Husbands have sometimes received a bad rap for not being as involved in the day-to-day care of their babies. But what about when dad is too involved? "As soon as I became pregnant, my husband, Tom, went out, bought a book on fatherhood and read it from cover to cover," explains Melissa Willis from Nashville, Tennessee. "From that moment on, he was an expert."
Tom also took it upon himself to decorate the nursery, select all the furniture and painstakingly paint an elaborate full-wall mural to complete the Australian outback theme he'd chosen. "I would have liked to have had some input, but Tom was so excited about the baby that it didn't seem worth arguing about," admits Melissa.
When the couple brought baby Joey home from the hospital, Tom's temperament quickly turned from excited to excessive. Melissa says he'd double-check every bottle she made in the warmer because he insisted she was using it wrong. When the new mom wanted to take her baby on an outing, dad was adamant about checking the car seat straps himself. "If they were twisted or not tight enough, he'd flip," she recalls. Tom only allowed family members to babysit, and when they did, he would write detailed instructions, including how to mix formula for Joey's bottles. "I pointed out that information was right on the can, but he had to do it anyway," Melissa says. Tom set up a high-tech video monitor to keep tabs on Joey's every movement, but he would still wake Melissa several times a night to ask her how Joey was doing. "Tom's a worrier in life in general," Melissa says. "Why wouldn't he worry about our kid?"
"I tell couples that what they're arguing about often is a vehicle for something much bigger," says Tania Paredes, a psychotherapist and couples counselor in Miami. "After all, Melissa can buckle her pants and her own seat belt. Clearly she can strap her baby safely into his seat. Is there something she's done to make him believe that she's not capable of caring for their son? Unless there's a reason for the compulsion, Tom needs to scale back. And even if there were an incident—say the baby's bath water was too hot once—he needs to accept that it was an unfortunate accident and move on."