We need Dad’s to be involved in parenting….encourage it!
Brad as “King for a day!” He has always been a “hands on” Dad!
Dads have a special role in their kids’ lives. I believe that my parenting would have been incomplete without Brad, but I could have very easily discouraged his involvement very early on. I was a “gatekeeper” Mom; I needed and wanted him to be involved, but had a difficult time actually “letting go” of any of the parenting. I hovered and gave “suggestions” on the best way to hold the baby, how to bathe the baby, kind of the “my way or the highway” approach. Soon I realized that neither of us were the experts and a parenting partnership was better for me, him, and our baby! We were “in this” together!
Dads sometimes need a bit of encouragement to become confident in their role as a Dad and especially in their baby care skills . Moms are often responsible for much of the “baby duty” those first few weeks, and sometimes even have a difficult time allowing Dad to own his role. Studies show us that babies respond to Dads differently than Moms. Most babies become more alert and active when Dad engages them! Let’s face it, Dads usually interact with a bit more energy and fun! Routine and consistency are important for children, but they also need a balance between Mom and Dad. Embrace parenting as a partnership. Everyone will benefit…
Ways to Help New Dads Get Involved
1. Many Dads want to be more involved than their fathers were.
Moms can help by encouraging time with other families that have involved Dads. Seeing other fathers that are breaking the old stereotypes will encourage them to do the same. Talk with other Moms and Dads that have a parenting philosophy that you like or admire. Surround yourself with like-minded parents and Dads that like to participate in the care of their children. Soon you will see that his conversation with other Dads will include the color and consistency of what is in a diaper and the best technique in swaddling, and he will actually be interested in it…who would have thought!
2. Help Dad get involved early on.
The sooner a Dad gets involved with his baby, the more likely that he will stay connected over the long term. Be sure to keep everything related to the baby a partnership. Have Dad change diapers, read to the baby, feed or bring you the baby for nursing, bathe and play his way with the baby. Breast fed babies may have more time with Mom in the very beginning, but there are many ways that Dad can still participate in caring for his baby. Skin to skin contact is important for babies—that means Mom’s skin and Dad’s skin! Encourage Dad to hold his newborn shirtless and comfort just like Mom! This builds bonding between Dad and baby. Few Moms can swaddle a baby as securely as a Dad, and Dads can walk and comfort the baby after Mom has nursed–buy a sling that is Dad friendly! Don’t let Dads wait until baby is older to begin his parenting, babies need him from moment one!
3. Allow Dad to be involved.
Some dads want to be VERY involved, but Moms have a difficult time letting go. Studies show us that children with Dads who care for them beginning in infancy, end up more secure in life. Do not tell Dad how to do everything. If Dad does something differently, that is not wrong. If Dad is criticized, he will back off the parenting duties and his confidence will decrease. Fathers parent differently. Dads often let children play more physically and take more chances. This is different from Moms, but good for children and their developing understanding of the world. Let Dad take one night or weekend day alone, this is good for you, Dad and your baby. Encourage Dad to own one parenting chore like bathing, bathing is a task that allows great interaction and is needed from the first moments of parenthood. Allow Dad to figure out his own parenting pattern and not totally depend on Mom. Be careful not to slip into a gatekeeper role as I did. Moms and Dads both need alone time with baby because this allows Mom and Dad to develop their own parenting style and confidence. Remember, Dad is not a babysitter, he is a parenting partner!
4. Praise Dad’s efforts.
We all like praise and fathers really need more of it when caring for their new baby. Since stereotypes are changing, one way to make sure that Dads are embracing true involvement is for Dads to feel in control and confident. This confidence develops when Moms praise him for what he does well rather than criticize him for what is done differently from Mom or unsuccessfully. Offer advice, but approach it as a team. “This is what has worked for me, try it and see if it does for you.” Remember success breeds success. The first time Dad quiets his crying baby, that accomplishment will result in him being more comfortable in quieting the baby the next time! I quickly learned that Brad’s confident, firm hold was an immediate fix for our second child’s fussy period in the early evening…he had the knack for calming her!
5. Update Dad
When Moms are on maternity leave or have chosen to not work outside the home, many Dads feel disconnected while at work. Taking a moment to send a picture when your baby smiles or to update Dad on a developmental milestones or activities during the day keeps him connected.
6. Talk together about your parenting goals.
We all have hopes for our children and our family environment. Talk about them together…communication about parenting as a team results in you both being on the same page.
- What are your hopes for your family?
- How do you see your roles as parents?
- What kind of parents would you like to be?
- How would each of you like it to be handled when there is a disagreement about a parenting issue?
- How can you best support each other as parents?
7. Talk with other families who share your parenting beliefs.
Sharing parenting experiences with other parents who are parenting as a team really encourages both Mom and Dad. One of the best parenting tips I can give, is to surround yourself with like-minded parents. It is much easier to believe in your parenting philosophy when you have other parents that support you.
8. Put your partner first.
Try to remember that your relationship with your partner will be there after your child is grown. By loving each other, you are giving your child an important gift—a stable base. Putting your partner first is wise, and makes your parenting relationship stronger. Relationships can become stronger even with the pressures of parenthood if you keep each other first.
9. Keep your sense of humor.
Remember, you are in this together. As you pass each other in the night, keep a tally on whose turn it is to change the poopy diaper, clean up the spit up, or collapse in exhaustion together in a heap on the couch, laughter at the situation and with each other fixes all kinds of stress.
Becoming a parent is a huge change for both Moms and Dads. Each parent needs support from the other. Giving and taking, encouraging, praising and simply loving each other will make both your relationship strong, and your baby happy and successful in the future. Working together is the key to happy families, fulfilled parents, and secure relationships.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.