Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dear abbey

I read about 10 newspapers a day, and always come across a dear abbey type letter every now and then that just hits close to home....had to post this one.

Barbara: My wife and I had a beautiful baby boy about five months ago. Everything started out great and we seemed to be pretty much in sync. Lately, my wife has become more and more concerned, apparently for no reason. She acts as though the baby cannot be alone, even if happily playing and cooing.
I get frantic phone calls from her at work about non-emergencies. Often I speak with her mid afternoon and she tells me she has not had time to have even a bite of food. I am trying to be supportive, I let her vent when I can. I bring her flowers and help out with the baby as much as possible.
Can you suggest anything that might help? I am no saint and I know my actions are not perfect. Sometimes I get sucked into stupid arguments that I should be able to just walk away from, or sometimes I am lazy and don't do as much as I could.
I feel she needs to take care of herself in order to best take care of the baby but less and less I feel like we are a team with a new baby and more like I'm in charge of some new neurosis that has come from nowhere in her.

Dear Father: A new mother becomes immersed in the life of her baby and fathers get shut out. Winnicott called it "primary maternal preoccupation" and felt it was a biological state whereby the mother becomes exquisitely in tune with her baby psychologically.
While the mother is very much wrapped up in her worries about the infant, the father, who is doing the best that he can, feels very excluded. I think you are feeling angry with your wife and then guilty, which leads to what you call "being lazy."
You don't feel like helping anymore because your own wishes to be loved and cared for by your wife (like she used to do before the baby) become strong. You are missing her attentiveness to you. You and your wife need to talk about your feelings.
She needs to know that you want to help her but sometimes you'd like to know that she still needs you and wants to please you, too. Then try to understand that she may not be able to think about pleasing you now. It may take every bit of her loving energy to look after your son. You may simply have to weather the stormy period and understand that she is hard-wired to love the baby more than you right now. Otherwise, how can a mother give and give and give the way mothers must when babies are small?
This phase will pass, your son's needs will lessen in time and hopefully you and your wife will feel more "in sync."

Barbara Burrows is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist at the Candidate Toronto Psychoanalytic Society & Institute. She can be reached at


  1. Jenny's moved on. Isn't it time you did to?

  2. Um, yeah, I didn't write this. But good observation anon.

  3. You didn't write it, but you did post it. So you're trying to send a message. What message?

  4. Jeez, your logic sounds like hers. There is no message to be sent, posted as it deals with a shared experience.

    It relays memories of a year+ ago, and good to see how others deal with the same issues.