If you want our advice, New Dad … If you are a new Dad, expect to hear those words over and over in the months ahead. From your mother, your mother-in-law, your friends and other family. Even the childless coworker somehow has advice for you. Everyone wants to give you helpful hints. You have to decide who deserves your attention, but perhaps these tidbits will really help.
The Unexpected Bond
Many new Dads report being overwhelmed by feelings. They say at first, they felt no bond to their babies … but one event, one trigger, may unexpectedly change them.
For some new Dads that moment is when, lying on the sofa, the new baby lies against your chest. You feel the warmth, the trust, and … poof! … the bond happens. It is due to oxytocin, a hormone that directly affects social bonding, say the experts writing at Fatherly.
That surge of oxytocin is almost always unexpected, and usually delayed, for Dads. Once it is delivered, though, it keeps on coming, helping to reduce impulsivity, rash behavior, and risk-taking in men. In other words, it helps you become a better Dad.
Baby Comes First
All the pink and blue paint, the diapers, the furniture, food and fuss are nothing compared to that trusting new life in your hands. If nothing else burrows into your soul, let this: your baby comes first.
Your baby does not need a fancy car, four-bedroom house, or filet mignon. Your baby needs you. Your baby’s mother needs you.
Get in there and get hands on. Help out the mother, sure, but spend plenty of time with your own baby. That bond, say experts at Today’s Parent, is biological, beneficial, and beautiful. Embrace the change.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
If the mother of your child wants you in her life, be there for her. Take some of the burden off her. Avoid vague offers:
- “What can I do to help?”
- “Need anything?”
- “How about I get you something?”
Instead, offer specifics:
- “Can I warm the bottle for you now or in a few minutes?”
- “I’m putting together a grocery list; would you like your favorite yogurt again?”
- “I am sending my mother out for take-out dinners for all of us, to give you a half-hour of quiet.”
You are second — no, third — tier in the first weeks of a new baby’s life. You are a team, but for at least a little while, you need to watch for unspoken signals and just go ahead and do what needs doing. You need to anticipate and step in, say experts at What To Expect. She has no reserves left for making decisions.
Fathers are meant to win more than bread. For much of our American history, though, we have relegated men to be breadwinners and disciplinarians. Ignore history. Love your kid.
Your father’s father probably never changed your father’s diaper. Your father probably never cuddled and cooed over you. Ignore their past perceptions of being a “good Dad.” Love your kid unabashedly and with your whole heart.
Gone are the days when new Dads came home to mete out punishments or read evening newspapers while new mothers struggled, exhausted, to still prepare a meal. When you get home from work, turn your attention to the two people most important in your life: your baby, and your baby’s mother.
First-time Dads are often dismayed that a tiny instruction booklet did not issue forth with the birth of a child. Dads make mistakes. Get accustomed to it. Embrace it. Fatherhood is a marathon, not a sprint. You will not be stellar and dazzling every hour of every day. In fact, you will barely be awake a significant portion of that day.
You will put on a diaper inside-out. You will groggily pour an entire bottle of expressed breast milk onto your forearm after warming it, because you forgot to tighten something scientists call “the lid.” You will agree with your mother-in-law.
So, yes, you will make mistakes. Most will not endanger your child or your child’s mother. Learn from every mistake. Give up on notions of being Father Of the Year and focus instead on being a good Dad, one day (and very long night) at a time.
Not All Roses
First time fatherhood is a lot rougher than most Dads anticipate. Yes, women suffer from postpartum depression, medical woes, and sleeplessness. But so do new Dads. Offspring points to research showing 10 percent of men experience depression after the birth of a child.
In addition to depression, men face other obstacles to happily ever after:
- Aggressive behavior
- Turning to drugs or alcohol
- A suddenly sexless marriage
- Mood swings
You will be sleepless, you will be depressed, but you as the father will be expected to get up and head out to work every morning. Many people dismiss your contribution to the first few minutes of the mother’s pregnancy, so you hardly even get reflected glory.
Offspring suggests admitting to the challenges, reaching out to your own physician for help with depression, and finding avenues for relief:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Interpersonal Talk Therapy
Sure, a weekly appointment to talk over your problems takes even more time out of your day, but the benefits are measurable and supported by research.
Whether you are expecting to become a father or just need help understanding a family law matter, please contact The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or contact us online. We will be very happy to help you through fatherhood, separation, divorce, a prenuptial agreement or other Virginia family law issue. We work exclusively with Virginia’s men to protect their rights and preserve their financial security.