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Amy Pybus: Adventues in Mama Land: Husbands, where did the woman you married go?

Mid adult woman making cookies with son and daughter

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We know they must be shocked. Mothers react in completely different ways than we did before we had children. Our husbands used to be number one, the center of our worlds, the person we were most interested in.

The poor guys. It’ll come back. (Just give it until the kids go off to college.)

Husbands may ask: Where is the girl who wanted to skydive, and see the world, and go out and hear bands that didn’t come onstage until 2 a.m.? Who cooked you dinners and maybe even ironed your clothes? Who looked adoringly into your eyes every time you walked into the room?

You’re lucky if you can get her to notice you now. And if you need to discuss something important, like where you’re going on your next vacation, you have to schedule time with her on a family calendar.

What is happening here? Your wife likely still loves you, and probably on a different, and deeper, level. You gave her the children that are the most important part of her life now. She might be in awe of what a great dad you are, and how you work to provide for the family and do your part to raise healthy kids. And even how being a dad has changed you — as much as it has her.

But on bad days, remember, you gave her the children.

I’m kidding. But there are many factors at play here that are bigger than man and wife.

For one thing, when a woman becomes a mother, she becomes public property.

This begins as soon as she is visibly pregnant and complete strangers start rubbing her. They give their opinions on everything, ask ridiculously personal questions and tell horror stories about childbirth.

This treatment doesn’t end when she gives birth. She has entered a new phase of life, motherhood, and now that she has a child, it means one thing: No matter what she does, she’s doing something wrong.

Disposable diapers — destroying the earth. Cloth diapers — uptight and difficult. Free range parenting — endangering her children. Attachment parenting — spoiling (while somehow simultaneously smothering).

Let’s not even get into whether she decides to go back to work and put the kids in day care.

But the biggest change, and one that takes even us by surprise, is becoming the Mama Bear. We are connected to our kids on such a primal level that even we can’t control our responses sometimes.

On most issues we will form a united front with you and use our combined strength to defeat the uprisings. Do your homework. Bedtime is 9 p.m. No, you cannot have the new $600 PlayStation.

But the weird thing is, when we sense a threat to our children — even if you’re doing nothing wrong, it can be that something just inexplicably rubbed us the wrong way — we will fight you.

I’m sorry, dads. The bottom line is, the kids come first now. This can be hard territory for a man to cede. We’re not trying to emasculate or deny you of something that belongs to you. We’re just overcome.

Moms are under a lot of pressure. We have to remember innumerable details of life (not only for ourselves but for our children, and that increases exponentially by the number of kids we have). Our heads are filled with project due dates, clothing sizes, practice times and where the broken piece of the Nerf gun ended up.

We are constantly caring for someone else, and even when we “get away from it all,” we feel the pull of people who need us. A hundred demands are made of us before breakfast is over and if we want to be thanked we usually have to demand it.

So, husbands, we expect you to take care of yourselves for a while now, because we’re taking care of everybody and everything else. (Except ourselves.)

Recently my husband asked if I was mad that he doesn’t send me flowers. Good Lord, no. That’s the cost of a pair of soccer cleats. It’s just one more thing to clutter up my kitchen table and drop pollen that makes my sinuses explode. Though I did appreciate the thought.

Husbands, let me suggest the best thing you can do for your wife (and I should let it be known, before I get myself in trouble, that my husband does this). When the house is in chaos and it appears that your wife is at her wit’s end, don’t get mad. Just ask this simple question: “How can I help?”

That girl who fell in love with you will be back instantly and may fall into your arms.

Until you hear a gut-wrenching crash from the next room and have to go figure out what just got destroyed.

Amy Pybus of Easthampton writes on family life issues in a column that appears on the second Thursday of the month. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com and blogs at www.sittingonthebaby.com.

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