Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tips for Helping A New Dad

If you are expecting a new baby and you are the mom, chances are good that most of the attention is focused on you. Everyone asks how you are feeling. People want to know if you are ready for the baby to come. If those people, well-intentioned as they may be, even acknowledge your partner, they probably are only concerned with him out of politeness. The truth is that we still expect Mom to handle most of the childcare and to know the most about the arrangements for the kids. Even if that mom is working, going to school full-time, and trying to take care of a household, many people still have the expectation that she will be on top of the baby situation that Dad is not.

If you are the mom in this situation, you should think about your partner and how he feels. Is he involved? Chances are that he is, especially if you are a contemporary couple. More men than ever want to take an active role in the lives of their children. Many of them, like my own husband, grew up with fathers who worked and provided well for the family, but memories of Dad are precious few.

Still, there is nothing out there to prepare anyone for this shift in relationship standards. There are some things you can do to ease Dad into the role, however. First be sure that you discuss everything with him. Like with weddings, baby planning can become a family affair with your mother, your mother-in-law, aunts, cousins, sisters, and friends all adding their two cents. Make sure Dad does not get left out of that loop, though. Make him a core part of the planning. If he hates Winnie-the-Pooh, do not pick that for your nursery theme! Dad counts equally here, so keep that in mind.

Once the baby arrives, know that Dad will be tired, too. If you have set up a schedule that requires you to get up all night, which is probably the case if you are a first-time mom, then you should get your rest. Do not go without sleep but allow Dad to get some rest, too. Perhaps he needs a couple of hours one night a week to hang out with friends or to read a good book. Give him that time. Remember that your free time will become precious when the baby is born, so try to give him the opportunity to enjoy some as well.

Avoid whatever urge you may have to correct his childcare techniques. Sure, if you think he is doing something dangerous, go ahead and say something. If he is bottled feeding and the baby will just spit up because she is not being burped, let him know gently. Otherwise, back off. He does not need your help. It will make him self-conscious. Think of it this way. Why are you spending your life with this man? If he is competent to be your life partner, then he probably can handle a baby as well. There may be a sharp learning curve (after all, how many men were regular babysitters in high school?), but he will get the hang of it.

Praise Dad when necessary. Do not take him for granted. While you may not feel like thanking him for getting up one time last night when you had to get up 12 times with the baby, he will feel much better about himself if he hears the occasional comment of gratitude.

Also do not allow others to mistreat Dad. If you see that others are correcting him in public, gently take over the care of the baby to diffuse the situation or comment on how wonderful your husband is at child-rearing. Try to turn the episode into something positive and give the others a subtle hint to stay away in the process.

Be sure that you take the new dad into account when you are making plans. You likely will need someone to drive you to the doctor, for example, and you need to allow your husband to make the final decision on the day and time if he will be getting off work to take you. Remember that he is an equal partner, so treat him that way.

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