Welcome to Fatherhood!

Dads play a pivotal role in a couple's journey into parenthood. But sadly it is a role that is often ignored or undervalued, with fathers too often seen as just 'parenting assistants' to mothers. Most dads don't realise (and most mums as well) how important they are. New research tells us that fathers sensitive interaction with their newborns increases brain development in infants, encouraging dad play builds confidence and safe risk taking in toddlers, reader dads increase children's vocabulary and involved fathers promote children's self-esteem and ability to form healthy relationships into adulthood.

Dads have their own stresses to deal with too. Fathers often have to shoulder responsibilities on their own that were previously shared with their partner like concerns about money, work and time pressures. Dads are often just as stressed and sleep deprived as their partner, but receive much less understanding and support.

Whereas new mothers can often share concerns about parenting with sympathetic female friends, lots of dads don't have the same opportunities. Try talking to your partner or close friends, you might find that they share more of your experiences than you thought!

Take the Dad Quiz below if you need a laugh, or find support for your stage of the journey (right). There are additional resources at the bottom of each section. You could even read ahead if you want to prepare yourself for the next stage. Often the only support we need is information - so we can feel validated, or to better understand our partners or children.

Fathers (especially stay at home dads) can be particularly disadvantaged socially, so there is a special dad section being built in Community Support - please let us know of any you are aware of.

Dad Quiz

Question One:

It's 6.00 in the evening and you've just come home from a hard day's work. Your partner greets you at the door in her pyjamas and your screaming 2 month old baby. You make your way past unwashed breakfast dishes into the cluttered lounge. You:

a) Ignore the mess and say "Hi Honey, how was your day?"

b) Look around you in disgust and ask "So what have you been doing all day?"

c) Take the baby and/or start cleaning up

d) Tell her "you look like you’ve had a rough day, what can I do to help?"

Very few new parents are prepared for the amount of work a new baby can bring. Some babies sleep all day and still sleep well at night so there is plenty of free time for Mum. Some babies sleep all day but not all night, so Mum has to sleep in the day, too. Some babies sleep well at night but hardly at all during the day, but they don’t want to be put down, so Mum has to carry them around all day. There’s not much you can do with only one hand (in the beginning, anyway!).

For the first few months both Mum and Bub will be finding their feet as far as a routines are concerned. This period of time can be very chaotic. The more patient and understanding you can be, the better Mum will be able to adjust to her new role. So the answer is: definitely not B, but ask your partner which she might prefer of the other three.<.p>

Question Two:

You want to have a go at changing your infant’s nappy but your partner won’t let you within 10 ft of the baby (or she takes over in the middle of it because "you’re doing it wrong"). You:

a) Push her out of the way and say "He/She's not just YOUR baby"

b) Jokingly reassure her that you won't break the baby

c) Ignore her criticism and tell her that you really want to help HER look after the baby

d) Retreat with your tail beneath your legs and never offer again.

Sometimes new Mums can be overwhelmed with their new responsibilities to the point where they are afraid to share some of them. Sometimes new Mums are struggling to keep some sense of control when their lives seem chaotic, and this can make them overbearing. If this is the case with your New Mum either answers B or C would be appropriate. It's best for all three of you that you are included as much as possible in Baby's day to day life -it gives you time to nurture your relationship with Baby, helps you to understand what your partner’s life is like now, and gives her a much-needed break.

Question Three:

You are running late for an important family occasion. You find your partner half-dressed, standing in front of the mirror in tears. She says she can’t find anything to wear because "nothing fits right any more". You:

a) Tell her you think she looks gorgeous just as she is

b) Say "Maybe you should wear one of your maternity dresses"

c) Tell her "Everyone knows you have just had a baby, if they don't understand then they’re not worth worrying about anyway…"

d) Tell her "It doesn't matter, everyone's going to be looking at the baby anyway"

A New Mum's body image and self-esteem can be pretty low after the birth of a baby. Sometimes it takes a New Mum longer than expected to get back into shape, or the care of a new baby can take up so much of her time and energy that exercise is the last thing she feels like. This can leave a New Mum feeling a bit down. Your sensitivity and support can help her to feel better about herself and her situation. So answers A or C would be appropriate.

Question Four:

You're still running late for an important family occasion. Your partner still has to finish feeding and changing the baby and has forgotten to re-stock the nappy bag. You:

a) Look at your watch, tap your foot and sigh impatiently

b) Ask her what you can do to help

c) Don't have to ask because you know what should go in the nappy bag and where to find it, and pack it yourself.

d) Tell her "Just grab a nappy and feed the baby later"

It takes some time for both parents to adjust to meeting the needs of a small baby. If you don’t change or feed a small baby when they need it they will reward you with a very loud and insistent signal that is VERY distracting, especially when you are driving - so D is definitely out. For the time being, whether you like it or not, your time is not your own - it is the Baby's, which means that normal considerations about being on time have to be put into perspective. It can also be overwhelming how much stuff a little baby might need for an outing - it can be a pain in the neck remembering it all, but an even bigger pain in the neck if you don't! B or C are therefore the best answers here.

Question Five:

You are being served up left-over spaghetti bolognaise for the third night in a row. You:

a) Go out and buy some take-away

b) Make up a quick salad and open a can of soup

c) Call your mum/her mum for help

d) Complain

As you know by now, looking after a small baby is extremely time-consuming. Cooking can also be extremely time consuming. Doing both is almost impossible. Until your new baby is in a predictable routine (which could happen anywhere between six weeks and six months), it will be impossible for your partner to co-ordinate with any accuracy all the responsibilities she now has. This time will pass, so until it does, be patient and take your pick of A, B or C. Good luck!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this web-site is of a general nature only, and is not meant to be used as advice for individual problems. If you have particular concerns about your self, your partner or your child you should seek support from a professional counsellor or health practitioner. The author does not take any responsibility for the effects of your use of this information.© E. Taylor 2011

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