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From the outside, he is a loving father. He takes our child places. He shows off pictures. He’s never shied away from changing a diaper. He’s active in our child’s life like many fathers are not. But his confession last night has shown me that despite all the markers of a good dad, he is conflicted, frustrated, and regretful.
How can I help him deal with these feelings? What can I do to support him? — Heartbroken Wife and Mother
Well, first of all, I would take what your husband said during a middle-of-the-night wake-up by your toddler with a great big grain of salt. I know in my years of motherhood (I have a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old and am only now seeing light at the end of a long tunnel of parenting babies/toddlers/preschoolers for years on end), I have said things – either out loud or to myself — in the throes of a particularly challenging parenting moment that don’t reflect my true feelings. This shit is hard sometimes. A lot of times. And in the early years, which you are currently in, it’s very hard to see the big picture: the toddlers grow up. And while life doesn’t return to how it was pre-kids, peace does come again in longer and more frequent stretches. Of course, if you have another kid, the clock re-sets again, but please know – and remind your husband – that this (parenting a toddler) is a season in your life and parenthood won’t always be grueling in this way.
It’s a great sign that your husband is a great dad, especially considering that maybe toddlerhood is not his favorite stage. He’s active, is hands-on, and exhibits pride. If he can do all this while feeling what he says is “deep regret,” imagine the potential if/when he doesn’t feel deep regret. I think it’s possible he already doesn’t feel deep regret – that that was just something he said in the middle of a rough night when his sleep was disrupted yet again and that on an ordinary afternoon he may not frame his feelings that way at all. But let’s say he DOES actually truly feel deep regret right now. I think it’s possible — likely even — that as your toddler continues to grow and get more independent, that that deep regret will transform into something else entirely: deep gratitude, for example. It’s incredibly rewarding and gratifying to watch your babies grow into independent, funny, smart little PEOPLE — like actual people — with ideas and opinions and gifts of their own. The stress lifts a bit, and joy and pride fill the space it used to take.
In the meantime, tell your husband you don’t judge him for what he said, but you want to know how you can support him so that his parenting responsibilities don’t feel so overwhelming. Does he need more “me time” during the week? Does he need a weekend away by himself (or with friends or with you!)? What about your old life together does he miss the most and how might you be able to bring hints of that into your life now? With only one kid it should be especially easy to, say, take turns waking up early on the weekends with your toddler, so that each of you has a day to sleep in and lounge in bed with a book or the paper or get up and go for a jog. Brainstorm together how you can make some tweaks to your life/schedule so that you each are supported in ways that help relieve/manage your stress. Reiterate to your husband what a great dad you think he is, how much you love him, how grateful you are for your life together, and how much you want him to feel those things too.
I know it must have felt jarring to hear your husband say he deeply regrets having a child, but it doesn’t need to spell doom. Look at it as a warning that something needs to change in your/his life. Fortunately, there are lots of small changes that can be made that will have big impact (not the least of which is your toddler growing more quickly than either of you may realize!).
Just a couple weeks ago, I decided to go to a gynecologist and see what is really going on. Well, the radiologist was right; I do have adenomyosis, and as a result I’ve been living with severely debilitating pain every two weeks, as my cycle is only 18 days. I get severe PMS, anemia due to the amount of blood loss during menstruation, and hormonal hell every 18 days. I have one week where I am happy and then the PMS sets in, with the pain, bleeding, and just a lot of bullshit I can’t explain in less than 500 words itself.
I want a hysterectomy so I can finally live a happy life, but my boyfriend of nine years said he won’t marry me because I won’t have children. It makes me feel like I am less of a woman and as though I no longer deserve his love. He tells me what he said is normal and “what do I expect” from him. Does he love me? He says he truly and deeply does love me, but he wants me to keep my uterus because he wants to have children and to just “wait it out”. But if I don’t and I get a hysterectomy to better myself, body, and life, he said he will leave me because it’s not fair.
Am I crazy for thinking he doesn’t truly love me if he is that way? — Tired of Being in Pain
Nope, you’re not crazy. Your boyfriend is a jerk. And, frankly, if after nine years of being together and not getting married or having kids, I have to wonder if it was even something both of you were seriously considering anyway? At any rate, your boyfriend’s true colors are showing and he does not support you in the way you need and deserve to have a life partner to support you. Move on, get the hysterectomy, and experience a new life without the physical pain of adenomyosis or the emotional pain of an unsupportive, unloving partner.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.