Many dads to-be often end up feeling a bit left out of the sharing the spotlight with their significant other once the pregnancy has been announced.
They may also begin experiencing worry and stress about their new role and its accompanying responsibility. Mixed feelings of this sort (e.g. excitement, worry, uncertainty) can leave even the most competent man feeling confused and unsure what to do.
It is especially important for men to know just how important they are to the health of their partners, their children and their families as early as possible in pregnancy. In short, there are three general areas, in which dads can be stars in their own right, and especially to their partners and children. These areas are partner support, relationship quality and their direct contribution to their child.
The most important kind of support following the birth of a baby is reliable support from one’s partner. Generally, of greatest value to mom is when dad shares the burden of child care and house work. So, if you’re already an egalitarian couple – you may find yourselves off to a great start.
But, new parents beware! One of those mysterious changes that happens to couples after the birth of a baby (and nobody really knows why) is that even the most egalitarian of couples begin to divide their labors along more traditional gender lines. This can become a source of conflict, both interpersonal and internal. Before you know it, you can be squabbling over whose turn it is to cook dinner and you can be feeling torn between grocery shopping and bringing home a paycheck. This is tricky stuff!
Guys like to do things, right? So here are a couple of helpful tips on what you can do during pregnancy:
- Help with meal planning and grocery shopping. This is a wonderful way to feed not only your momma-to-be but your baby-to-be too. (This will also help post-baby with taking on responsibility of meal preparation in the first weeks post-birth)
- Prepare with gathering your supporting cast, such as a weekly house cleaner, or delegating household tasks with family members or friends.
Pregnancy and post-birth go considerably better for a new mother when she has a good relationship with her partner (and vice versa). This is a time to get your relationship in tip top shape. If it isn’t, consider seeking couples counseling to improve communication and prepare realistically for becoming parents and/or a father’s group. (I know. Guys hate being told to go to counseling, but you’ll thank me later.)
You can also show your partner how much you care by:
- Pampering and nurturing her. Allow her to sleep in when she can, nap, offer to rub her feet – take her to get a mani and pedi. You can get one too!
- Buy extra pillows – these are essential as your spouse gets larger. Being comfortable is everything.
- Find out if there is prenatal yoga in your area, and post-natal, too.
What Dads Can Do For Their Kids
Fathers contribute to healthy development by supporting their children financially, whether they live together or not, and whether or not Mom works too. Dad’s warmth and affection is just as important as Mom’s – children who have a secure attachment to both parents tend to be more socially competent than when they are securely attached to just one. Dad’s warmth, involvement and gentle encouragement to take risks tends to promote high achievement in school and later in life. In fact, research has demonstrated that having an absent father lowers a child’s IQ by an average of 11 points. Moreover, caring, involved and effective dads produce children with fewer psychological disorders and problems.
What a dad can do during pregnancy to build a relationship with his child:
1. Develop a birth plan together with your partner, but remember anything can change in an instant when giving birth. Educate yourself on what would be helpful for her during labor. But, remember that your baby’s birth is not just about mom and baby, it’s also a momentous day for you.
2. Accompany your partner to doctor/midwife appointments and ask questions. Visit the hospital or birth center you will be using to experience the environment and the staff. Or, if you are having a home birth find out what will be needed to create the birth experience you both are hoping to have, while ensuring that all safety measures are in place.
There are many ways to access information for fathers-to-be in the 21st century. Get curious, become informed about pregnancy and parenting in ways you never thought you’d want to be informed. If your friends are already fathers, ask them for advice. You could also join a men’s group in your area.
There’s a simple expression that can help dads play their part expertly, especially early on:
“It’s the mom’s job is to hold the baby. It’s the dad’s job to hold the mom.”
If you keep this in mind, no matter how you are feeling, you’ll be a star to your partner and baby.