By: Hogan Hilling
As one of the few men who has read the book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," I learned a lot about my wife, Tina, but I still don't understand her. All kidding aside, I will agree that that men have not done enough to learn more about what women go through as mothers. However, I will also argue that women and our society in general haven't done enough to learn more about what men go through as fathers.
Many moms I know, including my wife, have admitted that they never read a book about fatherhood when they first became parents. The books they read were about motherhood and how to care for the baby.
Most hospitals with family birth centers have several classes that pertain to motherhood and the baby's care and needs. But most do not have a class just for dads or one that gives a father's perspective on being a parent.
I have listened to thousands of men share their thoughts about being fathers. And although a father's concerns and issues are different than those of a mother, they are just as challenging, complex and difficult to understand and manage. Some of the issues new dads have shared with me include the following:
Health of Mom and Baby
Dads agonize over what might go wrong and don't want anything to happen to their wives or the baby. Many dads feel helpless because they feel that there is nothing they can do to prevent the worst from happening.
Fear of Being in the Delivery Room
Did you know that some dads don't want to or feel uncomfortable about being in the delivery room to watch their baby's birth? They don't like the idea of watching their wives give birth or the pain they endure during the delivery. Some dads don't like the sight of blood and worry about fainting.
One father told me that after watching the birth he lost interest in having sex with his wife for a while.
Believe it or not many dads don't immediately bond with the baby. The reasons for this are too complex to list and involve inherent emotions dads have not been given permission to discuss. A contributing factor to dads feeling disconnected from the baby has also been the way Lamaze instructors refer to dads as "coach" or "birth partner." Not recognizing expectant fathers as dads makes them feel unappreciated. With the rise in failing marriages we should be applauding and acknowledging the men who have committed themselves to marriage by calling them dad and not coach.
The transition from being a husband to being a father is not an easy one for most men. After the baby is born, dad is no longer his wife's main squeeze. With all the attention focused on the mom and baby, dads often feel left out and often times resentment towards the baby ensues.
Loss of the bustling social life that included parties and activities they participated in such as golf, hunting, running, fishing and tennis can also be very difficult to deal with.
How to Hold and Calm a Crying Baby
Dads feel inept when it comes to the notion of having to care for a baby. One dad noted, "I'm afraid to hold my own child.......Nobody has taken the time to show me or teach me how or what to do when my baby cries."
Dads are also under the assumption that a mom knows more about caring for a baby. This is a false myth. A mother once told me that, "Hogan, I hated the expectations people placed on me about how to care for my baby just because I was a woman. I had no idea what to do."
The increasing number of stay-at-home dads supports the conclusion that dads are just as capable of caring for a baby.
Moms Unrealistic Expectations
Mothers can be very hard on fathers when it comes to caring for a baby. After a father diapers, dresses, or feeds a baby, instead of saying thank you most mothers usually follow-up with words of criticism because it wasn't done the way she likes it done.
Balance Work and Family
Dads feel like no matter how hard they try, it was never good enough for mom.
Another thing moms have overlooked is that they expect dad to learn how to care for a baby in one hour what they learned in ten hours.
Corporate America has also not been kind to fathers. Most dads would like to spend more time with their families. But if they do, they fear it will jeopardize a possible promotion and even their job. Some argue that there is now Family Medical Leave Act that allows fathers to take time off. However, it took a legislative act to put it into place. Statistics show that dads are not using the FMLA because the underlying fear I noted above still exists.
Dads also fear their male friends will question their masculinity for being an involved father and prompt remarks like "That's a woman's job!" Or "Who wears the pants in the family?" It has been said that if it takes two people, a man and a woman, to make a baby. Then it stands to reason that it will take two parents, a mom and a dad, to care for and raise a child.
If we, as a society, want dads to make more of an effort to become more involved fathers, and help them better understand what moms go through, then we must give fathers equally billing, become much more attentive to their concerns and needs., and provide them with a forum where they can meet and talk with other dads.
Every man has it within him to be a kind, pro-active, nurturing father. All a dad needs is someone to help bring it out. Together we can all make a difference one dad at a time.
Below are four Proud Dad TIPS that will encourage and increase a father's participation in caring for his child.
T stands for Trust. Trust in a man's ability to care for a baby the way a dad does. As I noted to my wife, you trusted me enough to go out with me on a date, marry me, and conceive a baby with me, why can't you trust me enough to care for our baby?
Sadly, we don't trust dads enough. If I were to open up a daycare center with an all male staff, I bet I wouldn't be in business very long.
I stands for Invite. Invite dads to become more interactive in the care giving responsibilities. Choose your words carefully. Use words of encouragement and praise.
It's been said that if you call a toddler a brat he will become a brat. So to is it with dads.
If you make him feel inept, he will become inept.
P stands for Permission. Dads need to receive permission from their spouses, friends, and employers to be loving, nurturing, playful fathers. When I was a boy and held a baby doll in my hand it was taken away from me and replaced with a GI Joe, gun, or truck. By the time I became a father I was under the impression that I should only get involved in caring for our baby when I had to and not when I wanted to.
S stands for Support. Just like moms, dads also need a forum where they can meet, talk with and get support from other dads. While most men will feel ashamed or embarrassed about this concept, let me remind them that attending a workshop or group discussion to learn how to be a better husband and father for their family is something to be proud of.
For more information about Proud Dads you can log on to prouddadds.com or contact Hogan Hilling at (714) 665-9476 or email@example.com.
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