If you're a dad with a tendency to say the wrong thing to the mother of your children, you're not alone. It's hard to know what she needs to hear sometimes. And the flippant good humor that worked in one situation will just annoy her in another. If in doubt, remember the following seven things are something all moms need to hear from time to time.
Even the most confident and relaxed women worry about being a good mom. It's possibly the single most important thing women will ever do and certainly one of the hardest.
Men may not realize this, but being a great mom is exponentially harder than being a great dad. Dads are often told they're a great dad by complete strangers because (get this) they've taken their kids to the park. Know what? Your wife has taken those kids to the park a hundreds of times, sometimes with a migraine or when she's sick. Nobody told her she's a great mom. Once somebody tutted at her because she nursed the baby in public, while still supervising the preschooler.
2. "I value what you do"
Motherhood is hard. It's relentless. You're either actively working or on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, often with a particularly demanding and stressful shift on Christmas, Thanksgivng and any other holiday. Vacations also sometimes involve more work rather than less: preparing, packing and even just settling kids at night in a strange place.
The mother of your children doesn't expect accolades or even a ton of praise. She just wants you to regularly acknowledge and value her work, strength, patience and contribution to your family.
3. "I'm here for you"
Moms in general, and stay-at-home moms in particular, can feel extremely isolated. No one is criticizing you if you're at work all day. Families need hardworking dads. But even working moms often feel like they're taking on the majority of the work and responsibility involved in running a family. Every family needs an organizer, and it's usually the mom.
As a dad, you need to make sure she knows you're there for her emotionally, that you're happy to share responsibility and decision-making and that, if needed, you can step up at a moment's notice.
Many dads are happy to help, but genuinely don't know what needs to be done. Moms tend to spend the early days at home with their babies, even if just on maternity leave, and they get into routines pretty quickly. It's vital that your wife doesn't feel like she's making unwelcome demands on you when she asks for input, whether it's practical, emotional or financial.
Explain that you don't always instinctively know what she needs, but that you actively welcome requests (and directions). This is a simple thing you can do to avoid the mother of your children feeling resentment toward you.
5. "I appreciate my freedom"
Most dads have a huge amount of freedom compared to their partner. Dads of young children often seem to find time to hang out with their friends, go to the gym or watch the game. This can be another huge source of resentment, especially if the freedom is taken for granted.
Take a good look at your life. If you have way more freedom than your child's mother (and I suspect you do), let her know you appreciate that. You may worry that by mentioning it, you'll suddenly draw her attention to something you're currently "getting away with." I promise you, she's already noticed. She's just too tired to argue about it.
No woman feels beautiful with a post-baby jelly-belly and cheerios in her hair. Keep telling her how beautiful she is. For extra brownie points, notice (or photograph) a tender moment between her and your child and tell her "that's beautiful." She'll be more likely to believe you.
7. "You've got this"
Simple but regular reassurance goes a long way. Several times a day, when it's all spiraling out of control, moms have to stop and firmly tell themselves they've got this. It's so much more convincing, and reassuring, when someone else says it.