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Girl Talk: Dad's Night Out?

Q. Unlike me, my husband has not given up his prebaby lifestyle. He's still playing with his basketball league during the week and hanging out with his friends almost every Saturday night. Am I wrong for wanting him to make our 7-month-old daughter  -- and me  -- his top priorities?

A. Wrong? No. Unrealistic? Perhaps.

To be fair, your husband may not even realize that there is a difference between prebaby and postbaby living (except, of course, that there is now a baby in your house). You, on the other hand, probably had no choice. You may have started your adjustment to parenting's realities while coping with the physical demands of pregnancy, labor, and, maybe, breastfeeding. Or perhaps you are an adoptive mom who, like all mothers, was expected to assume the title Number One Caregiver, and hence Number One Compromiser. Whatever your situation, I will bet that you have already trained yourself to rethink your lifestyle and your expectations out of necessity.

Now that we've given him the benefit of the doubt, let me say that his obliviousness doesn't entitle him to check out every Saturday. You've both entered a new phase in life. But how can you convince him of this? Not by barring him from going out. (That would only make him more determined to do it.) And not by insisting that you get a weekly night out, too. (That would just condone his schedule and make both of you feel like resentful babysitters instead of loving partners and parents.)

The only way to bring about change is to foster understanding. One method of driving home your point is to bring up all the compromises brought on by a previous life-changing event: your wedding.

When you tied the knot, you both amended your ways out of love and respect for each other. For instance, you were no longer free to cruise bars with your single girlfriends, and your husband could not hop a flight to Vegas for a lost weekend. Likewise, now that you are parents, you both need to alter your habits out of love and respect for each other and your baby.

Neither you nor your husband should be forbidden to enjoy time with friends, but let him know that it can't be assumed that your prebaby schedules are sacred. Extracurriculars like a sports league for him or a weekly manicure for you are privileges subject to change, depending on the needs of your family. This won't go down easily, and you can expect your husband to feel trapped and bullied (kind of like how you feel almost every Saturday night). But don't give in. Stay calm and focused. And remember to mention that while he might have to give up a night out now and then, he'll gain a happier wife and daughter all week long.