* It's alright for you to take the lead. He is probably entering a flow of activities that you've been managing, and he's just being a good team player when he asks you, the quarterback, what the play is. It's OK to tell him at the time what you'd like him to do. Later on, you could talk about similar situations in the future and figure out what he could do in them without you having to say anything.
* Arrange for him to have lots of experiences with the kids. Let him be the one who handles a fussy baby from start to finish or tries to get a toddler to eat some carrots. Direct the kids to him sometimes. Try to arrange for him to spend extended times alone with the children, such as an entire evening from dinner to bed, or better yet, a full day or two.
* When there's a meeting with the pediatrician or a teacher, try to have your husband come, perhaps by emphasizing that the person wants to talk with both parents. In the meeting, try to have roughly half of the conversation be with the father. For example, if a doctor speaks mainly to you, shift your gaze to your partner, sending a nonverbal signal to the doctor to do the same. If the professional asks a question, encourage your husband to answer by looking at him and remaining silent, or simply smiling and asking, "What do you think?"
Even if it's rocky during the first few years, most dads naturally become more involved as their kids get older -- and yes, more able to catch a ball. Plus if you keep at it, and keep asking for what the baby and you and your marriage need, most men will respond. Maybe not perfectly or all the time, but usually with a steady improvement. Plus the endless tasks of caring for a little one do diminish. Amazingly, there finally comes a time when you no longer have to change a single diaper. Really!
Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin.
Copyright © Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.