Who else comes to your mind when you hear the words ‘new baby’?
Obviously, the mother of that new baby.
Traditionally, and for a long time, fathers didn’t really enter the picture, and when they did they were peripheral figures sitting on the sidelines. Babies were firmly inside the world of women–and really, what could a man do besides providing external security and financial resources?
Your grandfather was probably such a man. Even your father might have been.
But times have changed, and so have dads: fathers, your new baby needs you, too.
Your baby needs an intrepid adventurer.
“But I don’t know anything about babies!”
True. Maybe your wife doesn't either.
You can learn, starting with attending prenatal and parenting classes together, and supporting your wife through labor and childbirth.
And then you can go on learning it together. Together, as a couple and together, with the baby. Your baby will probably make its needs known in the ways babies do. The fun is in figuring out what your baby is trying to tell you.
Yes, fun. Your baby is not a burden. Parenting is a completely new adventure for you and your partner to explore. As with any journey of discovery, your life will be transformed.
Access resources and information–your new baby needs a geek!
There will be plenty of people who have experience with new babies and can guide you. Don’t forget to ask other men what it was like for them. If you have a good relationship with your own father, it’s a great opportunity for another bond.
And there are also many sources of information (offline and online) where you can do your geeky best. Don’t forget to share it all with your partner and ask her opinion. This is team work and your baby needs both of you working together.
Bonding with your baby–your baby needs you close.
Holding your baby is not just a practical way to get her to places. (Since she can’t walk yet!) Physical contact, close embraces, and contact skin-to-skin are essential to the mental and physical health of newborns. Just imagine you grew for nine months inside another human body where you could hear your mother’s heartbeat. And now you’ve lost your womb! Close holding reassures your new baby, and skin contact conveys a lot of information that the baby’s new brain can process.
Caregiving–your baby needs a strong, soft man.
There is nothing to prevent a man from being a good caregiver. Your natural abilities weren’t eliminated by the Y chromosome.
Basic caregiving duties like changing diapers, cleaning, bathing and dressing the baby, and creating a calming atmosphere can be performed by most adults adequately, even if some people are a little squeamish at first. And providing emotional support–well, by this stage you’re probably an expert!
“But I can’t breastfeed…”
No, you can’t. You can’t do everything. But you can do everything else.
24/7 management–your new baby needs you on the night shift.
New babies have no idea how we like to structure our day. They follow their own rhythm and even that changes all the time as they develop.
Think of the night shift as a test of your strength. For a long time, industrial night shift work was reserved for men since women’s constitutions were thought to be too delicate for it. Your baby will reward you by trusting dad when the darkness falls, and falling asleep on your chest when you are both calm. (And think about the many many episodes of your favorite TV series you can catch up on while there is nobody there to criticize your taste…)
Traditional roles still matter–your baby needs a protector.
New babies can’t do anything for themselves.
They need a house, food, warmth, clothing, and 24/7 care.
All that costs money and maybe the mother of your baby is taking a little time out from work. So, yes, it may well be up to you to provide the foundations of your lives, at least for a while.
Support your wife–your baby needs a happy mother.
Help your partner without being asked to (failure to do so is the main complaint from new mothers), support her emotionally and show your own emotions, and don’t stop talking to her as an adult.
From couple to family–your baby needs a dad who can grow.
Take an active and positive part in reshaping the dynamics at home.
After your baby is born, your relationship will never be the same.
That’s very true.
It will grow in size and in love, if you let it.
You and your partner now have a common project of the most urgent and most fulfilling kind. A helpless small human who depends on both of you for his or her survival, development, and shaping himself or herself into a full person.
Don’t experience your own life and family from the sidelines. Go right in there and embrace the love.