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Father (Thinks He) Knows Best

Father (Thinks He) Knows Best

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

My husband and I have a high-energy 21 month old. I stayed home with her for the first 9 months, and pumped multiple times per day when I started my out-of-the-home job, until she was 15 months old. The entire first year, it felt like she never slept. Which meant I never slept, because breastfeeding. Hubby would take a shift with a bottle sometimes, but as much as she woke up and wanted milk, the most sleep I got that first year was a couple hours here and there. It literally drove me to the brink of insanity, deep into postpartum depression. I’m only just now climbing out, and he didn’t let me sleep without guilt, or pump less than 3 x per day at work without guilt, or supplement with formula without guilt, or even mention the idea of sleep training (a battle I still lose) without guilt. To quote him, I “never put our daughter first”.

My husband is also a Reservist, so he’s gone between 2-4 days a month, and sometimes a week or two at a time for trainings. Other than that, he’s a full-time SAHD. I have used up almost all of my PTO (personal time off or paid time off) to stay at home with our daughter when he has to be at drill. The other few days have been sick days. Recently, a flu bug went around our house. Our daughter was sick, but active, then I got so sick I could literally not stand, and he got sick a few hours later. We were both sick all day and our daughter was feeling better, so she was rambunctious, but I was definitely down for the count, so he took over for the whole day and let me sleep, which I love him for. The next morning I was feeling better, or at least well enough to get through my work day, and I went to work, only to be barraged by angry messages that he was feeling so much worse, and the baby is getting sick again, and how could I go to work and leave him stranded with a sick baby when he can hardly stand. I want to be sorry and sympathetic, but I feel it is unfair to be so rude and abrasive. He never asked me to stay home, and he was at least at a functioning level the night before, so I had no idea what the next day would bring. I’m a manager at a small-ish company, and I left early the week before, sick, then called in another day, and I felt I had to show up that next day. Plus, my PTO is down to almost nothing….

And that brings me to this: My last hours of PTO are for 2 days that he’s going to be gone visiting his mother on the East Coast in December. I treasure those days. I covet those upcoming days, probably more than I should, because it means I actually get to be ALONE for the first time since our daughter was born. He’s pissed because he wants me to dip into those days. He’s outraged because I didn’t consider using those for ‘family time,’ and cue how selfish I am, always putting myself first. But all I want is some peace and quiet to recharge. Does it make me a bad partner and mom to take those days off—away from my family, holed up in a quiet, clean house, binging on Netflix? Should I have stayed home with him when he was sick, and used up a whole precious day? How does someone who is desperate for time away, alone, balance never ever getting that, and stop a growing resentment?

He is a wonderful, amazing, kind, caring Father, and he tries to be those things for me, but we are completely opposite with our needs. Being parents really brings those differences into the spotlight like never before. He just doesn’t understand my desire to be alone sometimes, even though I never get that. Maybe I was naïve to think motherhood would still allow me that, occasionally, but I felt I could forage enough to stay happy. I am not happy. I am starving.


*reads letter*


*stands up instead and  leaves the room*

*deep breathing deep breathing*

*sits back at computer*


So your husband is a “wonderful, amazing, kind, caring father.” That’s great, but he sounds like a lousy husband. Harsh and extra Smackdown-y, but there it is. The way he’s treating you is gross and controlling and I DON’T LIKE IT.

Let’s run through your letter and pick out the OTHER adjectives you used in your letter, every time you described how he interacts and communicates with YOU, his wife and partner:

Angry. Rude. Abrasive. Pissed. Outraged.

And yet you’re asking me if wanting the occasional alone time/mental health day makes YOU the selfish asshole in this scenario? You, the one who is still recovering from PPD, the one who he “guilted” into an overly taxing/exhausting breastfeeding/pumping schedule, the one he continues to guilt trip over simple parenting choices rather than find compromises? Meanwhile he’s hurling verbal insults at you seemingly every time he’s unhappy or sick (aw, poor baby! home sick and caring for a sick child because the out-of-the-home working parent had to go to work? WELCOME TO LIFE, DUDE)…or worse, whenever you dare to have an opinion or need that doesn’t line up perfectly with his own.

(Oh, and for all the other non-OP readers out there, let me tell you that the subject line of her email was “Am I a selfish mother and partner?” Is your head exploding yet? Just a little bit. I thought so.)

Dear, dear OP: No. NO. You are NOT selfish for needing time alone. You are NOT a bad partner or mom because you need (or just plain WANT) to take a couple mental health days to Netflix and chill. You are a wife and a mom but also a human being, and a human being who has had a damn rough 15 months or so and DESERVES whatever kind of break you want.

And you also deserve a partner who GETS THAT. And who doesn’t go straight to his little outrage box to pull out tirades about you being selfish or “always putting yourself first.” I mean, I get that we’re only reading one side but in all the fights/incidents of contention detailed here there is not ONE SINGLE INSTANCE of you actually putting “yourself” first. (Going to your damn out-of-the-home JOB doesn’t count as “putting yourself first,” either, my lands.)

Here’s how a good, supportive, unselfish partner would respond to the following conversation:

“I’m exhausted. I need a break. I am not happy. I am starving for some time alone and more sleep and I am worried that my mental health will suffer if I don’t get some.”


Instead, you get guilt-tripped. You get called names and told you’re a bad parent.

At the very least, some couples counseling is in order to sort through your different parenting styles. I would insist on that, outside of the PTO disagreement, because he needs to respect your parenting style rather than try to guilt you into his.

It’s awesome that he’s a great father and puts your daughter’s needs ahead of his own (I mean, I guess he does?), but there’s a way to do that WITHOUT demoting your partner to some kind of second-class citizen within her own home, unable to make any parenting decisions on her own or even say NOPE to decisions that she disagrees with or are making her unhappy. (I am SO weirded out that he guilt-tripped a woman with PPD over pumping and formula aka things that involved HER OWN BODY.)

If you simply needed assurances from a neutral third party that you’ve not being a selfish mom or wife, well…you got it. You got it a lot. Now I would suggest you step back, re-read your letter and look at your husband’s overall behavior and treatment of you in general. I suspect this goes much deeper than an argument over two measly days of PTO if his default reaction to every disagreement is to pull the “selfish” card. He strikes me as the type who won’t be super jazzed about therapy/counseling, but hopefully I’m wrong and he’ll be willing to work with you on things. (Update: please see below from smart advice from a counselor in the comments section below about first steps before pursuing any sort of couples counseling).

And you know? Who cares if you ARE selfish sometimes! Isn’t everybody, every now and then? Who cares if you want to treat yourself to a mini-staycation (using a benefit nonetheless)? Who cares if you want to be selfish in a way that hurts ABSOLUTELY NO ONE? You’re a mom, not a Stepford Wife. And if that’s what he wants or expects…man, it’s 2015 and they already did that remake and the concept is dead. Let your wife be a human being and get some much-needed R&R already.


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • April

    November 6, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Amy, kudos on this response.,but seriously, this man is emotionally abusive. Hope you get some rest Op!!

  • Holly

    November 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    This sounds like my life, loosely, but the overall treatment of me by my then-husband – WE COULD BE TWINS, OP.

    And did you catch that? I am divorced now. Things got so bad, there were many other issues as well, but damn. After coming through that tunnel I now can see how abused I was all those years by his controlling, manipulative behavior (which he always said was what *I* was doing to him.) In any case, if you don’t want to head down the path of divorce, get some help now. I don’t think it could have saved my marriage, but I am SO MUCH HAPPIER NOW, for what that’s worth.

  • Ashley

    November 6, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I’m so sorry, OP. The way he’s behaving really isn’t ok. Limited alone time and lack of sleep is very difficult, even with a supportive partner, so I can only imagine. This is a huge deal, for you and your marriage–and ultimately your daughter. I really hope he’s open to talking to someone and I hope you can work it out.

  • It gets worse

    November 6, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Please get out. Please. Please. Please.

    I lived with these things. Almost exactly those things – the resentment and guilt and anger at what were all normal things; the rage that I had the audacity to work and earn money and benefits for my family while he suffered at home with kids. I would berate myself (after he did so) for being too selfish, too needy, too much of a failure and try to make excuses and tell myself what a wonderful partner and parent he was.

    Eventually I left because I wasn’t happy, and it wasn’t until I was out from underneath that that I saw how abusive it was. And it wasn’t until HE saw that I was out from underneath that it became visibly abusive to everyone. This will only get worse, and if you have to audacity to regain control of yourself while you’re still with him, he will get significantly worse. Get out get out get out.

  • Ros

    November 6, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    A few quick comments :

    1) for some people, time alone is a necessity. For sanity. I am not exaggerating. I manage a few hours a week, while working full-time and being with my daughter as much as possible. My husband does too. We both prioritize it because we understand that our partner needs it. If your husband doesn’t get that? Counselling, Stat. Because the very idea of not having that makes me feel claustrophobic and tear-y, and the reality has to be much worst, and no. Just no.

    2) telling someone else what to do with their body, and guilt-tripping them about it and not letting them sleep without guilt??! Dude. Lack of sleep is a recognized for of torture FOR A REASON. And if you want your kid breastfed so badly, YOU do it. Or shut up and HELP the PERSON who is oh-so-inconveniently attached to the boobs.

    3) personal experience here, but… when I hit a wall with my husband (of the “I am frantically running around 18 hours a day and you have time to play video games” type), what got us through it was me being really clear that if WE didn’t find a solution, I would, via leaving, because it was actually that serious. If you’re at that point, it’s fair to make it clear. And if you’re not, it’s equally important to know what would push you there, and avoid it. Because you can’t fix a marriage if you’re so done you no longer have the energy to try and make it work (again).

  • Kerry

    November 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    My husband is also a stay-at-home father, and there’s a lot in your letter that I can picture myself saying when our older daughter was younger….so I’m somewhere between yes, your husband’s behavior is unacceptable and just pure empathy.

    I think our culture does a lousy job of preparing men for hands-on parenting. I think when you take the kind of person who, if they were a woman, would drive themselves crazy about the importance of breast-is-best and with the messages that letting a baby cry can it out cause permanent brain damage and all of that, and then make them not the person in the relationship with the ability to lactate the potential for ugliness is high…especially if there’s already a relationship dynamic of the man being “in charge.” 

    I think our culture is also incredibly sexist, and a lot of men go into the stay-at-home parenting thing assuming that they will be better at it than women are (when really they’re so much worse because almost none of them read the advice smackdown), and feel like failures when they aren’t. I think this gets compounded by the fact that many of the men who stay-at-home haven’t exactly been validated by their careers, and so they’re on the defensive already. And I think they’re completely unequipped for how hard its going to be, the lack of sick days, being on the clock 24 hours a day. When that hits them, it hits them like a ton of bricks, and they start looking for someone to blame. 

    I also suspect that as a new mother working outside of the home, you’re probably at least occasionally tempted to try to be the martyr your husband thinks you should be. I used to take pride in the fact that I was “on the clock” watching our daughter more hours per week than he was. 

    It also sounds like your plan to use your PTO to cover childcare while he’s fulfilling his responsibilities as a reservist isn’t really working and isn’t going to work long term. Trying to make that work is stretching you past your limits. I don’t know what your options are for doing anything else…but whatever they are, they are probably cheaper than divorce. 

    For me things started to get better when I started to really take a stand for myself. I decided how far I was capable of stretching myself, and let my husband that he was going to have to figure out how to make our family work within those limits and refused to feel guilty about it…even if I have to lock myself in the bathroom to take a bath while the kids wail at the door. Its still a work in progress, but much much better than it used to be. 

    • Kerry

      November 6, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Ok I reread the original letter and I think, aside from the obvious anger and resentment coming from both sides, it all comes down to this

      1) The husband would like to have the luxury of someone stepping in for him on child care when he is sick.
      2) The wife would like to have the luxury of having a day or two to herself after a very hard first year and a half of parenthood.
      3) Both of them think its completely unreasonable for their spouse to get what they want if they don’t also get what they want
      4) There’s no way for both of them to get what they want if they continue using the wife’s PTO to cover childcare for the husband’s reserve duties.
      5) The wife isn’t going to even have any PTO left after December, and the husband is going to presumably still be in the reserves, so I’m not sure what their plan is there. 

      • Kay

        November 6, 2015 at 6:40 pm

        I just figured the PTO clock would likely reset in January.

        • Kerry

          November 6, 2015 at 7:19 pm

          Oh! That would make a lot more sense. Every job I’ve ever worked in, the leave time has been cumulative rather than use-it-or-lose-it. 

          I still think that if there’s anything they can do to start treating her personal-time-off as actual time off they need to do it now, however. When you commit yourself to round-the-clock, unrelenting work-or-childcare the way this couple seems like they have, you don’t have time for sleep, or for adult conversations, or for therapy, or even divorce. 

  • Jessie

    November 6, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    OP your husband’s behavior is not okay. If he refuses couples’ counseling PLEASE get some individual therapy.

  • Sarah B

    November 6, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Hey, Domestic Violence Counselor here. I’m definitely seeing some major red flags of someone who is emotionally abusive and controlling. You definitely know your situation best and I don’t have all the information, but it might be helpful to call the National Domestic Violence hotline and talk to one of their counselors. 1−800−799−7233 
    Also, we typically don’t recommend couples counseling if there is abuse in the relationship (See link:
    Finally, leaving is the most dangerous time, so talk to a trained counselor about some safety planning options. 

    • Kay

      November 6, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Yes.  Thank you.  LW, if you think the relationship is abusive in whatever way, please get individual counseling first.  Please. Couples counseling can be great for a non-abusive relationship where both parties are making a good faith effort, but it can absolutely be harmful when any kind of abuse is involved.  

  • Amy

    November 6, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    This is beyond not okay. I went through severe PPD and have BEEN THERE with the pumping. I made it to 8 months because I needed all the drugs to not kill myself.

    Your husband is being a jerky twatwaffle and if he won’t go to counseling, I echo Jessie’s suggestion of getting into counseling yourself. You cannot be all things to all people. Ask for help and if you’re not getting it from guilt-trip McGee (aka your husband), then find a friend who’ll help out when you need it. Asking for help is wicked hard but so worth it.

    Best of luck and please write in and tell us how you’re doing again soon. Your mental well-being is so very important for your child and your entire family. You can’t be a good parent if you can’t take care of yourself.

  • Ros

    November 6, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Second thought after my first comment… if he’s such a good father, maybe making him consider how he’d react if someone treated your daughter that way in 25 years. If he’s incapable of seeing any issue that’s not around her… maybe the words “I need our daughter to know that she won’t be less important as a person if she chooses to become a mother” might work where arguing that you need things for your own sake isn’t working, and, bonus points, he can’t argue that that’s a selfish desire.

    (But seriously. Counselling. )

  • Stephanie

    November 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    So many red flags in this letter!
    -Guilt as an emotional weapon
    -Sleep deprivation
    Wow.  I am so sorry that you’re going through this.  You are being emotionally abused, no holds barred.  Please try to get counseling, and if your husband refuses to go, PLEASE go for yourself.

    As someone else already said above, some people absolutely need time alone.  I am one of them.  We are called introverts–we recharge and energize by spending time alone.  Extroverts recharge by spending time with other people.  Neither way is right or wrong, just different.  Your wanting a couple of days to just bingewatch Netflix alone at home is not selfish, it’s self-care. 
    I could pile on to all of the other very good points that Amy and other commenters made, but I won’t.  Just please, please remember that as a parent, taking care of yourself is as important as taking care of your child.  If you take care of your needs (or at least make a reasonable attempt), you are a better parent for it.  And I’m speaking from the perspective of a parent to teenagers.  It really doesn’t get any easier overall, just different, through all of the stages of childhood;  so the sooner you learn to take care of some of your own needs (as a couple and as individuals), the better for everyone.    
    Please try to stand up for yourself.  You’re not in the wrong here, even a little bit.

  • Kay

    November 6, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    LW, my husband is a stay-at-home-dad, too.  And if any part, ANY PART of you is justifying his behavior and rage and abrasiveness and one-upmanship on who loves your daughter more and all the criticism and guilting as being because of what he’s going through in that role, IT IS NOT.  

    Have there been challenges for us as a couple because of me working/him at home?  Oh yes.  Yes.  There have.  There have been arguments and disagreements and both people feeling unappreciated and like they just need a break in a way the other one is not getting.

    But I literally cannot imagine any of what you are describing  from him at all.  He tells me all the time what a good mother I am (and I try to do the same).  He never questions when I say I can’t miss work.  He was happy when I went on a trip alone to see a friend of mine.  

    Your husband is being mean and guilt-tripping you because of something that is wrong with him, not something that is wrong with you, and NOT something that is inherent to your new roles and that you have to learn to adjust to.  So, please don’t.  Please don’t adjust to it.  Find a way to get out if he won’t get help and change.  

    (And, really, consider individual counseling separately first if you do decide you want to get help before considering leaving.  I can literally imagine right now how he is going to try to spin all of this in a couples therapy session.  Maybe go in for the intake so that the counselor has a chance to hear from you as well — preferably privately — and then he needs to work on him. A lot. Before you trust him to try counseling together. And, regardless of what he does, I hope you consider getting individual support for yourself.  Sometimes therapy is about having someone to say, “No.  You’re not crazy or selfish.  You make sense.  How you see this makes sense.  It’s okay to trust your perception.”  Particularly when we’re immersed in a world dominated by someone who says the opposite.)

    • M

      November 15, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      I agree whole-heartedly with the last bit of this. I am also a new mom who is being emotionally abused by my husband, and I have been seeing a counselor. My husband also tells me I am selfish for attempting to eke out even the most basic of human needs, tells me I am a bad mother (even though I am actually a pretty good one), and actively deprives me of sleep (by “accidentally” making more noise than a rhinocerous at 5 am every morning). The most important part of therapy has been hearing that my perception of what is going on in my life is rational!

  • Elle

    November 6, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Yes, to what everyone else has said already. And also…have you ever considered that your husband might be a narcissist? Especially I the way that your husband seems to direct everything back to himself, and doesn’t seem to want or be able to empathize with what you’re going through. Google some variation of “married to a narcissist” if you want a more detailed description.

    • CB

      November 7, 2015 at 11:26 am

      This was my thought as well.  I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for many years with a man diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.  I too was repeatedly told I was selfish for stating my needs/wants.  

      OP, in addition to Googling narcissistic spouses, please check out codependence.  I recommend Pia Mellody’s “Facing Codependence” and “Where To Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day” by Anne Katherine.

  • Meg

    November 6, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    My first reaction to this was – “Husband. Step down, please.”

    But, upon reading a second time, I also have to feel this letter is highly influenced by the recent home illness. And seriously, illness with a kid is the worst. I can give you vivid details of how my husband failed me when my 2nd child had scheduled tube surgery and on the same day, I got mastitis, my oldest started vomiting from strep and he left us all at home, barely functioning. He’s a great husband, but it just was a bad day and he didn’t realize.

    Counseling obviously. The husband seems to be freaking out about minor thingst that’s are out of his control, but he’s trying to control it. But, as a mom, I put that same pressure on myself. As I’m sure he would, if he could breastfeed. But even when the division of labor is very clear, the stay at home patent needs a break.

    I am just imagining the outrage if a SAHM complained about how her work-out-of-the-home husband was saving his PTO for some personal days off. I’d be pissed about that.

    Now. She deserves/needs some time off. He does too. It seems they are far from family, which makes the stress more. We have that too, and guilt sucks! I see a bunch of issues.

    Her PTO is not a workable solution for covering his reservist weeks. I hope they can budget for some childcare/arrange trades and learn to give each other some breaks.

    He needs to lay off in the breastfeeding/sleep training. They bed to jointly decide a plan and figure it out.

    They need to communicate better and accept each other for who they are, not who they want. I feel like my husband and I have been through situations like this, but not addressing it for this long will make it very hard.

  • K

    November 6, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Hugs to OP. This sounds awful, and like so many have said, there is nothing about this that is okay. I agree with counseling, and I agree with possibly starting seperately and then planning to go together when things are a bit more stable. I also think that some conversations around logistics need to happen. It is not reasonable (or appropriate) to use all of your PTO to cover childcare while he is away. I respect that he has the role he does, and I’m not sure there is a lot of flexibility there (can he stop/quit? Does He make money, get health insurance through this stuff? Do those benefits outweigh the cost of requiring you to use your benefits to the point where you are fighting over sick days and (I’m sensing) making you worried about maybe impacting your job/losing it due to being gone all the time/more often than you can reasonably be without sacrificing pay?
    We are both working parents, so I don’t have any advice to give specifically, other than to say that we have faced some challenges around me feeling like he expects me to be both a stay at home mom/the primary caregiver/chef/maid/family planner and requires my income (I am in a demanding field – I really have to be on my game every day and working remotely isn’t possible for me most of the time). We worked hard on trying to talk about what was realistic and to talk about what we needed (I needed him to support me and be excited for me when I have to travel, he needs me to help him plan well and be organized when he’s home without me)…but I think you guys are kind of past that point. But you aren’t crazy. Get your recharge time no matter what the cost this time. Use some of that to really look at your situation. Is this sustainable? If not, what tangible things can you change? Jobs? Finding supportive childcare? Some cities have drop in nanny services – maybe something like that?

  • Michelle

    November 6, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    I am so sorry that you are dealing with such a difficult situation.  No, you are not a selfish mother and partner!  Your husband is clearly in the wrong here, and if I were you, I would seriously consider if your life would be better without being married to him.  If your husband knows that you are unhappy, and doesn’t care about trying to make things better, then that is a major problem.  You should definitely see a counselor on your own, who can help you decide if couples counseling would be helpful.  Imagine if your best friend or your sister had written this letter.  What would you tell them?  Also, I think that your husband should try to find a full time job.  Obviously staying home with your daughter is not working out for your family since it sound like you are all angry and miserable.  A lot of men are just not cut out for staying at home, and he might be much happier if he was working outside the home.  I really hope that you are able to make some changes and find some happiness.  

  • Elizabeth

    November 6, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    I too have been there. I’m out now, and with a kind husband. Just wanted to say that often work benefits include counseling for a 10 copay. (Eap plan is one.) If time and money are both tight, the domestic violence hotline is a good place to start. Often churches provide free counseling. And my goodness, I’d love for you to drop your little one here and get a break. You have my prayers and best wishes for health and safety.

  • S

    November 7, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    These feel like exaggerated old hurts coming up now for no reason. No, he never should have allowed you to feel guilty for sleeping five hours or pumping to 15 (!!) months. But you have vastly different ideas on how much to sacrifice for your child. I’ll be the first to say that specifically on the two days of PTO, you’re being selfish. No, you shouldn’t have used it for his illness, but he wasn’t well, you could’ve called a backup sitter to help him. But you both work really hard and have to use your PTO for his work. If you finally get two days of legit vacation, you should spend it together as a family!! It sounds like you never get to connect and have fun as a family. So on this, he’s right. It’s hurtful to value Netflix over your very little time off together as a family.

    • Caroline

      November 8, 2015 at 1:47 am

      She is struggling with severe sleep deprivation spanning a year and a half, and is stretched to breaking point. Every time she tries to do something practical to improve her situation – their joint situation – he calls her names and is borderline abusive. She wants 48 hours to recharge. In December. This is not ”special fun family time”. This is mental health at stake time. He wasn’t well… HE could have called a back-up sitter. He didn’t ”allow” her to feel guilty, he specifically set out to make her feel that way. There will be no ”special fun-fun family time” if she does not get a break to deal with her mental illness.

      • Ros

        November 9, 2015 at 10:07 am

        This. In a situation where everything was normal, you’re getting sleep, you don’t resent your spouse for pulling crappy guilt trips WHILE you’re mentally ill and sleep-deprived, and you get an hour or two on a normal week to take a bath/read/whatever, sure, time with the family is absolutely necessary and fun and a better use of time off than two days off alone.

        But when you’re holding on to sanity by a thread and the only thing reinforcing your grip is telling yourself ‘if I make it through this week I get *two days alone*’, someone taking those days away, justified or not, is the breaking point. Look, there’s a time where what someone needs needs to be seen in context – and two days off after a year and a half of sheer hell isn’t unreasonable (the way it would be in other situations).

      • Christen

        November 9, 2015 at 2:48 pm

        Seriously.  What exactly is her motivation for spending time with someone who doesn’t seem to value her as a person anymore? Not to mention his logic is pretty flawed: had she spent those last two days of PTO at home with the baby while he recovered she wouldn’t have any left to go visit HIS family (which I agree: visiting in-laws is pretty much the exact opposite of a vacation) so…what’s his end-game here?  To make her feel crappy and like she can’t win at all ever. Because he’s succeeding at that.  

        I find it really telling that the OP says he “tries” to be a good partner to her.  It shouldn’t be THAT hard to be good to your spouse.  

  • kimm

    November 7, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    It is not hurtful to need time to yourself. If you are afraid to say you need an hour or 2 to yourself every week, that is a sign you do need to speak to a counselor, you should not have to be afraid to be honest with your husband, he is supposed to be your good or best friend. If that is not true then talking to someone about it may help you decide what kind of relationship you really want to be in for the rest of your life.

  • Melinda

    November 7, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Find a babysitter or daycare.

    Seriously, you both need a break. I’m HOPING he didn’t start out this way. Having a baby & all the changes around that are the HARDEST thing on a relationship & people in general. You guys need to exist as people.

    He needs alone time, too.

    Sounds like your baby is old enough to start a preschool/daycare a few times a week.

    Find the money for it because otherwise you’ll be finding the money for separate homes.

    Hopefully, once this has decompressed the situation, he can be kinder to you. I’m HOPING that he really is a kind, loving man who just got thrown off the track by the stress of parenthood & his own stupidity at what you’re going through.

    Once you both have a few minutes to be human again, counseling will be a lot more helpful.

  • Melinda

    November 7, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    P.s. forgot to mention that breastfeeding with ppd means you put her first. That is HARD, I’ve been there.

    His comments are uncalled for & a clear sign that he doesn’t know how to argue without becoming a controlling jerk.

  • Dan

    November 8, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Contrary to the prevailing opinion, I’m not sure this is a 100% he’s-wrong-you’re-right. Obviously the guilt of the first 15 months was wrong and douchey and if you haven’t explained to him how bad that made you feel you gotta do that, although I can imagine he’s a bit control-freaky and was trying to create the best world for your kid.

    But now it seems like it’s all down to the fact you guys aren’t talking and you haven’t set up a support system. He probably feels like he’s shouldering the whole baby load (probably incorrectly and he definitely needs to understand your perspective on the whole thing) and so he’s coming from a disadvantaged perspective, asking why you’re not making it better when he does so much. But he’s not seeing that you’re not getting a break either or having any fun. He sees his reservist time as work-not-a-break and you see your job as the same thing, so while his time away disadvantages you from getting some downtime, your job does the same for him (putting aside, you know, the keeping wolf from the door thing). 

    It seems like you guys need to clear the air about the first 15 months and the time since then. Then you need to reassess how you’re dealing with his time away, like finding a daycare, so you can take time to be together as a family and when you need each other. And for gods sake sleep train, find articles about how not sleeping screws up kids and start while he’s away if he won’t get on board. Take these two days for you with the plan to spend time together in January. And tell him to stop acting like a baby.

    • Allison

      November 9, 2015 at 11:34 am

      Dan, I feel the same way as you do, at least if their relationship was good before kids. My husband and I went through something very similar – I had bad PPD, and we had no patience or time for each other. I resented that he got to go to work and enjoy a leisurely hot lunch and talk with other humans. I’m sure he felt trapped, after working hard all day having to come home to a surly wife and crying baby for the second shift. I couldn’t stand the sight of him although logically l could acknowledge that he was a great dad, and even was working hard to make things easier on me. He wasn’t a guilt tripper, but when stressed he would get very quiet and unresponsive – withholding affection and communication I desperately needed after a long solitary day home with the baby. I would pester him for affection, and he would get more withdrawn- I know what you mean about being on opposite sides with what you need. I told him I didn’t want to be at each others’ throats all the time, and he didn’t either- but neither of us had the patience or energy to do better at the time.

      Unhappy, you know what made it better? SLEEP TRAINING, and then later putting my daughter in a 2 morning a week program at a local church. Solid sleep for both of us, and some alone time for me vastly improved my PPD and my ability to be kind to my husband, which improved his ability to be kind back. Now, when my husband has a hard week, I can say, ‘then you take some time for yourself, I’ve got this”. We have the energy to be good to each other again, and it’s made all the difference.

      I don’t condone your husband’s behavior at ALL, neither do I condone what my husband did at the time, but my behavior wasn’t gold star either. We both showed our ugly side big time. As someone who has worked through something like it, he sounds just as stressed as you, and you both sound like you’re at the end of your ropes. I do think you would benefit from a real sit down to set expectations of what each of you need in terms of personal time and start trying to make that happen. I can tell you 100% of your time/energy committed to your child ends up being detrimental to them, because when there’s nothing left for you, you get used up and can’t function at your best. I guess I’d approach the problem from a standpoint that you both need a break, but if you’re less functional than he is then you definitely take priority for a while. You are not selfish for needing sleep. You are not selfish for needing alone time. He isn’t either, but he may not express it the same way you do. We did work through it slowly, and it’s not something that fixes itself overnight, it’s a slow healing process. I do think counseling is the way to go if you two can’t work it out on your own. I wish you the best.

  • Rebecca

    November 9, 2015 at 8:48 am

    If it was just the time off, I’d understand his annoyance, but all the other things are red flags to me. Seek individual counseling.

  • JPG

    November 9, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I third the comment about the narcissist. My ex acted in a very similar manner when we were together, although we did not have kids. He was a master of twisting words and guilt tripping. I got out and eventually married my now husband, who is awesome and nurturing, understanding, respects my introverted nature, and always encourages me to take time for myself. My husband is a son of a narcissist (my MIL), and there have been many times where we just had to split ties from her for awhile because she was so toxic. Being raised by a narcissist is even worse, as it could perpetuate toxic relationships and lack of understanding of boundaries and depression and low self-esteem. My sister in law took her life at a very young age as a result of the damages that ensued from the emotional abuse of her mother (my MIL) growing up. Do your family and daughter a favor and seek counseling as everyone here suggested. In the end, we need to ensure that our children are safe from this insidious and toxic behavior so that the cycle doesn’t perpetuate.

  • vanessa

    November 9, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    yeah MAJOR RED FLAGS in this one. HUGE gaslighting. please go get individual counseling so that another person is getting all of the details and can help you see whether this is a situation where better communication/more outside support might help, or whether you need to get out now. 
    you can likely find a sliding scale or insurance-taking therapist. do it tomorrow morning.

  • Ann

    November 9, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Ha, this sounds a bit like my husband. OP, I don’t have much advice, because I’m right there with you, just hugs. But don’t let him do this to you. I doubt that he means to be abusive, but he is. If you’ve got anyone in your corner who can talk some sense into him, please ask them to do that. And put your foot down that you need the rest and you’re taking the PTO days for yourself. It’s not selfish to not drive yourself to the breaking point.

  • liz

    November 11, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    It sounds to me like husband might have PPD too. That is a thing, right?

    Get daycare. Get sleep training. Both of y’all, get to a doctor and get a full check-up.

    If he won’t cooperate on those things, then I concur with “abusive”.

  • trapwindow

    November 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Yeah, if you’re simply asking for advice about how to judge yourself for the one day in the office while he is sick, it isn’t selfish. Objectively, just like your job would expect from you, it is his responsibility to make alternate arrangements if he is sick during the day with your daughter. Isn’t that how you would treat it? And that’s separate from whatever reasons you have for taking the PTO. Some places of work, you can’t even change them on such late notice if you’ve used all the days designated for “sick” time or whatever. Either way, you have your responsibilities at work. As a responsible parent he may certainly consider asking you for the favor first if you are available (nicely, and without name-calling). I might try that if I were at home with the baby and needed help. I might even ask if the person at work could help me find someone to call if I was in a really bad way. If you can’t and he’s too sick, he needs to call someone else. The expectation is that you will go to work and he will care for the child. Hashing out some of these responsibilities specifically can really help when people are butting heads over expectations. 

    Others have pointed out already that there seems to be much more going on, and, based on the information you offered, they are right. You can’t  coerce someone to breastfeed or pump or be up all night (or do anything!) and then call them selfish. Again, if you were the stay-at-home parent, would you? If he’s doing that, you’re at the least being bullied. But just on the one instance, if you need other childcare arrangements, and it sounds like you do more often than you may realize, those need to be made. That’s what parenting is. Your baby needs the sleep and the food, but also care from someone who can give it responsibly. Getting a break sometimes when you need it (no mater the reason) is always better for your baby. If he thinks that is what he needs on his day, then he needs to find an alternative. If it’s a longer-term childcare solution to give you both more of a break, then you talk it over and decide on something together without name-calling. If he’s such a good parent, though, I’m sure he already knows this. Right?

    As a side note, relying on his travel plans with the baby for your break, doesn’t sound like you responsibly managing your time away either. It may work well this time, but it may not, because it is dependent on someone else doing something first. Maybe that is making him feel pressured? Again, if it’s the other way around like Amy described, that’s different because the expectations are different and explicit. The truth is probably that you need more support and a break regardless of his trip to see his mom. In my experience, the only way parents really balance the constant demand of caring for a small child with everything else is by respecting each other and relying on outside support. Again, objectively, parenthood (for mothers and fathers) doesn’t necessarily allow you any “me time”. You have to carve it out purposefully when you need some and be responsible for the consequences if it falls through. If you feel like you have to sneak breaks instead of ask for them, then you are certainly not supported enough. Good luck! 

  • Elaine C. B.

    November 24, 2015 at 10:11 am

    I know I’m late to this comment thread, but I didn’t see anyone else suggesting that the family seek out military resources. As a former active duty member and current reservist, I can say there are lots of options out there, including counseling services, that will be free for certain topics/goals. The military may also have an ombudsman type program, a list of daycare options, and “reconnection” workshops they may be eligible for. They can also seek counseling from a chaplain. Also the local Red Cross may be able to refer them to a Red Cross certified teenage babysitter who may be able to provide some afternoon or evening respite at a reduced cost. 

  • michelle b

    November 25, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I know I’m also late, but I just to add that I know it must be incredibly hard to consider that you may need to break up your family in order to be happy. However, I want you to really think about if this is the behavior you want to have modeled to your child, even if he’s a great father. Do you want her to believe that it is acceptable to be treated this way by your partner? If not, please get out. For both of you.