If you're expecting a child, here's a word of caution about what happens all-too-frequently for a dad-to-be: Shortly after his newborn's birth, he holds his baby feeling totally amazed, quite overwhelmed and thinking to himself, Gee, you're so small; I'm afraid I might hurt you. Coupled with this, men commonly feel uncertain about their skills to care for a young one. This lack of knowing how to be a father can have huge unintended negative consequences that ripple through the family.
If it feels like you don't instinctively know how to care for your baby, that's normal -- for new dads and moms. Every new parent has to learn, just like your child has a lot to learn about life. What's different for your baby and his mother is that they don't really have a choice about taking on their new role. They both have a biological imperative.
You do have a choice, and since you're reading this, then you have probably already decided that you want to take an active role in your child's life. That's a great first step! And although no expecting father is completely ready for what he's about to experience, you can be ready to hold your newborn feeling more confident about your new role.
Here's a list of some of the positive attributes you'll need as a father which you can intentionally begin to grow during pregnancy alongside all the growth happening to your baby and its mother:
These fatherhood qualities influence how you interact with your child, how you respond to and treat the mother of your child, and how you care for yourself. With those in mind, here are some more specific suggestions.
Honor yourself. In modern societies, pregnancy is usually focused almost entirely on the woman, and men often feel left out. Today being pregnant or giving birth is no longer "women's business." Most women want their husband or partner to be with them during the birthing process.
Couple this with changes to work roles and the increase in the numbers of at-home dads and single dads, and it's clear that a father needs to have a full compliment of skills. To a child, a father is just as important as his mother. You can and should be a vital part of the whole process.
Watch and talk to other fathers. Begin to notice how other men use (or don’t use) the above qualities with their children. Mimic what you like and try to avoid doing what you don’t like. Don’t be afraid to talk to other fathers; they understand what you’re feeling.
Tell the woman in your life that you need her to nurture you. A woman's body encounters radical changes during pregnancy, and she has absolutely no control over them. It's easy to see how your partner might become quite preoccupied with her own adjustments and forget about what you're experiencing -- even if this is your sixth child. Talk about that and feel free to ask for some care and attention too. You are both going to be parents, so you need to nurture each other.
Create ceremony. As you go through the months of pregnancy and make adjustments, be intentional about capturing memories and celebrating milestones along the way as you take on this new responsibility. That could mean keeping a journal or blog, going through a ceremony related to your faith, or creating your own unique ritual to acknowledge that you're developing qualities that will help you become a great father.
Also, remember to notice and appreciate even the smallest things; give thanks for them! When times are tough as a dad, you learn quickly to be grateful for the little joys along the way.