After spending years working on a harmonious partnership, everything is thrown into complete upheaval with the "baby quake." Beyond all the anxiety over trying to interpret the litany of cries coming from that swaddled alien, couples are also dealing with exhaustion, stress and hormonal postpartum complications.
This is truly a "one day at a time" scenario playing out on all fronts. An unexpected result of all this mayhem could be a bubbling brew of jealousy on the part of dad against the baby.
Dad jealous of his own newborn? Don't panic. As explained in Psychology Today, jealousy is "a natural, instinctive emotion that everyone experiences at one point or another." We've all been there in one form or another. A person can be jealous about a neighbor's "perfectly manicured" front lawn.
They can be jealous of a coworker's ability to get along with upper management. Walk along the corridors of any high school and there will be plenty of examples of the green-eye monster rearing its ugly head at every turn. Remember those days? So, it is perfectly understandable that a solid rock of a dad would find himself with pangs of jealousy.
Jealousy is rooted in a threat from a "third-party." With dads, that third party seems to be the only party in the room: The new baby. This isn't to say that for one minute that dad doesn't adore that baby every bit as mom does. It is just that now that little someone is now getting all the attention. Who wouldn't be jealous at that? For further proof consider these signs that he's jealous of the baby:
15 The Silent Treatment
They say a couple should never go to bed angry. Talking out problems is much preferable than the dreaded silent treatment. It's hard to imagine any couple getting through life without experiencing the silent treatment at least once or twice (or a hundred) times.
The silent treatment occurs when one partner feels aggrieved and shuts down. All communication is cut off and sulking becomes the attitude of the day. Typically, this will be noticed when the dad constantly retreats to their man cave (Unless that room was converted to the nursery, which leads to a whole other level of jealousy!).
Usually when that happens, the partner who is remaining silent hopes that they'll be asked, "What's wrong?" In 100% of cases, the answer to that query will be, "Nothing." The choice is either to press the issue to find out what's really wrong or let that person have their space.
14 He Becomes Overly Competitive
Every baby's dad probably has a few skill sets. They might be terrific with changing oil on the car or figuring out how to record all episodes of Top Chef on the DVR. Some of their skill sets might have nothing to do with the child rearing but when jealousy flares up, they becoming overly competitive to regain your attention. He might just start changing light bulbs and taking out the trash without even being asked.
This competitive streak might pay off with getting that "to do" list accomplished but it could also backfire. If dad feels like he is being overworked and just used for his "skills," then the jealousy he is feeling can become compounded.
Being competitive can also trigger intense competitions with other dads. That is where you see the Cheerio stacking on a napping baby tournament come into play. These dads mean business and they've got the photos to prove it!
13 The Shoot Down
A jealous person will try to shoot down the accomplishments of that perceived third-party threat. With the jealous dad that "third-party" would be the baby. Moms are often the ones who closely track their baby's every milestone from when they can lift their head to making all those amazing "goo-goo" noises. Those are absolutely very important events, which can easily be uploaded to an app and then downloaded all across social media. While all those benchmarks are being recorded, dad might be off to the side scoffing.
The dad who is feeling jealous might try to shoot down the achievements of the baby with a series of snarky comments.
"Yes, he's sitting up and that's great but I've been sitting up for 30 years." The jealous person is looking for affirmation of their own achievements and belittling someone who is very little themselves becomes a potent weapon in their arsenal.
12 The Longing Looks of Sadness During Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is an amazing bonding moment between a mother and child. Even with the potential latching on complications, it can still be a rewarding experience. It is also something that dad will never get to experience. Essentially, dads are left out in the cold during these bonding moments. In fact, breastfeeding really can become a jealousy "twofer."
First, they miss out on the bonding element. Breastfeeding means a mother is providing their child with the essential nutrients required for their development. Often in those first few weeks, the moms are providing the only source of sustenance for the child. That is a huge role. What's dad doing during this time? Changing the diaper pail.
Second, there is the territorial element. Before the baby came along, dad had that "playground" all to himself. Now he has to share. Things get further complicated when intimacy is put off and dad is denied. No wonder he's jealous!
11 They're Desperate for an "Atta Boy"
Encouragement is the name of the game with raising a child. That encouragement starts right out of the gate. Even burps after feeding are rewarded with praise and accolades. The jealous dad might be thinking, "Enough with the praise. He doesn't even know what you're saying."
As a result of these feelings, the jealous dad will be looking for those same kinds of compliments for their accomplishments no matter how insignificant that might seem.
They might even resort to fishing for praise when a simple task is completed. There will be a lot of, "So, what do you think of the way I cleaned the bottles? Nice and sterile, right?" And "How about that folded laundry, huh? I bet you've never seen so many piles of tiny shirts before." They want a big high five for everything. Mom can help out dad in this situation by letting the praise flow. It won't hurt.
10 He Puts Himself Down
Jealousy can also spin back on the person who is jealous and cause them to put themselves down. Dad might vocalize these feelings of poor self-image as a way of venting. He'll start putting down how much weight he's put on, how out of shape he's become and how every little blemish is making him look horrible. In comparisons with what pregnancy and childbirth does on a woman's body, dad's spare tire flare up isn't an issue.
Of course, to him it is a big deal. He's just not feeling himself and his confidence has taken a hit. On the other hand, that baby can do no wrong. Even diaper disasters are thing of beauty because it means the "plumbing" is working as it should be.
It is careful to watch out for those insecurities in a jealous dad because they can manifest themselves into a deeper form of depression. Yes, even dads can go down the dark path of postpartum depression.
9 Anger Flare Ups
One thing that all parents have in common is a lack of sleep. It is easy to recognize in the eyes and foggy glances. Aside from the overwhelming weariness, sleep deprivation can manifest in raw emotions, too.
A partner who has gone from eight hours of sleep every night to an ongoing interrupted five hours of sleep is going to find themselves rather "brittle." Thankfully, most anger flares up are quickly followed with an apology and "I'm just exhausted." Because both parents are experiencing the same sleep deprivation issues, all is forgiven.
On the other hand, someone who is feeling jealous could snap at their partner without offering up that immediate apology. They are looking for their comments to sting. This has nothing to do with the lack of sleep and more to do with the anger that irrational jealous creates. They can't yell at the baby so they're going to lash out at the next best thing: Mom. It is totally childish but that is what jealousy makes us do.
8 They Seek Validation Outside of the Home
Just because a dad is jealous of a baby doesn't mean he's going to run out and start flirting with strange women to get attention. However, that doesn't mean they aren't on the constant lookout for some form of validation.
What they might do is try and spend more time with the boys outside of the house. This is where they can get that confidence boost. The simple act of shooting hoops or watching the big game at a sports bar allows them be in their element once more and not feel like a "third wheel."
This type of behavior can have the unintended consequence of making the mom feel isolated and alone. She would probably like nothing more than to have a girl's night out but feels obligated to the baby. The insidious nature of jealousy creates these emotional wedges between couples that fester until a genuine blow up occurs.
7 They Doubt Their Parenting Skills
Nature demands that babies become "mom-centric." Their first word might even be "momma." That is going to drive a jealous dad right over the edge. That dad might also be feeling as though their parenting skills are lacking.When it comes to changing a flat tire, they've got that covered but swaddling a baby in the perfect "burrito wrap" is beyond their skill set.
Ironically, "making it up as you go along" is a huge part of a new parent's life. Despite all the books and classes there are just some things that are going to be learned by trial and error. The jealous dad, who is knocking down their parenting skills, needs to be reminded that they're great at being a dad. It helps to reinforce the team aspect of parenting. As things settle down, there will probably be a long list of items that dad can claim as an expert.
6 He Buys Himself Toys
A new baby is going to be literally and figuratively showered with all kinds of presents. It will be wave after wave of toys, clothes and gadgets. These gifts are often meet with squeals of delight from mom but the jealous dad is nonplussed.To him it all looks like a bunch of things that the baby will grow out of. Worse: they are things he can't play with.
How will a jealous react to their child receiving all those presents just for being a baby? He might go out and buying himself his own toys. He finally has a justification for getting that drone. Of course, he'll rationalize this as being a great way to take pictures of the baby.
Usually, these incidents of self-gifting are with small things but be on the lookout for the big purchases like a car or boat. That could signal some very deep jealous feelings. It might also be early onset of a midlife crisis.
5 They Become Anti-social
Once a couple has settled into the routine of a new baby, they'll probably want to show that baby off. That means inviting friends and family over or packing up the kid and taking them on the road. Most jealous dads are going to beg off on those engagements. They would probably want to be anywhere else because it's just another excuse for the baby to get all the attention. It's amazing how they suddenly remember they need to clean the rain gutters.
If the jealous dad is coerced into going to the event, then they're sure to be huddled off to a corner where they can escape all the adoration being heaped on their offspring. They might find small comfort being put in charge of the grilling but overall, they probably want to leave as soon as they get there. This kind of brooding can quickly ruin what could be a wonderful occasion of sharing. Now mom has to look out for the baby and the dad to make sure they're both happy.
4 They Take Passive Aggressive to a Whole New Level
Passive aggressive behavior is often referred to as "sugar-coated hostility." It is a way of avoiding conflict while simultaneously generating conflict. Someone who is experiencing pangs of jealousy will crank up the sarcasm and snide remarks. Those can be very hurtful and cause even more trauma.
We've probably all experienced forms of passive aggressive behavior at the workplace when a jealous coworker attempts to undercut achievements. The jealous dad can power up the passive aggressive behavior by denigrating everything that the mom does to keep the house running. It might appear that they want to help but in reality the jealous dad hopes they will be called in at the last minute to fix things. That is how they get to be a hero and reclaim their "number one" status around the house.
One of the ways to combat passive aggressive behavior is to calmly call it out. Let that person know their actions aren't appreciated and get them to search deep for why they're acting like that.
3 They Procrastinate With the Baby Stuff
With the arrival of every newborn comes several new pieces of furniture or gizmos that require assembly. We're not just talking about plopping in some batteries but instead some highly sophisticated IKEA-level construction.
Before that baby came along, these were the perfect jobs for dad. They often took great pride in making sense of incomprehensible directions. They would even get bonus points for not following those directions and still getting the piece built.
Now, that same handy guy is taking forever to build a simple bookshelf. Suddenly, they don't have the right tools and that means a trip to the hardware store. They might discover they're missing a specific screw or bolt. Back to the hardware store. Any outside observer can clearly see dad is putting off doing that job. That procrastination is another symptom of jealousy. Why should they put together that toy when the baby won't even thank them? Again, childish but expected.
2 They Withhold Intimacy
The official recommendation from OB-GYN for postpartum sex is six weeks. In those six weeks, mom's body is getting back to balance. She's also nurturing that baby around the clock. That child is getting all the attention as they should.
Finally, when things have settled down and the six weeks are up, she's ready to be with dad. That is when he might suddenly feign exhaustion or a terrible headache. That might be true but he could also be withholding intimacy as a kind of "punishment" for all the attention deprivation he has experienced.
There could also be some psychological reasons why dad is withholding sex such as being afraid of how things might have changed. This reaction can be filed under, "cutting off the nose to spite the face." Ironically, the act of intimacy between mom and dad is one sure fire way to get over those jealous feelings.
1 He Becomes Way Too Clingy
A mother who has spent her waking hours tending to the baby's feeding, cleaning and general care needs a break. The moment that child drifts off to slumberland is the perfect "me time." This is when mom might notice a jealous dad coming at them from all angles. They think that since the baby is quiet, it's time for him to reinforce his role as loving, supportive spouse.
That's nice but they can also be way too clingy. All that hovering and soothing strokes on the arm won't let a mom have a minutes peace. Clearly, this is the opposite of withholding intimacy but the goal is the same: The jealous dad is desperate to get noticed.
It might seem at times that with all this peevish jealous behavior that you're dealing with a second child. A good heart-to-heart conversation should help clear things up. That and appreciating that these feelings are absolutely normal for dads. It's best when a light can be shined on them.