Are we being fair to Dads?
Very often when I receive press releases to publish on Mummy Matters, I don’t tend to do anything with them other than pop them in the trash (sorry). But the odd one or two will stand out for me if it is something I am interested in, if it’s something I think will benefit my readers or if it’s Charity related. Well this press release stood out for me as I was quite shocked when speaking to an expectant father friend of mine yesterday whose second baby is due any day now when he told me that his workplace were being awkward about him taking paternity leave. They even dared to say to him “you don’t want to be around in those early days anyway”. Why ever not? Why would a new Dad NOT want to be around his newborn child? Those first few days are the most precious as you get to know each other and you know what, Mum and Dad both need to be there to support each other.
I remember when I was pregnant with Little Bean and having a conversation with a co-worker about how much time Hubby would take off to be with me when she was born and she said that she “didn’t think it was right that men got paternity leave” because she didn’t get “extra holiday” just because she hadn’t chosen to have children. My response was quite simple, “no but you do get about 10 extra breaks a day that I don’t get because you choose to smoke and I don’t”. She didn’t respond.
Well new research commissioned by Galt Toys has found that new Dads take more than five months to get the hang of fatherhood and that during the months preceding and following the birth, Dad is wrapped in a whirlwind of anxiety over whether he could become the parent he needed to be and doubting his abilities to step up alongside Mum. I do believe this but only because it’s something I believe the majority of new Mums feels too, so why should Dad be any different?
If you throw into the mixture a breastfeeding Mum and I think this can add new issues for Dad as this is something which only Mum can do so in a way he can feel pushed out. When Little Bean was born and then of course her brothers too, I would breastfeed them and then hand them over to Hubby so that he could wind them and settle them. This worked well for us and meant that he was able to have special ‘bonding’ time too. Plus he was better at settling them all than I was.
Things might have been slightly different for us in that Hubby already had Curly, so I actually found myself turning to him asking if I was doing things right and when it came to bathtime I completely handed over the reigns to him as they were so slippery when wet!!! Galt Toys found that changing and bathing proved to be the areas that most men felt the least confident in the early days with four in ten men admitting to feeling completely out of their depth at times as a new father.
The study of 2,000 parents highlighted that one in seven dads knew ‘almost nothing at all’ about parenting before the birth or what to expect from the pregnancy and labour. Again I think this comes down to each individual couple as we read lots of books together and watched DVDs to prepare ourselves. Curly was born via emergency c-section so Hubby’s experience of his birth was totally different to that of the Beans and I can honestly say that I couldn’t have done it without him. He grounded me throughout my labours and births, he was the only one who could calm me down when I began to panic each and every time.
Parenting expert, Dr Miriam Stoppord, spokesperson for Galt Toys said “A baby wants to bond with its dad just as much as its mum and early interaction with babies and toddlers is absolutely crucial to their development. A lack of contact between a baby and its dad means they are both missing out on crucial bonding opportunities which will help dad’s confidence grow creating a parental bond for life.”
The study also revealed that despite their biggest emotion being excitement before the baby was born, being nervous and frightened was a problem for 46 per cent.
Other interesting facts include:
- One in four feeling completely overwhelmed at the thought of being a dad.
- A quarter were convinced their partner was a more natural parent than they would ever be.
- Six in ten dads stick regimentally to the rules set out by their partner and followed instructions from mum to the letter in order to get by.
- 56 per cent felt they missed out on crucial bonding opportunities after only having two weeks paternity leave in the early days.
- One in four dads left it more than a month before feeling they could go out of the house on their own with baby.
Dr Miriam continues: “The research confirms that a dad’s lack of confidence and feelings of embarrassment are aggravated by making comparisons with the other partner. For a dad to find his parenting feet, mums need to let go, so the dads can build up their confidence and have their own, and different, relationship with their child.”
I happen to agree with this. As a new Mum we try our hardest to make sure we do EVERYTHING because we don’t want people to think we can’t do it or have failed. What results is an over-tired, stressed out Mummy which isn’t great for a baby. It’s good to let go and let Dad do stuff for baby and just because he isn’t doing it ‘your’ way doesn’t mean he is doing it wrong. It’s only by trying out different ways of doing things that you can find what ‘baby’ actually prefers. It is also less likely to cause problems in a marriage if you let Dad do his bit and feel like he is able to make decisions where his child is concerned instead of feeling like he is under close inspection all of the time. I also love it when Hubby offers to dress the children as he comes up with different combinations to me which I like and the children like. It makes a nice change for me to not have to think about what they are all wearing.
Dr Miriam Stoppard offers some advice for new parents:
- If possible dad should hold his newborn baby within the first hour after birth against the bare skin of his chest so the baby can breathe in his lovely masculine odour and bond immediately with him. He might try changing the baby’s nappy on his own within the first 24 hours too.
- It’s good for dads to be given the chance to do things their own way without mums writing lists for them. Dad’s way isn’t necessarily the wrong way it’s just different.
- To give himself confidence dad should have a go at bathing his own baby unaccompanied withint the first few days of the baby’s birth. Don’t worry dads your hands are big and strong enough to keep the baby safe.
- Sometimes it’s hard but mum should try to resist the temptation to laugh at dad’s efforts or criticise saying “you’re doing that wrong”.
- Dad should try using his own taste to choose his baby’s clothes and then dress them by himself during the first week after birth.
- It’s not helpful for mum to say “don’t put him/her in that’. It dents dad’s confidence and motivation. Dad’s taste is just different from hers and worth tolerating.
- After getting a few tips from mum, dad should have a go at packing the baby bag within the first week.
- It’s demoralising for dads when mum says “the baby prefers it this way”. The baby can have many preferences that will include dad’s.
To download the full research report please go to: www.galttoys.com