Although big changes in an expectant mum are obvious, a father also goes through a lot as he waits for the new arrival. It's a time of adjustment as he changes his self-image and his relationship with his wife and other children to make room for another.
Some dads change their appearance, such as growing a beard; others take a second job to be sure they can support their growing family. Still others fix up the house or take on a new project. All will be thinking about their own fathers and wondering whether they will be the same or different. Most feel pretty anxious, though men can have a hard time showing it. These stirred-up feelings create the energy to make the adjustment, attach to the baby and become the father she'll need. So it's healthy worry.
A father is a very important person in a child's life, starting before the child is born. Many fathers 'play' with their babies before birth by talking and singing to them or by gently massaging the mother's abdomen. The baby will recognise a father's voice at birth if he's been this close.
Babies with involved fathers show all sorts of positive benefits. Both boys and girls have an easier time being born, maintain a better self-image as they grow and do better in school if dad stays involved.
Dads Are Not Mums (and we wouldn't want them to be!)
Fathers offer babies a kind of interaction that is not the same as what they get from their mother. By 4 weeks of age a baby reacts uniquely to the sight of her father. They hunch forward and their face gets a look of eager anticipation; eyebrows up, mouth open, eyes bright. They are ready to play. The games, the stories, the greetings and the giggles they share are quite distinct from those of a mum and baby.
Fathers and mothers often have special styles of parenting. They give a child different views of life and bring different skills to the job. Both get on-the-job training by just doing it and taking care of the baby in their own style, learning from their mistakes. Each parent needs time to try out these new skills.
Along with attending childbirth classes and doing a little reading, dads can answer these questions as a way to begin thinking about this fathering thing:
- How do you play with or soothe your baby in the womb? How does she react? Do you have a special song for her?
- How involved in the baby's physical care do you want to be? What care-taking tasks do you want to do? When will you do these?
- What things about your own father do you want to emulate? What things do you want to do differently?
- Have you changed your appearance? What's your own image of a good father? * Will your baby have your name, wear your baby clothes, play with your old toys? Or do you want to make a fresh start?
Fathers offer their babies a different kind of connection. As a father, the more you play, learn and interact with your baby, the closer you will be to him.