Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Baby daddy

I'm soon to give birth - but have the chance of starting work as soon as possible. My husband has said he could look after the baby. Shall I let him take control?

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The Independent Online

Dear Virginia,

I’m about to have my first baby, but I’ve just been head-hunted by a firm that wants me to start work as soon as possible. Friends say I should wait and see how I feel before I commit to a new job but my husband has said he’s keen to look after the baby and become a house-husband  – he works freelance and he’s going through a time when he doesn’t have very much work. Can you or any of your readers offer advice on what I should do? I’m  at a loss and can’t make  a decision.

Yours sincerely,


Virginia says...

It would be madness to accept this job. At birth, your baby will have been living inside you for nine months and will be incredibly upset and disturbed to leave the comfort of your cosy womb to be delivered into a bewildering outside world. The least you can do is be around for six months, with all your familiar smell, sound, body temperature and everything, gradually to ease him or her into a brand new life. The father? Though it might have heard his voice, your baby’s never even met him, let alone lived inside his body. Remember that research has shown that at birth, a mother usually says: “Hello!” to the baby, while a father introduces himself with the words: “Hello! I’m your dad!”

Anyway, having a baby is a job. You’ve already been headhunted – by your child.

You clearly have no idea about what a huge responsibility it is to bring a baby into the world. These first months are vitally important, and if you can make your child feel secure and loved during the first few years, what happens later won’t upset it nearly so much. And though I always get irritated with people who say, “Oh you’ve never been through it, you know nothing of it,” childbirth really is something different. It’s like taking drugs. A mother changes chemically after giving birth. You simply can’t predict how you’ll feel.

A househusband recently spoke of his experiences with his baby daughter. What he found, to his distress, was that the child was incredibly backward in her speech as she grew older. That was because fathers don’t automatically spout the kind of maternal drivel that is so important in a child’s learning development. “Oh, how are you, what lovely little toes you have, look at this picture there’s a cow, moo moo, you can say moo too, moo moo, yes, aren’t you a clever one, yes aren’t you a clever one, you are, you are”  – on an on ad infinitum. Men are a lot more reticent.

 There’s no reason, of course, that once the baby’s old enough to feel just as secure with its dad as with you, you shouldn’t then go back to work – that is, if you can bear to do so. Most mums feel a real tug to stay with their children for longer than a year. Indeed, many can’t bear to give up the job until they’re made redundant when the child actually leaves home.

But whatever you feel, you’re clearly an incredibly talented person and would find no problem in getting a good – or at least goodish – job, even if you opted out of the market for a few years.


Readers say...

Don’t do it

Please wait. A friend of mine  in a similar situation was determined to hire a nanny and go back to work. As soon as  she saw the baby she realised she could not possibly leave him. Don’t store up stress for yourself.

Mary Lees, by email

Why not try it?

You’re looking for a conflict where there is none. If you were contemplating having the baby cared for by a stranger, then it would be a different story, but with a husband who is keen to do it, it’s a no-brainer. Your prospects sound better than his, as far as earning power goes. The two of you complement each other, and together you will provide a loving, stable home for your child. Take the advice of your friends with a pinch of salt – what you and your partner think is what really matters.

Elinor Forbes, by email

Go with his plan

You must be very good at your job. Your husband knows it and is proud of you. Go along with his plan. You will get maternity leave to bond with the baby. Just don’t kill yourself with overwork.

Helen Rogers, by email

Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I’ve broken up with my son’s father but he still has a good relationship with him and sees him every weekend. I’ve now met another man and I love him and he wants to move in. The problem is that my little boy really doesn’t like him. He’s five years old and he gets really tearful when I suggest it. I have to say my new partner’s never had children and sometimes he can expect a bit too much of my son, and I’ve sometimes felt very awkward when he’s ticked him off or told him what to do or what not to do. What should I do?

Yours sincerely,


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