Does stay at home mum know baby better than working dad?

Which may be true. But does she have to rub it in?

Dad changing nappy

My child’s list of likes and dislikes is growing every day.

Likes: being kissed on her cheek, hitting the orange lion in her play gym with her right hand while her left hand is holding the green frog.

Dislikes: waking up on the change table with her nappy off, tummy time, being startled awake by idiot parents talking to her while she’s asleep, or being hugged so tightly she screams at me to stop.

Watching a personality slowly develop within her is remarkable. What’s really difficult, however, is that the majority of that amazing development is happening while I’m stuck at work and I’m hearing about it second-hand.

In the first few weeks after her birth I was at home and involved in every aspect of my daughter’s life – I knew what every sound she made meant, I could tell when she was getting hungry, when she was tired, when she wanted to be held, when she wanted to be put down.

Now, I move to hold her and my partner tells me to stop. I move to burp her and my partner tells me that’s not why she’s upset.

More and more I’m hearing from my partner: ‘She doesn’t like it when you do that’, ‘Don’t hold her that way’, ‘She prefers it when you do this’.

I know her ‘advice’ is coming from a good place, but every time she corrects me all I can hear is “You don’t know your daughter at all’ and “you’re a shit dad”.

The rational part of my brain understands it’s perfectly natural that, for now at least, my partner will know our child better: she’s with her almost double the amount of time I am. If someone fixed cars double the amount of time you do they would probably be better than you too.

The irrational part of my brain doesn’t give a crap about facts, and believes that since I am her DAD – that label entitles me to an intimate, instinctual awareness of everything baby. It wants me to know exactly what is going on with my child all the time, no matter where I am, through sheer intuition alone… My baby girl is making a sound I’ve never heard before? Don’t ask Mum, if I stare at her long enough and use my amazing DAD instincts, I’ll figure it out.

I decided Mumma really did know better after twenty minutes of trying to force formula into my screaming daughter’s mouth, begging her to drink it because she was clearly hungry. (My partner fixed it within one minute of coming home – she wanted her teether… idiot)

The Lesson:

If you are a stay-at-home mum (or dad) consider that there’s more than one way to do things. Just because dad holds the baby differently, or soothes the baby differently, doesn’t mean he’s doing it wrong. And even if you are only trying to help, sometimes you need to step back and let dad learn the same way you did: By trying, and sometimes failing, but being better at it next time – ideally without another person hover co-parenting and pointing out every imperfect move.

If you’re a working dad, don’t kill yourself trying to achieve the impossible. As much as it sucks, for a while your partner will likely know a little more about your child than you will. It may be frustrating, but try to treat their advice not as an attack on your lack of knowledge about your daughter and your skills as a dad, but see it for what it is: them trying to help.

If you’re like me and that’s not enough to stop the thoughts of inadequacy, then try to specialise in something….

Buy some special attachments for the pram, or some unusual toys and read up on how to use them. Learn about the different developmental steps, or about starting on solid foods. Become a master of advanced swaddling techniques, or an expert in something, ANYTHING, so that for once your partner will have to check with you for your parenting expertise….

Besides, the situation will change before you know it:

Soon she won’t be developing so rapidly it’s like you’re coming home to a new baby every day. Soon you’ll be having special daddy daughter or daddy son time that Mum won’t be involved with. Soon you’ll feel like you have your own, private, incredibly special bond with your child.

And likely, sooner than you think.