The Ninth Month of Fatherhood

by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.

feeding babyIn the ninth month of fatherhood you can begin to notice the routines you and your wife have developed. Who is the one most responsible for the baby's needs and who takes care of the financial matters? Most couples begin parenthood hoping to be equal partners in both work and family life, but it seldom works out that way. Usually at nine months you begin to feel that you have assigned "roles."

This is an important time to talk with your wife about your parenting partnership. Is she feeling like you are contributing your fair share to home and baby? Is she aware of the stress you are encountering trying to balance work and family responsibilities? Have you drifted toward the stereo type that men work and women care for the babies? If you are both working is she still responsible for most of the childcare arrangements.

The styles we develop as parents are not as deliberate as we may think. The families we come from and the societies we live in create an "atmosphere" for how we should "be" as parents. As you discuss your roles as parents try and understand how the families you grew up in, and what your jobs need from you, influence your parenting relationship.

Fathering has undergone several role changes over the last hundred years. Being a dad is not a role that is well defined or that has been constant over time. At the turn of the century fathers role in the family was that of the moral authority. Teaching children to read or be "educated" was the father's responsibility. Learning to read usually was directed at learning to read the bible. Being a good father meant raising moral children. If your children attend church and knew the bible you had fulfilled your fatherly duties.

The role of the "breadwinner" father followed as we moved from a rural, agricultural society to a city centered, industrial economy. In the industrial society, the good father was one who was successful financially and provide a house, car, and the material goods for his wife and children.

In the mid 1970's the role of fatherhood began again to change. The role of fatherhood today has begun to include an emotionally supportive father. As women have dual roles of career and motherhood, fathers have also needed to adapt to the changing role of the family. In our modern society it is in 85% of families a necessity for both parent's to work. This has led to fathers needing to be more involved in childcare.

For many men it is more than the family "need" that they are involved in the early years of their children's' lives. The men I have interviewed over the last ten years usually describe the desire and personal importance they find in being involved in their children's lives. In recent studies men have expressed the desire to forgo career advancement for more time with their wife and children, especially in the early years of their children's lives. In this ninth month of fatherhood think about what kind of balance between work and family life you would like to have. What is really important at this time in your life and the life of your family? Here are a few practical tips that new dads have shared with me to get the most out of your 9th month of fatherhood.

For your baby:

  • Try teaching your baby to play pat-a-cake. He may begin to make attempts at feeding himself. See if he likes to beat on a drum?
  • Point to his eye's, nose etc., and name them for him.

For your wife/partner:

  • Talk with your wife about the above article. Discuss how your roles as parent's is evolving.
  • What do you like most about how your wife is a mother? Ask her what she appreciates most about you as a father.

For yourself:

  • Take a look at your body in the mirror. Are you taking care of yourself? Think about your diet and all the new needs in life how do you make time for taking care of yourself?
  • Find a friend to exercise with once a month.

Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood. Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.

Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.