36

If you don't have a baby until you are 40yrs and then have a traumatic birth the surprise would be that you can just resume work as if nothing had happened! It takes massive adjustment for everyone and you can't expect it in less than a month. Just reassure that the feelings are quite normal.

M0nica Sun 13-Dec-15 08:30:19

Post baby blues are not restricted to the mother. Fathers too can suffer from something similar. The arrival of a baby is such a life changing event, even when longed for. In this case his wife also had an unexpected caeseran as well.

I would suggest he sees his doctor or talks to the Health Visitor or Midwife, who visits his wife. What your DS is going through is a traumatic and difficult experience and is probably as much hormonal as PBB. Get him to seek proper help.

Granarchist Sun 13-Dec-15 08:45:48

So interesting. I think this enormous shift in lifestyle at his age is s toughie. I wonder what his original expectations were? They must have friends with babies and must have seen the exhaustion they bring. I do think the expectations of fathers input in child rearing have sky rocketed. My DH went back to work the next day, took no time off and I never thought he would. But I was in hospital for 10 days during which I had no other things to do other than look after the baby and recover. Now even after a C section my DDwas home within 24 hrs and sil up all night and shattered. I think exhaustion is as much to blame as anything else. At 40 it's a killer.

loopylou Sun 13-Dec-15 09:09:59

My DS didn't like returning to work after DGS was born but luckily didn't have to travel with his job, in fact he's said he'd love to be a stay at home dad.
None of us can imagine the exhaustion that accompanies having a new baby, I think that's what is colouring his emotions at the moment. I'm sure it'll all pan out, it's very early days. DS said it was nearly 6 months before he and DDIL felt they were getting anywhere near the 'new normal'.

They're very lucky to have both sets of parents near; DDIL's parents stayed for a few days but had to return home abroad and I went up for about a week when DS returned to work.

LesleyC Sun 13-Dec-15 09:33:05

Thank you so much for all your sympathetic and helpful replies. I think my son probably is mourning the loss of his previous life and fatherhood is so much more exhausting and all demanding than he thought. They both probably idealised the idea of a little cute baby (which of course he is!) I feel mean for momentarily thinking he was being selfish which all your replies make me realise he isn't. I am sure it is just going to take time to adjust and as a poster mentioned, when he starts smiling and responding it will all seem worthwhile.

In the meantime I know it will be an ongoing conversation with my son and I feel a bit better equipped to respond to him now.

gillybob Sun 13-Dec-15 09:35:30

"None of us can imagine the exhaustion that comes with having a new baby" loopylou confused

Are you having a laugh??

Stansgran Sun 13-Dec-15 09:43:29

I think she meant until you do have a baby Gillybob. The painting is always the fond gaze on the sleeping infant never the six o clock colic.

Luckygirl Sun 13-Dec-15 10:48:51

The fact is that starting a family is a huge huge life change. He, like the rest of us did, will gradually get a grip on that. Life will never be the same again; his relationship with his wife will change; he has to become a real adult. No-one can change that - it is a fact of life.

I think you need to be a bit hard with him - as well as encouraging (you say he has every sign of being a good Dad so you can say that). He has to get a grip for the sake of his wife (who must be knackered) and for the child. I think if you are too sympathetic he will become more convinced that he is hard done by. He could choose to take some more of his annual leave entitlement soon if he thinks that would help. If the firm don't like it then it is not a good firm to work for.

Deedaa Sun 13-Dec-15 15:10:49

I think that his promotion and the baby will have come as a huge upheaval for both of them. I think that the main thing is to reassure him that things will settle down but it will take a while. In a few months when the baby is sitting up and taking notice he will wonder why he worried about bonding because the baby will probably think he's brilliant. The first few weeks are just such a hard slog for everybody.

hildajenniJ Sun 13-Dec-15 21:58:24

My SiL was in the RN when DGS 1 was born. He had to join his ship just three weeks after the birth. He was away in the south Atlantic for eight months. My DGS had no idea who the strange man was when he came home on leave. Bonding was very difficult for them ( unknown to us DGS had Asperger's). Of course Daddy had to go away again, and when he returned DGS called him the man for quite some time! DGS is now 7yrs old and he has a fantastic relationship with his Dad. Feel free to tell your son this story. I don't think he has any need to worry about bonding with his baby.

loopylou Mon 14-Dec-15 06:32:36

? gillybob
No, I'm not having a laugh. Thank you Stansgran that is, of course, what I meant.

Nelliemoser Mon 14-Dec-15 06:56:41

How much decent sleep are they getting? Plain exhaustion could be an issue.

Your son might feel a bit nose out of joint if mum is spending all her time with the baby.
Is there any poosibilty of paternity leave for dad? Although a lot of that depends on employers or family finances.

Lots of other wisdom on here though.

LesleyC Mon 04-Jan-16 11:26:21

Thank you all for your sympathetic replies. I think over the Christmas period things have begun to fall into place. My DiL is able to drive and get out and about more after her CS and they are both just getting more confidence with the baby and more sleep. I think my son really hadn't bargained for the change it was going to make to his life. They went to NCT classes and I think they both were given a totally unrealistic view of the birth and afterwards. Fortunately they made some good friends there and stay in touch with them and their babies.

Tegan Mon 04-Jan-16 12:01:41

Oh the dreaded NCT classes; they have been very helpful in that my DIL has a good local network of friends etc but I can so relate to the 'unrealistic view of the birth and afterwards'. I wasn't allowed to see the baby in hospital because 'NCT advises against it' sad.