Becoming a Dad can bring some doubt and fear
Men and women are different….wow, that tidbit of information is nothing new, right? However, sometimes we need to say this over and over again so we can understand why men and women respond so differently to the same situation. Moms and Dads are different, we respond differently to the same parenting situation, we have different fears, different challenges, and actually different parenting roles to some extent. I don’t want to start the whole conversation regarding men’s and women’s roles in society, their value, or their equality. I do want to start the conversation regarding the importance of both Moms and Dads in raising children, and the unique feelings and fears that Dads often experience.
New Moms and Dads often have fears about their new role, often these fears overlap, but there are a few fears that Dads own…many we Moms never know about! Here are some of the most common fears that new Dads have…I am sure there are more, because Dads often don’t talk about fear…does that surprise you??
1. Security and Financial Fears
Will I be able to protect and provide for my family? Even though we think that we have “progressed” well beyond putting the financial responsibility solely on Dad, this fear seems to be at the top of the list of many new Dads. When asked, many new Dads actually overestimate the financial costs of a new baby. Even when parents make the decision together to have Mom quit working outside of the home, even temporarily, Dads tend to shoulder the burden of this worry more than Moms.
What can a Mom do to help?
The biggest help a Mom can provide is actually opening the conversation about this fear. Talk about your finances, point out ways you are saving money together, make a financial plan for the time you are not working outside the home and most importantly, tell Dad how much you appreciate his role in giving your family security. A little bit of appreciation goes a long way.
2. Mortality fears
Let’s be honest, most men are more risk takers than women. Guys get a thrill from conquering a risk, often physical risks. Many times Dads have never ever thought of their own mortality until they hold that little newborn in their arms. Suddenly, the thought that something could happen to him may creep into his mind for the first time! This may challenge his behavior and choices…which can change in part their own self definition as he chooses to become a Dad.
What can Mom do to help?
Remember that Dads need time to maintain relationships with other men and time to continue some of his pre-Dad activities. Just as a Mom need time to “refill” her pitcher, and maintain her identity, Dad do too. Encourage Dad to maintain some of those outside activities he enjoys. However, if you see him struggling to balance fatherhood responsibilities and his “guy” activities…open the conversation. Sometimes the fear of losing some of his identity, or not feeling he has a role with his new baby, will push a Dad into spending too much time away from home and increase his need to participate in activities where he tries to deny those thoughts of his actual mortality.
3. Fear about the health of Mom or his child
Sometimes the birth of a child can trigger some real anxiety about Mom’s health or the baby’s health. Often I will hear from Moms that Dad has suddenly become a worrier. The experience of a traumatic delivery, being unprepared for the experience of labor and delivery, or having an infant with some initial health problems will increase the risk of a new Dad’s tendency to worry or become anxious. The thought that something could be wrong with Mom or the baby can bring a new level of anxiety to light for a new Dad.
What can a Mom do to help?
Help Dad see that you are recovering from labor and delivery. Talk openly and honestly about how you feel, and don’t forget to ask Dad how he feels. Even though Moms experience the physical part of labor and delivery, Dads have an intense emotional experience. Talk about the experience together. Encourage Dad to come to the doctor for your postpartum exam and your baby’s doctor’s appointments. Learn all about the normal growth and development of your child together and keep him “in the loop” regarding child care and development.
4. Fears about his relationship with the baby
Because of who we are and our role, Moms become consumed very quickly in the care of her new baby. Often a new Dad will fear not being included in that special relationship between Mom and baby. In many homes, a Mom often becomes the “gatekeeper” and actually determines when Dad can be involved with the baby. Moms must allow Dad to take part in the care of their baby, or Dads will become distant from Mom and the baby. As a Mom, you must trust Dad with the care of your child.
What can Mom do to help?
Include Dad in the parenting of your baby. Let Dad in….allow him to “own” being a Dad. Encourage him to care for your baby, don’t criticize his attempts or treat him like a babysitter. Point out his successes in comforting the baby, changing diapers, or bathing. Build his confidence in being a Dad. Enjoy watching him develop his role as a Dad, and the difference in the way he interacts with your baby compared to you. A child needs both! In actuality, marriages will become stronger if you work as co-captains on the parenting team.
5. Fear of never having sex again
Men often think that sex will never occur again. (Who can blame them?!) Dad also misses time with you. Sex is usually the farthest thing from a new Mom’s mind, but it is not too far from a new Dad’s thoughts. Physical connection is so important to a man, and not having that connection brings a real feeling of loss.
How can mom help?
Given time and patience, Moms will want to have sex again as much as a Dad will. Encourage Dad to do things that will make you feel like more than a Mom. Acknowledge that you know that there has been a decrease in time that you have spent with Dad. Talk about your feelings regarding “touch time” and sex. Realize that you both have needs. Studies show that new Moms that have physical contact with their partners, not necessarily sex but “touch time”, feel better and have less anxiety and stress. Dads do too! Soon, most Dads figure out that participating in caring for the baby, and helping out in the house often results in you feeling less overwhelmed and more open to physical touch. My husband learned that using the vacuum really benefited him! 🙂 Take the time to concentrate on him for a few minutes each day. If you concentrate on him, he will also concentrate on you! You both will feel better, and your relationship will be stronger.
6. Fear of not being a good father.
New Dads are usually less confident about caring for their new baby than Moms. Most new Dads do not get any practice before their new baby is born. Many have questions about how they will react to the added pressures and what a good Dad really is. Dads have the same desire as Moms…to be the best parent they can and raise a healthy, happy, confident, successful child; but many times Dads question what their role exactly is in doing this.
What can Mom do to help?
Allow Dad some alone time with the baby. The more time he spends with his baby, the more comfortable he will become. Talk to him about what dreams he has as a father. How does he define a “good dad”? Open up conversations about what values and wisdom he wants to impart to your baby. Talk about other parents, what do you both like about other Moms and Dads…what do you not like? Tell him that you are confident in him, that he will be everything your child needs in a Dad. Give Dad one task right away that he can own and that you do not hover around. Praise his efforts with the baby and do not treat him like a babysitter.
So Moms, we don’t have the corner on the market regarding fears of becoming a parent. Dads often don’t share feelings verbally (another tidbit of information that probably isn’t earth shattering!)…and since Dads don’t share verbally, some of their fear is expressed nonverbally in behavior changes. Support Dad in any way you can, because your baby needs what both you and Dad have to offer. Give Dad a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, and embrace with him the challenges and fears that all parents experience as they look into the eyes of their child knowing that this little being will bring incredible joy, worry, work, and inexplicable love.
More about Dads to come!
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.