Becoming a Dad Article

Getting Between You and Your Baby

A major factor in your involvement with your child will be whether your partner encourages and facilitates your hands-on care. If she becomes possessive of "her" baby, she may actually come between you and your child. But only if you let her.

"Gatekeeping" is a term applied to possessive moms who restrict a father's access to his child. It comes in varying degrees and is common. This can be a new mother who develops a compulsive, highly protective focus on the baby and distrusts anyone else, including dad, to care for him.

Or it can involve a mate who is irritated or angry at you for any reason, and ends up taking it out on you and ultimately your child by interfering with your relationship. Or a variety of other circumstances that fall in between.

Gatekeeping often manifests itself in her micromanagement of your interactions with your baby. For example, constantly hovering around and criticizing or correcting your every move.

She might say, "Kate doesn't like to be held that way," when Kate is clearly comfortable in your arms. It is just not the way she likes to hold your daughter.

It is driven by her feelings; in most cases mothers do not make a conscious decision or are even aware they are hindering dad's involvement with his child.

Interestingly, if her relationship with her own father was poor, she will be more likely to support and relish a strong one between you and your child.

Twins, colic and mom going back to work also diminish this problem by simply leaving mom with no choice but to accept you as a parenting partner.

The Real Problem
The bottom line is that your efforts to engage your child are frustrated rather than facilitated. The real danger is that her behavior will cause you to lose (or never gain) confidence and actually back away from taking care of your own baby.

During those trying first months when you are unsure of what to do, it is easy to conclude that "if she wants to do it all, let her." Once established, this becomes a very hard pattern to break for both mom and dad.

Real Solutions
First, understand what is happening. A gatekeeping mom's whole life is wrapped around that baby; she may need something to call her own to just feel a sense of purpose in her life.

Second, don't take the easy way out of your child's life by succumbing to the comfort of sitting on the sidelines.

Stand your ground and get involved:

  • Demonstrate to her that you are capable of caring for your child when the opportunity presents.
  • Be sensitive to her needs and ask for her "advice" on how to care for the baby. Be patient when she calls five minutes after she leaves you home alone to ask "how is the baby doing?"
  • Use your trump card: explain that "her" baby will greatly benefit from the very relationship with you that she is undermining.
  • Finally, you don't need to ask her permission to care of your child. Take advantage of the many opportunities you have when mom is asleep or in the shower, and encourage her to get out on her own.

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