Dads don’t babysit
How do you get ready for fatherhood? Men facing fatherhood may have a range of questions that can be overwhelming: Am I enough for this? Can I provide enough? What is going to change in my family? New dads may feel that they can’t add value, that they have nothing to do, that they cannot soothe baby, or get him to sleep. Dads may feel that they can’t bond with baby like mom does and feel like they are just hired help in the house.
How does one prepare for fatherhood? Each stage of the child’s life brings different opportunities for dad to participate. You will find that it is necessary to have have a balanced view on fatherhood, learn what you can be doing and ask for help. This resource is aimed at the overarching things that need to be considered and explored to effectively prepare dad for his role as father.
How to see fatherhood
Fatherhood is not about being ‘soft’ and being less than who you are. On the contrary, engaged, caring fathers enter into a new adventure with their child. They fight for what is right and best for their family. They are fierce protectors, vocal advocates and focus their strength into relentless care, love and patience. They courageously say yes to what needs to be done, even when it costs them. They protect, they stir, they challenge and they call in reinforcements when needed. Fatherhood is a battle and calls more out of men, demanding their best and rewarding their involvement. Fatherhood is a venture for the brave of heart.
Many times, however, the language that people use of fathers sends a message that dads don’t have a place in the early life of a child. They are asked if they are ‘helping out’, as though it is something that is primarily mom’s responsibility, but ‘dads can chip in’. This video helps us see that all dads have responsibility with baby. It is matter of whether they are either active or inactive. This piece gives us a encouraging and challenging local voice on the importance of fathers in life of children.
God reveals himself to us as Father. He gives us a range of metaphors to use for us to best grasp his nature and character, like Provider, Healer, Peace, Almighty. One of the primary images is that of Father. The prayer that Jesus taught his followers to pray addresses “Father” (Matt 6:9). An experience of being redeemed and receiving the Holy Spirit calls us to cry out “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). We connect our faith and fatherhood because God is Father. Fatherhood is God’s idea first and we can reflect on the way he fathers us to strengthen our parenting style and choices. To effectively grow in fatherhood includes growing in how to see fathering, and the biblical descriptions of our Heavenly Father inspire us, move us and inform us.
What dads do
If you are a father, you may be reading this in time leading up to the birth of your child. For the purposes of brevity, the below is focused on the first few weeks of fatherhood.
One of the big shifts that happens is that you need to be supporting mom in a whole new way. Things aren’t going to go back to the way they were before baby. This is a new season and you will grow into this new role. So, get involved, be supportive, think of what mom and baby need before she has to ask. Who does what around the house will need to change with a new little person in the house. Have these conversations regularly to ensure that you are doing what is most needed in this season right now.
You may need to be the ‘door keeper’ for visitors. In the first few days after birth, many people will want to visit. This is a good thing. It is possible, however, it is too much and mom and baby need to rest without a constant stream of guests. Know what mom needs and be willing to step in and speak out about the boundaries that are best for you in this season.
Watch out for how mom is doing. This is a new season, with plenty of changes that mom is experiencing. Mom will not be the same person as the week before: that is to be expected. But watch out for post-partum depression. You are not expected to be her psychologist or doctor, but you are most likely the person who will observe behaviour and have conversations that indicate that mom may need some additional care in this time. If you are concerned, be sure to share your concerns and call in for support. This is not something you can ‘fix’, but you can help mom get the additional care and support she needs.
This season of life with you and your child is precious. Many times it is hard to know what unique value you bring in this time, as it seems that mom is the only one who baby needs. This is a time when you support mom as best you can, call in support when needed and bond with baby as much as possible. This may sound overwhelming, but it is simpler than you think. Here are two articles to help paint the picture of what bonding with your baby is like: Top tips for dads on bonding with your baby and Bond with Dad.
Looking beyond the first few weeks of baby’s life, one of parenting’s greatest treats is to read to your child. Don’t wait too long before developing this habit. Carve out time to read books together. Find out more about the scientific benefits of dads reading bedtime stories.
On a lighter note, you can be the funniest man in the world. Be present. Be engaged and be ready to do little things to make baby laugh. Have a look at these video clips here and here for some inspiration and ideas.
Even ‘silly’ things like using baby talk when bonding with your baby has huge impact on baby’s brain development.
In households where baby is being raised by a single mother, there exists the opportunity for caring, supportive and encouraging men to engage with baby and toddler. This is not about being a father, but rather a positive adult male figure who loves and cares. Regular playdates between families can be prioritised to ensure that children witness and experience adult male care. Naturally, this relationship between mom and these men needs to be rooted in friendship and trust.
Ask for wisdom, input and advice
Each expectant father has a range of experiences with young children. You may feel like you know enough about what to expect. For others, you may not even know what questions to ask. That is ok. The main thing is to seek out a father whom you respect and whose parenting style you want to grow towards. Ask him questions, get advice, and open the door for future conversations. In the mean time, have a look at these top tips for new dads.
If you are supporting fathers
Check out the age-specific resources that are aimed at parents in general, as there are some specifics for dad, too.
Have a read through the above, and in conversation with dad, share the ideas. Depending on your relationship with dad, the tone of these conversations and suggestions will need to change.
Older men, speak loving truth to expecting and new fathers. Call them to more. Call them to prioritize time with families. Help them see the importance of their role in each stage of parenting.
Fathering the next generation
Fatherhood plays a profound part in baby’s development. This is so much greater than simply being ‘present’, but rather actively engaged and responding to baby. Read to discover more on this. Play your part in seeing that all children everywhere have an positive, adult male figure in their life to seek their best, invest in them and see them flourishing into the future. God reveals himself as a ‘father to the fatherless (Ps 68:5). His heart is to see children everywhere be fathered well. Together, let us work to see the next generation in South Africa be fathered, that they may grow and thrive into the future