BECOMING a dad is a big adjustment — it will probably be one of the most beautiful yet stressful and life-changing experiences of your life. And while looking after your child is very important, clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell says that you will have to strike a balance to ensure that you look after yourself, your spouse or the mother of your child, as well as your relationship.
“Fatherhood is a significant part of manhood. Unfortunately, no one teaches us to be parents, so a new dad must navigate his way into that particular role, depending heavily on his gut, his values, and the fact that he now has a precious soul to nurture,” Dr Bell said.
She noted that the most important step on this journey for a man is coming to the realisation that his role is just as important as that of the mother, regardless of the sex of the child, and he must ensure that he stands firmly and acts in the best interest of his family at all times.
“Secondly — and we see this very often — when a child comes on the scene, he or she will need more attention. The child will depend on its parents for survival, and naturally the mother will spend more time doing this than the father. Unfortunately, some men become jealous of the attention being given to the child. Fathers, you need to ensure that you do not become one of those dads. Instead, you must become actively involved in the care of the newborn,” Dr Bell advised.
Dr Bell recommends that men should consider preparing for fatherhood by consulting other men whose interactions with their children they admire. Ask them for tips on how they adjusted to the birth of their children or how they matured into fatherhood.
Just as she advises women, Dr Bell said that fathers should never be afraid to accept, ask for, or to offer help.
“Always offer to help your partner with taking care of the affairs of your child — for example, you are not able to breastfeed, but you can offer to fix her pillow to a comfortable position or to offer her a glass of water. Secondly, accept help when you get tired, you aren't sure about a task, or need help in general. You should know that we all can do with a little help sometimes.”
Other tips include:
•Take paternity leave, even if it means taking vacation days since most companies do not give time off for fathers after the birth of their children. Your spouse will need you during this period. This will also give you an insight into what it takes to care for a precious infant.
•Don't hand the child to the mom as soon as the child starts crying. Remind yourself that you are just as capable of caring for the child as well as finding out the source of his/her crying and fixing it.
•Spend time with your child. This will help you to build a special, unique bond with your child that you can nurture as the child gets older.
•Constantly educate yourself. If you don't know something, always ask a health care practitioner or the person from the associated field. The internet has a wealth of information, so you can do your own research.
•Don't become totally absorbed by the baby — not only moms do it, dads do it too. Give your partner the attention she deserves. Don't cause her to believe that the baby is here, so she is no longer as important as she was.
•Have fun with your child. Sing, read, talk to and play with your child as often as you can. This time can be both fun as well as educational.
•Importantly, love abundantly. This will help you to see this child as an extension of yourself.