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Difficult Dads


by Dr. Asoka Thenabadu


Consultant Paediatrician

(This article is for general knowledge and specific problems must be discussed with their own general practitioners or Consultants.)

Q1 My spouse is out of work and a house husband while I go out to work to earn the pennies to pay the bills. He resents this arrangement very much of being the house husband. What can be done?

A1 He either has to find himself a job or continue to be a house husband. Some men find caring for children at home out to look after the chores of housekeeping both below their dignity and "unworthy". However, the present trend is that one is the breadwinner while the other is the carerer, or both go to work. Have a Man 2 Man chat with him, I am sure he will understand and change his attitude! Enlist the support of the extended family and friends

Q 2 My husband has depression and is on treatment. I am not sure whether he takes his medication and he gets very angry when we ask. This is affecting our family. Please advise me.

A 2 Please see his doctor as a family and discuss all aspects of the illness. Depression in a parent can have an adverse effect on the whole family. Diplomatically seek the help of the extended family, friends, elders and perhaps your religious advisor. Speak to his friends and enlist their support. You may ask to see his drugs chart which he should have filled up but this may cause further problems. Perhaps he needs to have his medication re assessed by the psychiatrist. I must tell you that patients with depression are very difficult to live with and difficult to manage.

Q 3 My husband does not take an interest in our child’s school work or activities. What can I do?

A 3 Both parents must take an active interest in the child’s school activities, home work extracurricular activities and in the parent teacher association.

When both parents take an active interest, the child is more confident, happy and will enjoy and benefit from school

Have a "Man 2 Man Chat" with him! He may change his ways!

Q 4 My husband left me when I was six months pregnant with our first baby and has not made contact since then. Our child is now one year.

What can I do to bring him back?

A 4 If a man does the disappearing trick there isn’t much you can do. Make contact with his family, friends and religious circle and see if he can be brought to the family circle. The other method is to seek legal redress but litigation is expensive and finally only the lawyers benefit! Perhaps you are better off without this absent dad who does not seem to have any sense of responsibility. Discuss with your close family and take appropriate steps. I am very sympathetic to your unenviable situation. Enlist the support of the extended family and friends. Good Luck!

Q 5 My husband does not do anything for the baby and then complains that he is left out of the "Bringing up Baby" scenario. What can we do?

A5 Make a list of daily chores for the baby (and the house hold!) and split this between you. Or else do the baby duties on alternate days. Peaceful and cordial negotiation is the key to success!

Q 6 My mother in law is very overbearing and has very old fashioned ideas about child care and insists on interfering and doing it her way! I am sure I am not the only one in this situation. What can i do? Please advise me!

A 6 As you said, you are not alone with this problem! You must be diplomatic as she is trying to be helpful. People from an earlier generation did things differently! Discuss with your husband and all three of you should come to some settlement with clearly marked areas of demarcation and responsibility. Try to iron out any differences as your husband is also in a very difficult situation. I hope matters resolve in an acceptable way!

Q7 My husband had a very strict upbringing and has very strong (and wrong!) ideas of discipline for our five year old son. He feels that "to make a man of him" he has to enforce strict discipline. I feel he is too harsh on the child. What can I do?

A 7 You need to have a full and frank discussion with your husband and come to a decision about what the boundaries and limits are for your child. At five years, a child is still a very small child and needs love, understanding and support and lots of cuddles rather than strict discipline. I am sure your husband will compromise. Please enlist the help of your in laws too in this matter.

Q8 My present husband is the step dad to my three teenage sons. Prior to marriage he got on well with them but is very distant with them and the boys are very upset, their school work has suffered and they appear depressed .Naturally we are all very upset about this. What can be done?

A 8 It is a big undertaking for a man to take on another man’s wife and three teenage sons. Perhaps he is having second thoughts! For starters, you need to have a frank discussion with him. There may be other factors, perhaps at work, that has changed him. A series of visits to your religious advisor may help. You will benefit from a professional marriage counsellor’s advice. The organisation "Sumitrayo" down Horton place provide excellent confidential counselling services. (P.O.Box 60B, Horton Place, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka. Email :

Tel +(94)11 2692909 /

+(94)11 2696666.

Q 9 We are newly married and have a three month old baby. My husband was "One of the Lads" before marriage but I expected him to change his ways after marriage and certainly after the baby was born. He still thinks he is a bachelor and spends most of his time with his boozy friends while I look after the baby and all house hold matters. I am shattered, tired , bored and angry,What can I do?

A 9 It is very difficult to change a" Lad" to a "Dad". Sadly, some men are not meant for marriage and parenthood. You need to take a very firm stand and make him understand that he is now a dad and has very grave responsibilities. If your family members and in laws put in a word, he may listen. I am sure he has at least one mate who is more responsible! Talk to him! It is a difficult situation you are in! I hope matters improve

Q10 My husband comes from a very ambitious family and has reached the pinnacle of the medical profession. He tells our five year old son "You must be a top surgeon like me" all the time. I feel that this overwhelms our son who is too young for this type of ambition .What can I do?

A 10 Ambition and a strong drive are excellent qualities in life especially in a field like medicine. Having a successful dad as a role model to look up to is a great asset for a child. However, I agree with you that a five year old is too young for this type of aggressive brainwashing. Have a quiet word with your husband. He is obviously a very clever man with a lot of drive and ambition. I am sure he will understand!

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