Being a dad is as woven into our DNA as being a mom is to yours, but that doesn't mean it comes as easily.
Most guys don't spend their early years gaining the kinds of skills you need to raise a baby. We are more likely to have spent time working on skills that all of a sudden seem pretty useless - you can't change the oil filter on a baby, and you can't take a jump shot with the baby (although we will likely try one with a diaper).
We like being good at things. We are probably not great with babies. We cover for that by acting disinterested or annoyed at doing baby-related tasks, but it might be because we don't want to screw up. It makes us feel like less of a man. We have legitimate fears that we will not be good dads - you don't have to look far to find a guy who had a great role model for a mom but not so much for a dad.
Action step: Don't talk down to him about a task, which only makes it worse. Instead, figure out what he's quietly been doing without much prompting, and make that "his thing."
My things have been rocking the baby to sleep, getting up at night and dealing with the Diaper Genie, for instance. Let him know you appreciate it and try not to point out errors unless it's critical - if he always feels like he's screwing up, he's not going to want to help.
He is disconnected
My wife loved to feel our twin daughters kick her during the pregnancy.
I got to see it from the outside - it's really insane to see little bumps pop out, right? - but it's not the same.
Leading up to when my son was born, I was really excited but I had a hard time feeling emotionally connected. I saw ultrasound photos, but I didn't have a true physical connection until I could hold my son. For some dads, it's not even that fast - it can take days or weeks.
Does that mean the dad gets a free pass to skip out on helping? Of course not! But he may have a harder time diving full into fatherhood during the pregnancy or the early few days until that emotional & physical connection is made, the one you probably felt for months.
Action step: As much as you can during the pregnancy, have your husband interact with the baby, whether it's feeling the kicks or playing music for him or her or talking to them. Once the baby is here, go for skin-to-skin time. It's proven to help dads bond better, and vice versa.
He needs specifics
"You need to help with baby."
"Can you give me a break sometimes with the baby?"
"Other dads are always helping with their baby, why aren't you?"
If that's the extent of what you're telling your guy ... I don't know what you expect him to do. Is he being lazy or a jerk? Maybe. But maybe he also doesn't have the first idea what to do and only hears he should "help." We're kind of dumb about that sort of thing. OK, just straight up dumb. We really benefit from knowing exactly what's expected of us. Without micromanaging it all, if you can provide details on some projects/tasks he can tackle, you should find better results.
Action step: If you have a guy who seems like he's willing to help but never seems to actually do anything, try giving him a few specific tasks that show immediate results. Getting groceries. Cleaning out the Diaper Genie. Stocking the diaper shelf. Taking the second shift of the night from X a.m. to X a.m. Cleaning the bottles. At the least, he can't come back and say, "You never told me what you wanted!"
He wants a toddler
It's very possible if your husband seems to love talking about having a son or daughter but never seems to pitch in with the baby, he is more in love with the idea of a son or daughter.
The idea in his head is one where his son plays games with him, or maybe his daughter learns how to ride a bike. Or they all go out for ice cream.
He sees fellow dads playing with their toddlers and thinks it looks awesome. Toddler on dad's shoulders! Toddler on the swings! Toddler being goofy and saying funny things!
Having a baby is none of those things. For awhile, they don't really have their personality, and they don't say anything, and they scream a lot, and, let's be honest ... they can be no fun at all for long stretches. You may see the light at the end of the tunnel. He may just be hoping he can wait at the other end of the tunnel until the "fun" starts.
Action tip: If he can see the fun parts of having a baby, he can appreciate where his son or daughter is now, rather than be frustrated or uninterested. One thing that you can't do with a toddler but is awesome for dads with babies? Strap them into a carrier at the store. Have him go out for errands with the carrier. It's great for bonding and also just feels cool. It's not the 1950s anymore- people love dads out alone with babies. He'll love the attention.
He can't handle it
Does any of this apply?:
* You lost your job and asked for him to help out by working extra. He said he's not the one who lost his job and he shouldn't have to make up for it.
* You got engaged and asked him to help plan the wedding. He pushed it off and pushed it off and instead played video games while you planned everything.
* You're married, and you're in a new home that needs lots of work. He instead keeps saying "It's fine" and won't help you renovate anything.
If anything close to those scenarios sounds familiar, you've got a guy who hates responsibility. Having a baby does not - does NOT - magically make a guy a responsible adult. For some guys, it gives them a wake-up call that they have a new life to care for and they can't be an idiot anymore. Some other guys? They keep doing what's worked for them this far, which is pushing off responsibility onto someone else. After all, it's worked so far.
Action tip: You cannot keep brushing this off. If the father of the baby is involved in your life but flat-out ignores any and all requests you make to help out, he's hoping you'll just stop asking. You have to make it very clear what you need and just as clear what the consequences are if he can't step up. Just because a baby is a responsibility doesn't mean he/she can't also be fun and awesome and great. Emphasizing that side of things - that it doesn't have to be work, it can be an amazing thing to be a dad - can help.
He thinks you're unreasonable
This one is more a maturity thing than anything.
Taking care of a baby is so much work! You know this or you wouldn't be so frustrated your husband is being such a flake. I don't have to list all the stuff that needs done, because you can probably spout it off like an auctioneer.
You may have asked him to help with some baby-related chores, and he won't budge. One reason? Might be that in his head, he thinks you are asking way too much on top of what he believes is already a huge list.
There's no way to justify it. It's a matter of him thinking that financially supporting the family, holding the baby for 15 minutes so you can shower, and giving up fill-in-the-blank activity so he can be home more is enough. And here you come asking him to get some laundry done or stay up with the baby because you're exhausted. You are not asking for the world - he just isn't being mature about it.
Action tip: This is a tricky one. It can help to make sure you space out requests, especially not as soon as he gets home from work. You may not have that luxury. So while it's beneficial to remind him that you appreciate each thing he's doing, make it clear that this isn't an optional thing. You are in this for the long haul. He can't pout because he's being asked to be a man.
He's an a-hole
Dude might just be an asshole.
Action tip: You don't always get to choose your baby's dad. Things happen. Or maybe you thought he'd be a great dad, and he's. just. not.
It's not your fault. While you need to decide if you need to take some drastic measures for that unhelping, unfeeling, lazy, excuse-making asshole who plays video games or watches the NFL all Sunday while you're exhausted to your core, you also need to know that as long as you've made it clear what you need and how to do it, you've done what you can.
Don't make excuses for him. He's made enough for himself.
If it's not a situation where the guy is abusive (please, please get help in that situation, immediately) and it's more that he's just of no help, at some point you have to decide if he's ever going to change. Many guys can - and they become the best dads around once they get a good kick in the pants. They need to know that you can't do this on your own and it's not fair that they won't get up at night with the baby (because he has to work? what do you do?) or take the baby out so you can have some time off. It's called being a dad, not babysitting. Hopefully, he figures that out.