Becoming a Dad

Becoming a Dad

The Dad-to-Be

 One of the most important changes for parents today is dads have tripled time spent with their kids and they want even more. But it’s common for new moms to get so wrapped up with the baby and motherhood that we forget Dad is eager to dive into fatherhood—and going through major changes, too.

"When you hold that baby, it's so powerful because you've thought about it for so long, talked about it, read about it, and now it's in your hands...I didn’t want to let go." - Veteran Dad

Common Feelings, Fears & Concerns

Prepping for fatherhood can be a daunting time full of fears, concerns and a huge range of emotions. Dad may not have friends he can talk to about fatherhood, or maybe he doesn’t want to burden you with his worries (especially when you’re facing more obvious challenges). So, after the excitement of a positive pregnancy test wears off, it’s normal for dads to experience panic about the responsibility a new baby brings. 

Fatherhood is a big balancing act, and there isn’t one “right way” to go about it: It has a lot to do with choices between competing priorities. It’s also easy to get caught up in feeling pressure to do what others expect, but the right choice is whatever works best for you and your new family. 

Some of Dad’s concerns…

Fear of Failure

He may be worried about childbirth (that he’ll faint or blow it as your birth coach), or he’s afraid he’ll drop the baby or screw up in any number of ways. 

Fear of Losing the Life He Knows & Loves

Most men have a full life before their first baby is born: Their career is building or in full swing, and they have marriage, friends and hobbies that fill up their days. Fatherhood may have been a surprise and he’s worried life will “never be the same.” 

Fear of the Unknown

He’s going where billions of dads have gone before, but entering new territory can bring on fears about what’s ahead and if he’s prepared enough. 

Fear About You

He might be worried about childbirth, seeing you in pain, or what your relationship and sex life will be like.

Fear About Money

This is a big one. Long work hours may have him already stretched to the limit. Money might be tight or taking paternity leave is unpaid. Maybe you need a bigger home or new car, plus all the baby gear: crib, stroller, car seat, diapers—money, money, money. 

Fear About the Baby

Another big one. Even if there’s no need to worry, fears about what could go wrong might overwhelm him.

Fear about Relatives

In-laws…enough said. One study found this was the main complaint from new dads (they must not have asked about sex!). 

"I'm concerned about managing everything, because I work a ton of hours. And I want to support my wife and be there for my son." - Dad-to-Be

“I’m worried I’ll be so anxious and nervous when he’s born that I’ll pass out.” - Dad-to-Be

"I'm worried I'm going to be a wreck who is sleep walking through everything and not around mentally...Like I'm not going to be very good at things the first couple of weeks."   - Dad-to-Be

Slow But Steady Transformation 

Like moms, dads experience shifting hormones that equip them for fatherhood, but most of their transformation happens once the baby is born. Women get a nine-month head start with baby bonding, so if your partner’s not giddy about the baby registry, don’t worry. As soon as he’s holding his little one, his excitement level will skyrocket.

Here’s what Dad’s path looks like compared to yours:

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“It was like a light switched on. My job was still important, but being home to experience his ‘firsts’ was more important. It changed my life for the better. He’ll never remember them, but I’ll never forget them.” - Veteran Dad

A few more things about new dads:

  • Fathers are fully equipped to care for, nurture and protect their babies.
  • Dads bring unique strengths to parenting.
  • He want to be a big part of his child's life, but, like you, he's figuring things out as he goes.
  • The changes new moms experience can be tough on new dads, too.
  • Dads often feel "dumped" once the baby arrives and mom's focus shifts to the baby. It's not jealousy: he just misses you and needs to know your relationship is still a priority.

“As a mom, you've carried the baby for nine months and you think you can do everything. Turning over the reins and letting them help out is hard.” - Veteran Mom

“A lot of our comfort with the baby comes from trial and error. We need to let Dad have that, too. He needs to be around the crying baby without us so he learns how to soothe her.” - Veteran Mom

Dads Get Depressed, Too 

There’s lots of information for moms on the baby blues and postpartum depression, but about 10 to 15% of new dads also experience depression (PPND: Paternal Postnatal Depression). With all the changes, stress, and lack of sleep dads experience, it makes sense they can feel down, too. Mood disorders in men sometimes look different than they do in women, so it’s good to know the signs—especially if Dad has a family history of depression/anxiety. 

Signs of PPND:

  • Sadness, agitation or irritability
  • Mood swings, angry outbursts
  • Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, panic attacks
  • Loss of motivation and interest in activities once pleasurable
  • Risky behavior, including drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Loss of or excessive appetite 
  • Withdrawing or working extra-long hours

“Understand that if your husband doesn’t immediately step in to help, it’s not because he’s being passive and lazy. It’s probably because he’s scared and unsure of his skills with the baby. Support and encourage him whenever possible; build his confidence and you’ll find that he will be a lot more willing to help out and able to fully experience the joys of fatherhood.” - Veteran Mom

You Have a Lot of Support: Dad Has You 

Moms-to-be have a huge support system that includes family, friends, the healthcare, retail and media: your partner has you. 

Think about it…In the racks of magazines for parents, have you ever seen one for dads? How about a paternity store? Do men reconnect with their father they way women do with their mom? Do dads-to-be often get together with guy friends to talk about the baby on the way? Most likely, not so much.

Studies show dads get more involved in baby care when mom encourages them, but despite good intentions, moms are often overprotective (gatekeeping) to the point of pushing Dad away right when his drive to baby-bond is strongest. So respect, support and encourage Dad, and the reward is a partner who goes above and beyond for his family.

Experience Builds Confidence & Fires-Up Instincts 

Over time, Dad will develop confidence as he learns to meet his baby’s needs and trust his instincts. Any idea that he’s incapable will disappear the minute you see him rocking your baby to sleep or how her face lights up when he walks in the room. As he settles into fatherhood and caring for his child, he’ll develop a deep awareness of just how important he is to her and feel a quiet pride. 

Fatherhood will feed his soul and positively impact all aspects of his being.

“I’m an attorney and I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, but having my little girl is the greatest thing I’ve done or will ever do.”  - Veteran Dad

“You’re just figuring it out as you go, no matter how many books you’ve read or how many ideas you have of what you want to do. You see the way they look at the world, and that affects how you look at it.” - Ben Stiller, Father & Actor

“It’s an incredibly awesome thing, because you’re constantly thinking about the responsibilities that you’re dealing with. You’re faced with the reality that you’re going to be an influence on a new person in the world." -  Veteran Dad

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