Firstly, I think it is important to acknowledge that while I am writing an article about fatherhood, I am not a father myself! I do, however, support fathers in my perinatal psychology service, I have a father, I am married to and co-parent with my children’s father and I know many fathers.
The role of a father has evolved over time, and while this evolution has brought with it many positives, it has also created some challenges. I believe more than ever, parents are under great stress and pressure to ‘do it all’.
Modern fatherhood has progressed from men being mainly observers and disciplinarians of their children to being integrally involved and very hands-on with raising their children.
Families have also evolved from the nuclear family to a rich diversity of many wonderful variations. As a result, fatherhood can take many forms – fatherhood within a partnership, single fatherhood, part-time fatherhood, step-fatherhood, stay-at-home fatherhood, working fatherhood etc.
Becoming a dad brings inevitable changes to every area of a man’s life, for example, his view of himself, his role in life, his relationships, and so on. While many of the changes of becoming a dad are exciting and joyful, they can also be overwhelming and stressful. Therefore, it is essential to provide support not only to your partner, but to also ensure your own self-care.
Our parenting style (authoritarian, permissive, disengaged or supportive) is largely shaped by the way we were parented! Other influences are: generational expectations regarding masculinity and fatherhood, social media, culture, religion, friends and family, life circumstances, the amount of support available and so on. While these factors influence your parenting, it is up to you to decide what is best for your child(ren) and how you choose to raise them.
Fathers should engage in each stage of parenthood:
– Listen to your partner and her thoughts and feelings about pregnancy and parenthood and share yours too
– Attend the antenatal scans, appointments, parent education classes
– Learn about the development of the baby
– Talk, sing, play music to your baby as they grow within your partners amazing body
– Listen to your partner and their expectations, thoughts and feelings about birth and share yours
– Attend birth preparation classes
– Learn about: The process of birth, what your partner may experience both physically and emotionally, what your partner may want during birth and be an advocate for her,
ways you can provide physical and emotional support throughout the birth – to avoid feeling helpless
– Listen to your partner about their thoughts and feelings regarding their experience of parenthood and share yours
– Skin to skin contact with your baby
– Support your partner and actively participate (without being asked) in caring for your baby: feeding, settling, bathing, changing, playing (looking at, talking, singing and reading to your baby) and so on
– Support your partner by taking the baby for a walk in the pram or a drive in the car
– Assist with household tasks like cooking, dishes, laundry, cleaning and so on
– Self-care activities for you and your partner
Important things to consider regarding fatherhood:
– Fathers can struggle with the level of selflessness being a parent requires – it is no longer about what suits you best but what is going to be best for the whole family
– Fathers can feel more responsibility after having a child and more pressure to provide financially for their new family
– Fathers can feel left out or jealous of their new baby – due to their partner’s focus on the baby and not seeming to have time for them anymore
– Fathers can feel criticised by their partner when they are doing the “wrong” thing with their baby, and this can lead to a lack of confidence in caring for their child
– Fathers often develop a stronger bond once their baby is more interactive
– Fathers can struggle with their own big feelings that arise frequently in their role as parents, like despair, frustration and anger
– Fathers might need to buffer wider family stressors
– Fathers may have to support their partners and / or their own mental health while adjusting to parenthood
Your partner may resent you for things like:
Always suggesting the baby needs a feed when they cry
Going to work – being able to go to the toilet on your own, consume hot beverages and converse with other adults
For being able to escape the house without being tied to the baby
If you come home a minute late
If you ask “what did you do all day?”
Childbirth education for dads at the pub
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA)
Centre of Perinatal Excellence