“Today” asked its readers if they thought their husbands paid more attention to their children than to them, and of the 9,000 responses the show received, 29 percent, or almost one out of three women, felt that their husbands put their relationship on the back burner in favor of the kids. Of those women, half were quite bothered by this situation. A higher percentage of women probably think that they take second place to their children, but they feel guilty about harboring these feelings. And they may not admit that they have them — even to themselves.
It’s easy to understand why a woman would feel sad if some of the attention her husband used to lavish on her is now directed at their children. Women are only human: they need care, attention, love, and nurturing. And this need doesn’t suddenly stop the day they give birth. But women tend to think that being a good mom means being self-sacrificing, and believing that anything that’s good for her children should be good for her. This leaves no room for any emotional ambivalence. But you can love your children and want the best for them, and still feel jealous that they’re getting daddy’s attention.
Of course, the reality is that we have only so much time and energy. At the end of a long day of work — either at the office or at home — you and her husband may feel emotionally spent. However, as a couple, you have to remember that you are the foundation of your family. For your family life to thrive, both of you need to feel satisfied with your marriage. After all, if you and your husband become distant and eventually split up, your kids will lose a close-knit family.
Of course, you’re happy he’s a good and attentive father and you wouldn’t want to change that in any way. Remember, the key is moderation. You need to find a middle ground where everyone gets enough attention. Here are some tips to get his attention:
- Accept your feelings of jealousy. The more you have to deny them, the angrier and more hurt you will become. And you’ll feel guiltier about having those feelings.
- Allow yourself to be aware of your feelings of neglect. Realizing that these feelings are only human will make it easier for you to deal with them.
- Lead by example. Have you been giving him compliments, kissing him, holding his hands or rubbing his feet? If you would like him to do these things for you, then the best approach is to do them for him. Chances are that he will catch on and reciprocate.
- Don’t send mixed messages. Be clear about what you want. You can say, “I love you being such a great dad and spending so much time with the kids, but I’d also like time for us to be alone.” If you tell him to spend every minute with the children, but then get angry when he does, he won’t have any idea what you really want.
- Be direct. Tell him that you’d like to have a date night once a week, or that you’d like him to kiss you first when he comes home. You may need to give him permission to redirect some of his attention to you. He may think that is he is already doing exactly what you want by spending so much time with the kids. So give him permission to focus on you sometimes.
left/msnbc/Components/Photos/060406/060406_anatomy_vmed_2p.jpg2658100000left#000000http://msnbcmedia.msn.com1PfalsefalseDr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, www.drgailsaltz.com.