Q. I’m a stay-at-home mom currently, until my kids get to school age. My supposed significant other is the main one who makes money in the house, and I take care of groceries, house duties, the kids, etc. He is older than me and sometimes I feel we don’t get along as well as we did when we first met.
Since we’ve had our sons, it seems like he disregards what I say and gives me the cold shoulder — basically stonewalls my feelings. I breast-feed my newborn, and I asked him to buy me lactation cookies to help my milk supply because it isn’t the best, but it’s getting my baby’s weight up. It’s enough, but I want it to increase. He tells me “I never knew a female who needed to depend on cookies to breast-feed.”
When he said that it felt like he completely downplayed my efforts to breast-feed my second son, as I was unable to for our first son. He was just as unsupportive then. It isn’t hard for him to buy an $8 pack of cigarettes but $20 or more for lactation cookies is over the edge.
Sometimes I wish we didn’t live together. I know he is the provider and pays the bills, but am I wrong for feeling this way, and for being hurt by the absence of understanding and togetherness I thought we once had? What should I do to resolve our issues? Am I being too unreasonable?
A. You’re not being unreasonable. It sounds like you need support right now, and instead you’re getting criticism and judgment. The breast-feeding stuff is really terrible.
Has your partner come with you to any medical appointments? If not, ask him to join. Your doctor (hopefully) will be able to explain how breast-feeding works and what can help. Sometimes witnessing another person’s challenges — in the presence of a professional — helps with empathy. It should, at least. Lots of child care stuff is a mystery unless you’re in it. Also, I hope your doctor is stern with your partner, if necessary. I’d like to be!
Therapy might also be an option. I’m not sure that the guy who objects to the cost of lactation cookies is going to jump at the chance to sit through an appointment that might cost more than $20. But perhaps there’s something short and sweet — something that could be accomplished in a class or session. Look up options for family therapy. Also ask your doctor for counseling options for parents who feel disconnected after having children. There might be support groups, resources, etc.
You say that sometimes you wish you didn’t live together. That has me wondering If there are other options. Do you have family or friends in the area who might be available for more companionship — or to house you if you decide to leave where you are? Think about reaching out to more people, more often, and be honest with yourself about what keeps you there. It is OK to do an overnight elsewhere. It is good to ask for help when you need it. He’s not the only one who can give it to you.
It sounds like you both resent each other. It’s not about cigarettes and cookies, it’s a much bigger issue that you need to address. Therapy might help.
Sorry to hear that you’re in an unsupportive relationship and financially dependent on him. I can imagine your hands are full with two kids, one being a newborn. In thinking of Meredith’s advice, I’m wondering if you can get some family and friend support where someone comes over sometimes and maybe you can think about a remote P/T job to earn enough money to buy your own discretionary items. It’s sad to me that your partner is putting you down for wanting a $20 item that you believe will benefit your infant son. I agree with Meredith on rethinking your relationship with him. He sounds controlling and disrespectful. I think you need to try to gain a little financial independence, but that won’t help fix the ultimate issue ... your partner isn’t a partner.
You are not being unreasonable at all. He’s your husband and he needs to support and help you.
I wish letter writers like this wrote in *before* they had babies. It’s much harder to extract yourself from a relationship once kids enter the mix.
Wow, dear letter writer, you certainly have found yourself an uncaring man! Listen, the baby’s health is primarily your responsibility during these formative months, so just put your foot down. This is not a negotiation — it’s just a fact. You need this for your kid. Next time he tells you that he never knew a female that needed cookies to breast-feed, ask him how many women he knows that have breast-fed and ask him if he’s shared his vast medical knowledge with them as well. Then go ahead and order the cookies online. If he still balks, show him the research that backs you up.
I read your statement carefully, and I honestly can’t tell if he’s as cold, rejecting, and dismissive as you describe, or you’re feeling especially fragile — or perhaps depressed — in this postpartum period. It’s a difficult time of life for both parents, not just mothers. Do you have sisters or female friends who can give you the support you feel is lacking? And can you find ways to involve your children’s father in their care? Could he do some nighttime bottle feeding of expressed milk and let you sleep? You need to talk more to each other, connect better, and both of you need to love more. Try for that.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to email@example.com or fill out this form. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.