Adjusting to fatherhood

Becoming a dad is a difficult transition for many men. How can you help your partner feel he’s a great father?

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Rob Williams CEO of the Fatherhood Institute and part-time stay-at-home dad gives some pointers.

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Spending time together as parents with your newborn is crucial, he believes.

‘Paternity leave is really important. If Dad is around in the few months after a baby arrives, it helps the father to bond with the baby, learn the parenting skills that both mother and father need to pick up, and it is also a great support for the mother.

‘There is good evidence that, for example, if the father is able to be involved in the first few weeks, those mothers who intend to breastfeed are more likely to still be breastfeeding after 6 weeks.’

Some new dads have a real struggle coming to terms with their new status. This may manifest itself through stress and depression. Perhaps they feel guilty about going out in the evening, but also resent being stuck at home.

Rob says, ‘I have two children, 7 and 4 years old, and I still remember the work it took me to come to terms with being a father. Just getting my head around all the things in my life which needed to change if I was going to live up to the new job of being a Dad.

‘The thing which made the biggest difference to me when our first was small was when I spent time on my own with him. It completely changed the way I felt about him. I was nervous about whether I could cope with him without my wife being there (or my mother, or her mother or father). And after I got through the first afternoon without either of us coming to any harm, I got a huge amount of confidence. I realised that before then I had been wondering if I was going to be any good at being a Dad.

‘I also found that our baby started to like me a lot more – he would choose to sit with me rather than his mother. That made me feel really good.

‘I think this happens to a lot of fathers, mainly because in the first few hours of the baby’s life, (and during the pregnancy) it is the mother who is really hands on nurturing the child. Dads need to develop their own confidence about being a father.’

Rob adds, ‘I think it is important to avoid falling into a pattern where Dad assumes that the mother is really the one who is in charge of the baby and he just has to help out when required. Much better for both parents to feel responsible.’

Rob Williams hosted a webchat about fatherhood on babyexpert.com: read the chat in full here

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Visit www.fatherhoodinstitute.org for more information.

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