Relationship with new son
My son is just over 1 year old. He was born premature at 28 weeks and had to spend nearly 3 months in hospital care before being able to come home. During that time I was training for a new job which involves shift work (days and nights).
My wife took her 1 year maternity leave, and has a great relationship with my son. I feel like my son isn’t really bothered by me being around sometimes. This is made even worse by the relationship he appears to have with my brother-in-law.
My wife, son and I live in a small house attached to my wife’s parents house. This isn’t ideal, but makes childcare a lot easier now my wife has started back at work part-time too. My brother-in-law also lives there. He currently works from home and is rarely away. This means he spends more time with my son than I do.
When I come home after a long shift, my brother-in-law will be holding my son, and my son is not even bothered that I’m home. My brother-in-law will pass him too me, but he will immediately want to go back to him. Other times, he gets excited when my brother-in-law enters the room, but he doesn’t have this reaction with me.
It has made my feel quite upset. This is my first child, and I wanted to have a really close relationship with him. I want him to be excited when I come home from work, but this isn’t happening.
I tried to talk to my wife about it, but she told me I need to get over it. That reaction hasn’t helped and has made me feel more isolated than I already feel.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that my son is happy with others and is comfortable being away from his parents, but I’m worried that he doesn’t know who I am, and that my brother-in-law is more of a father figure than I am.
Any words of advice or encouragement would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for sharing your situation and for being so open about it. You and your wife have already had to endure a very stressful situation having your baby in special care, but thankfully he sounds like he's progressing well now, so that's good. 😀
With regards to your bond with him, there are ways that you can strengthen this, during times you are not on your work shift, but it will mean that you have to stand firm and take courage in explaining to other family members - i.e. your brother in law, why it is important you spend 1-1 time with your own son. I think that your wife used an unfortunate turn of phrase in telling you "to get over it", but speaking from experience, a new parent can feel and say all kinds of things when they may be tired themselves, or not want to upset the status quo and the routine that she may think she already has in place. I would keep encouraging your wife that she is doing a great job in working and being a Mum, but also remind her that you have emotions and concerns about your bond with your son, and that you would like to make this even better. It is at times like this as new parents that you really need to be a team and support one another, especially when you have other family members present a lot of the time.
So may I suggest that when you are off shift and are able to care for your son, that it is you that does this. Spending quality 1-1 time with your baby will increase your bond with him and the more time you are able to spend the more he will recognise you. Babies and young children are naturally drawn closer to those that they spend most of their time with - because that's the way that it is for this part of their life. But that doesn't mean to say just because you are working lots that your baby won't want to be with you. Make a plan if you can to take your son out to an activity such as a baby group if you're feeling brave - there is support out there for fathers who look after their little ones. Go to the park for a walk with the pram - fresh air is good for both of you and for your mental health, make bath times and bedtimes something that you and your wife do together when you are off shift, play with your baby - smile at him, talk to him - he won't understand but he will get to know your voice. I understand it must be hard for you to see your brother in law with your son so much, so maybe you could try explaining to him how you feel during a walk for example? Persevere with your son when you get in from work and hold him - he will cry to begin with - but try diversion - laughing, cuddles, speaking to him etc, and eventually he will come to say Dadda - and that will be a great day.
Hopefully some of this waffle will be of use to you, please seek help if you want someone to talk too - either go to your GP to be referred for counselling or seek a listening ear from a trusted friend who maybe already further on in the parenting journey than yourself.
You will get there - just don't be afraid to be Dad to your son, because he will bring you much joy.
Fegans Parent Support
I would try to spend more time with him. As much as you really can.