Unlike moms, dads don't usually transition naturally into fatherhood. So, don't blame them for not being fatherly all the time.
In the life of a woman, the process of delivering a baby is a definitive step. It is a moment when she takes on an additional role of a mother. In fact, for as long as she is alive, she has an additional anxiety about her child. My mpm still has it, and I am a father already! In short, she can never forget that she is a mom!
A man witnesses his child's birth. He undergoes a range of emotions, from fright through awe! However, there is no apparent physical transformation taking place in him. Sure, he starts caring more, but it is not due to a momentous transition in his body. And so, as you all know, a man can forget to be a father once in a while.
This article is not a defensive excuse to get away with what we as men do. It is a glimpse into why men are so, and possible ways to help them transition into fatherhood.
Development of human instincts
There are a few instincts that we are born with. And that is probably how a baby smells her mother and communicates with her. The rest of them, we learn by experiencing things. These experiences may be actual or vicarious - we also learn a great deal from observing other people.
The third way we learn is by listening to the people we trust. This also includes the books we read, the movies we watch, and probably the things we extrapolate from our pre-existing knowledge till then. That is why we know that a toothpick can hurt when poked with, just because we know that a pin does the same thing.
Maternal instincts develop in a similar manner. You really start bonding with the baby when you start feeling her movements, her kicks, her hiccups. You know she likes some song, and you know what not to do because it agitates her. And the best thing is, she is with you wherever you go, 24/7. This builds up the knowledge much faster.
There is a thing about knowledge acquired. If it is learned first hand, you never forget it. Learning from a book fades away. The things that we learn from observing may also be forgotten over a period of time. And that is why fathers-to-be find it a bit tough to develop the fatherly instincts immediately.
To start with, they spend a limited amount of time with the developing fetus. In addition, they cannot appreciate the movements as much as the mother can. Most of the dads today try, ladies. That said, this learning is by observation, and not really first-hand. And that is why, sometimes, he forgets that he is a dad, and ends up bar-hopping on a weekday with his buddies.
Shaping of Fatherly instincts
The societal pressures play a big role in the type of instincts that a father develops. Even though it is 2017, there is still an expectation from a father to provide for a family, keep the children safe, probably do the 'masculine jobs' like mending fences and changing the fuses in the house. To a huge extent, mothers still end up cooking meals and tending to the baby's needs.
This makes the father assume a more protective role. The problem is, a father does not know suddenly how to be tough. So he turns to his role-models. They are typically an uncle that he revered growing up, some celebrity parent, Jon Hamm from Mad Men. And none of these men is vocal about his feelings. Each one of them toils hard, earns for the family and is just macho.
So, the lessons a father-to-be get are:
a) To protect, he has to be tough
b) Tough guys have no weaknesses
c) Having a sensitive side is a possible weakness
d) He has to be there for the family all the time, do all the hard work, and still manage to earn for the family.
e) One sensitive parent is enough, I need to be the provider, protector, pillar of the house
You can imagine then, why your partner has a sudden change in attitude after the baby is born. The learnings derived are self-contradicting, and he has a hard time sorting them out. He also does not think that talking with anyone is going to help, as most of his bros won't understand.
Thus, there is not enough time to transition, and so, he ends up being a half-baked macho, adopting the toughness, but forgetting the patience and perseverance that strong men possess.
So why are a few men better at it than others?
Well, to be honest, it is an unfair question. Some mums manage to parent better than others. That does not mean they are better moms. But, I admit. The spectrum of fathers is much wider than mothers. Some do manage it better. And the reason is simply that their efforts were in the right direction.
These fathers have prepared actively for fatherhood with the support of their spouses. Most of them have better role models. They discuss fatherhood with their friends. Many have a healthy relationship with their woman friends. They, like most of the fathers, want to help, but unlike a few, get the equation right.
How you can help
You are a mom, and you know your partner very well. He means well, just does not know how to be there for you all the time. These are the 9 things you need to do to help him be the father he wants to be
- Be patient with him. His mom may have spoiled him, as you are spoiling your kids. So he probably never did his own stuff. Give him time and space to process his new role.
- Stop him from overcommitting. At the start, a guy will do everything. However later, he will find himself in a position where it is practically impossible to go on. You might think that he is losing interest. It is not the case. So, before he takes it to himself to do everything, just let him know where you need his help the most. This will help him ease into the role of a father.
- Trust him not to drop the baby. You are a mom. And you are afraid of anything happening to the baby. However, it is his baby too. So, show him the trust, don't doubt his intentions, and let him be himself in front of the baby.
- Let them bond. Dads are not babysitters, they are equal parents. So, don't just ask your guy to look after the baby when you are running errands. Instead, let them as much time as they can with each other.
- Let him take a lead in some activities. This is, in a way, a division of chores. Let him be in charge of reading to the baby. Don't just dump the stinky bits of parenting like changing diapers on him!
- Give a feedback. Men need a feedback early on. So if you find he is doing something good, tell him. If you think he could be better, tell him.
- Keep it egalitarian. If you assume the role of the primary parent, he automatically becomes secondary. Instead, you can be the lead parent - the one who is the emergency contact number on the daycare's register. However, when it comes to parenting, divide the tasks and switch every fortnight. That way, both of you can do everything, and your child sees you as equals.
- Take important decisions together. Do I need to explain this? Just consult him first instead of your mother.
- Let him keep his friends. Don't get me wrong. I am not implying that you are barricading him behind the walls of your house. You know what I am saying. Let him go out, have fun, and most importantly, talk to his woman friends without feeling guilty. It will only make him voice his concerns that he cannot do in front of you. Remember, he does not want you to see him as unsure.
Moms, you partner wants to be a good father. Help him transition into the role smoothly.
This article was originally published on theAsianparent Singapore