My daughter is 10 months old.

Since her birth, my wife has never even once left the baby with me alone. First it was breastfeeding, then other excuses. She's constantly around me. Constantly checking me. Constantly enforcing her rules. It's "her way or no way". Our relationship is suffering very much because of this.

Thy typical pattern is that I suggest an activity - benign and something I suppose my daughter would like - and she comes up with one obstacle after another why this is not possible. If I put my foot down she will follow me and my daughter literally every step of the way.

It is always centered around hygiene and vague "dangers". My hands aren't "clean", objects like leaves of trees are "dirty" and she insists that I wash and sanitize my hands and wet wipe whatever I hand to my daughter. It took me months to take my daughter outside because it was "too cold" or "too dangerous" at 23°C / 73°F and my wife clearly stated that she doesn't trust me with the baby. The first months the baby spent most of her time with my wife in the kitchen and my wife is still reluctant to leave the house with me.

On one outing to a nearby national park when I had to carry our daughter because the trail was unsuitable for the stroller, my wife was so nervous and upset, almost to the point of crying. I tried to calm her, but to no avail. At one point I tried to show my daughter a leaf from a nearby tree and my wife objected. She insisted that a leaf from a tree could be first poisonous, then possibly causing an allergy and finally one from a non-allergenic tree had to be cleaned with a wet wipe first, I gave up and we went home.

Admittedly, with all the fussing I sometimes cave in and simply desist from playing ith my child.

My wife was afraid of everything from the time we met each other. She's like that with our baby too. I'm the total opposite - I'm not afraid of something that I see as "safe". She says "everything will change when the baby gets older", but I'm afraid she's just saying that to make me happy. I think nothing will change because that's how she behaves with herself and that's how you'll also behave with your child. Consequently our relationship will suffer and even my relationship with my daughter will suffer.

I love my child and would never put her in danger, but I want to play with her and show her the world. But I can't do that if I'm constantly restricted and basically forbidden to pick her up unless I wash my hands first.

I have confronted my wife various times and she always insisted that I was not to be trusted, that her behaviour was perfectly normal and that all mothers are as protective of their babies as she is. Is that true?

Is her very protective behaviour really good for our daughter or might she actually cause harm? What can I do to make sure my child really gets what she needs?

Or is my wife right and she is too young to go on excursions and the world is so full of germs that it is better to wipe down everything? Am I missing something?

  • 3
    Hi, and welcome to the site! This is a very long description of what appears to be relationship/communication problems, and you ask several questions. Being a new parent is certainly a challenge, and we all empathize with what you're going through. In its present form, however, reading and discerning your actual question is a bit labor-intensive. The post would benefit greatly by editing and refocusing on the precise question you want answered (to get a better answer.) For example, "Are all new mothers like that?" The answer is simply, "No." A better question = a better answer. Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 19:29
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    If it really, truly is "her way or no way" and you cannot get her to see some professional help, then she is essentially choosing "no way" and you should consider what you will do about this relationship if she is going to act like this forever. Can you deal with this form of interference between you and your daughter for the rest of your life?
    – user7678
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 20:38
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    I find this comment in your other question very appropriate here too: I feel compelled to point out that for the first 50 millenia of our species' existence, every generation of children grew up "in nature" from the very start of their lives. Insulating them from the outdoors has only been possible for the last century. – @Crashworks
    – ANeves
    Commented Dec 14, 2015 at 10:07
  • Perfectly normal and you should be happy she’s that protective. It’s a normal reaction from her brain releasing hormones to be protective. Babies die everyday because of issues parents didn’t pay attention to. She’s a great mom and I know these first few years are very hard. This was an old post. How is she now?
    – New mother
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 22:58

4 Answers 4


First things first:
No, not all mothers are as protective as your wife is and from what you write, her behaviour is far from normal. (But of course we have only your statement to go by.)

From what your comment suggests, you have no support from your inlaws, but it seems you need professional help. More than even a benevolent family or stangers on the Internet can provide. Please make sure your wife sees a doctor, not because she insists about hygiene, but because you describe her as almost panicking outdoors and especially because you write

My wife was afraid of everything from the time we met each other.

Of course you might try to point out the hygiene hypothesis which suggests that exposure to bacteria and "dirt" is essential to develop a good imune system, but I doubt that this will influence your wife. I suspect very different mechanisms at work here.

But this is Parenting SE and we ultimately need to focus on your daughter.

For a child to develop properly it is essential to have lots of different stimuli - that is to see, hear, touch, smell and taste many things. She needs to learn to trust not only her mother, but also her father and other caregivers. And this is very hard to acchieve if she spends most of her time inside with her mother.

Babies can be surprisingly adaptive and resilient. But if I were to predict the future (and note that this is purely speculative based on what I have personally witnessed over decades), I would expect two possible outcomes - either your child might turn out as fearful, compulsive and phobic as you describe her mother or violently break free at some point during puberty or early adolescence, going to other extremes.

Please, please get professional help.

You need counceling, both as a couple and individually, and if your wife continues keeping your child from you, I suggest you also get advice from a lawyer.


Good answer from @Stephie.

It sounds like your wife has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It also sounds like you both don't realise it, or realise that her behaviour isn't normal.

Except that it is. Becoming a mother is almost universally anxiety-provoking. The combination of motherhood and pre-existing anxiety is the most surprising - and common - parenting issue I've noticed since becoming a dad myself. It's unbelievably common among my friends, family and peers.

You didn't address this before the birth of your child. But

with all the fussing I sometimes cave in and simply desist from playing [w]ith my child

it's now causing serious problems, because

  • your wife would probably like to raise a happy, fearless child, who doesn't suffer as she has;
  • it's making it impossible for you to co-parent.

I also expect that you would like to be more involved with your child, and have a happier time together as a family.

So you could see this as an opportunity to explore and challenge this aspect of your wife's personality. You'll have to be strong. Some dads find this too hard, because their wife is "in charge" of all things baby-related and everyone is severely sleep-deprived. But your baby isn't in danger. Having friends with a baby with Cystic Fibrosis gives us some perspective.

Anxiety thrives on babies, tiredness and hormones. If you can be strong on this issue, and insist on exploring the issue via counselling for the anxiety, you could transform your relationship and your family's future.

Good luck!


This question was asked 5 years ago, so I hope things have improved. You've got to get professional help, such as couples therapy. If your wife's behavior hasn't improved, you need to leave her, or as Bill Burr would say, "Just walk away."

I have a friend with an over-protective mother like this, and it's messed up him and his family. It took him until his 30s to see this and get out. He no longer speaks to his mother, and it took him years of therapy to see that her extreme over-protectiveness (could be result of an anxiety disorder, OCD, or even narcissistic personality disorder) has continually sabotaged his life.

I wish the best for you and hope that your wife's behavior was "precious firstborn syndrome", but if it's still going on... be prepared to walk away.


On one hand, at least she's attentive. There are some truths to the concerns, but in most cases it's exaggerated and the paranoia comes from an assumption and not an actual scientific or medical basis.

Washing hands is a common one. You don't need your hands to be medically sterile to handle kids. Here's a webmd article about it. - essentially, many of the common things you'll encounter in life are going to be surface bacteria and microbes that your body gets used to because it is introduced in gradual flow. Nursing will very measurably increase your baby's immune system, but even the greatest immune system will have an issue if it's kept in a basement its whole life then suddenly exposed to the world. There are people that clean pacifiers by washing them with their mouths before giving them to their kids. Medically supported that this can be beneficial. That's just one of the whacko things supporting limited exposure to things that otherwise seem like they would get your baby sick. Point is she might benefit from reading some kind of official sources supporting or debunking common fears about raising kids.

It's possible she already does this. Over-reading can lead to even more paranoia, or "caution" if you feel paranoia is too strong of a word. Wait till she gets into carcinogens and common house stoves.

I don't have a suggestion for how to handle her concerns. I don't know if therapy would help or hurt that situation. But I've dealt with people who demonstrate an unusual concern for pretty much every medical possibility, no matter how improbable, for the past 5 years and in the end they mellowed out as they saw the kids developing and mastering their own way of moving, playing, learning, etc. Being a parent is draining. It's possible the energy requirements of raising a kid will eventually defeat the energy required to maintain heavy concerns about so much.

In short, the chaos isn't helping much but it might be necessary for her. At the least it shows she cares about her baby and isn't likely to be one of those people who doesn't care and doesn't contribute. It's hard to deal with, I know. But for me she calmed down after a couple years.

  • 2
    @ leopoldo Who says what his wife has is a mental illness? Why are you mentioning suicide at all, and what does hypochondria have to do with OCD? My wife is a hypochondriac with no professional treatment. Observation of her growing children calmed her down, as I am suggesting. Are you saying my suggestion to read on the issues from medical sources and give it time is not of use?
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 22:35
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    See parenting.stackexchange.com/a/16597/4054 for some background on OCD and hypochondria and the different usage of the terms between the US and UK.
    – Acire
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:04
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    I just meant to clarify how the conditions are related, and why there was a reaction to the language you used.
    – Acire
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 23:53
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    One issue might also be that you explicitly write "I don't have a suggestion for how to handle her concerns." and simply suggest waiting based on your experience where everything turned out fine. Also note that I see no symptoms for hypochondriasis as the mother doesn't claim to be sick, nor the baby, for what it's worth. I can't say why others would DV, for me this were the main reasons. Could you please at least clean up / correct the medical terms as your answer seems plainly false on that respect. I'd be happy to retract or reverse my vote.
    – Stephie
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 6:28
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    I do think this is a starting point of a very helpful answer, particularly if the wife refuses (or the husband doesn't want to push for) seeking professional help -- e.g. "here are some possible alternatives that could help a person with OCD". The OP needs to be able to research the causes of this behavior in order to help his wife, so up-to-date terminology will help with that, for example.
    – Acire
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 11:58

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