Most new dads, if they are honest, will recognise fears they have about various aspects of fathering.
Patrick Houser is a parent counsellor and the co-founder of “Fathers-To-Be” which helps expectant and current fathers through the challenges of being a dad. Author of the hugely successful “Fathers-To-Be-Handbook”, Patrick runs workshops for fathers throughout the UK. In addition he delivers keynote speeches at conferences and holds workshops for childbirth practitioners and educators worldwide. A father and grandfather himself, Patrick specialises in support during the early years, from conception to the age of 1.
Q. I’ve never held a baby before and am terrified about being left alone with my baby for the first time. Please help!
Most new dads, if they are honest, will recognise fears they have about various aspects of fathering. Being left alone with their baby is typically right at the top of the list, and yes it can feel like terror. This is normal and with support, time and practice you will gain confidence. All parents need to begin with where they are. Caring for your baby will become the most natural thing in the world, and I am here to help.
Research shows that fathers are equally as good as mothers at caring for children. However, a parent’s degree of confidence has a significant time quotient inherent in it. During the early time mothers may be breastfeeding and doing more direct caretaking of a baby. Fathers are often involved in other household ‘duties’ as well as possibly returning to work. Because of this, fathers may take a bit longer to develop confidence; and with patience it will come.
“Dad, you are going to do a great job. Your baby is completely safe with you. And, oh yes, remember the long-stem roses for that special person in your life. Red is good.”
How a father is with a baby is dissimilar to how a mother is and this distinction is important for a baby. You will hold your baby differently and speak to her differently and even change her nappy differently. She will enjoy and appreciate this difference. It is all part of your unique relationship together and it is essential for her development.
Can you recall a time when you held a dozen long-stem roses? You probably didn’t grip them but rather cradled them carefully in your arm. We could make a comparison between holding long-stem roses and holding a baby. Although your baby doesn’t have any sharp bits she can seem as delicate. In actual fact she is quite resilient. Your baby will relax into you and trust your embrace.
Q. I’m 40 and about to be a dad for the first time. I’m worried I’m too old to be a dad and won’t be able to cope – do you have any advice?
The responsibilities that come with first time fatherhood can seem daunting, at any age. A new baby will bring increased demands on your time and energy. Even though most fathers adapt well, the transition can be intense and cause concern. With the proper support you will not only succeed but also enjoy the adventure.
Something important for you to know is that your age may give you an advantage by virtue of your life experience. You may be more ready to settle-in to being a father. More mature men typically know themselves better and manage their time and energy more effectively. You might also be more secure in your career, which is a plus.
The mother and child relationship, especially immediately after birth and during breastfeeding, has a pretty clear design and course to follow. This precious relationship needs to be protected and preserved to allow your baby to feel the continuum. This is known as the bonding and attachment time and is crucial to your child’s short and long-term security as well as brain development. One of your roles is to support their relationship. This can seem overwhelming when added to the other responsibilities, which may fall on your shoulders during this time. But do not fear, with time it will absolutely come naturally to you
Life today is exceedingly busy and the adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”, may contain a clue for helping to resolve your question. Invite support from family and friends, particularly during the early days and weeks. They can provide meals, help tidy up the house, transport/entertain older children, do the laundry, gardening and more.
Remember your village, acquire personal support (have some coaching), and relish getting to know your new baby and the rest will fall into place. You have everything you need and you are going to be a great dad. Get rest when you can, take your vitamins and remember, 40… is the new 30.