There’s loads of things to consider when waiting for your first baby. I found these mainly centred around turning the spare room (my beloved music studio) into a nursery, sorting out finance plans for the coming year and preparing for the birth. One thing that I hadn’t really prepared for though is thinking about what kind of Dad I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be an involved parent but I hadn’t quite understood what this meant in practise and the wide range of different roles that different dads can play.
Back in the day the parental roles seemed more defined. The man didn’t prepare for or attend the birth and often went back to work straight after the baby was born. From then the man would work and enjoy a bit of light touch activity with the baby in the evenings while the woman stayed at home with the baby and did all the nurturing parental stuff. I can imagine the dad holds the baby for a little while after work then giving the baby back to mum once they needed a nappy change, are hungry or tired! These days however, things have changed and the man’s role can range from that old school model to be the primary carer and a lot of variations in between.
I knew I wanted to be involved and while I’m not our daughters primary carer I ensure that our relationship is so strong that she can come to me for comfort as well as for playtime. I was also keen to make sure I know how to look after her on my own, so I learnt about the ins and outs of caring for a newborn baby and especially her own unique likes and dislikes.
However, I do think this is an area that Dads should be made aware of during pregnancy so they can mentally prepare for being a parent. During pregnancy, a lot of focus is on the mum, and rightly so, but Dads can be missing a trick by not considering what they want their role to be and talking with their partners so they can both work together in the best way possible. Sometimes societal pressures, be it from family or work, can pressure a man into being a certain type of Dad. Some cultures and workplaces haven’t quite caught up with the idea of a man being heavily involved in parenting, in some ways I can see how some men can be made to feel de-masculated by wanting to attend midwife appointments or take extra paternity leave after the birth. This is why it’s so important to be clear about the type of Dad you want to be and whole heartedly give all your effort to become it. Luckily I work in a very progressive environment where I am able to work flexibly and me being an involved parent is encouraged. I’ve even set up a staff network entitled Employees with Young Families which looks at issues facing working parents. There will be a separate blog on that soon!
I guess the message here is that I think it’s really important to think about what you want your role as a father to look like and talk to your partner during the pregnancy. Even though it can change once baby arrives, I think it definitely helps the transition into fatherhood and allows the family to function happily as a unit.
So, what kind of Dad do you want to be?