The Twelfth Month of Fatherhood

by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.

riding on dad's shouldersCongratulations you have been a father for one year now! I would like to encourage you to see that your baby's first birthday is as much a celebration for you and your wife as for him. The first year of fatherhood is the most profound change you have gone through as a man. There have been many changes, you, your wife, and baby have gone through over the last year. Our culture does not make much time for us to make all the adjustments we are faced with after our babies are born. As you have read these columns I hope you have been able to use the suggestions included to make your transition to fatherhood and parenthood less stressful.

Each family, and each father, has to find ways to make his family life meaningful. Although we all like to think that in America, family comes first, I am sure over the last year you have seen how difficult it has been to balance family and work responsibilities. Again our social structure does not allow us the time or economic support that might help make the transition to parenthood a little easier. I hope in the suggested discussions you may have had with your wife you found a way to create what you needed for yourself and your family.

There is no greater contribution that a man can make than preparing his children to find their way in the world. All our training in fatherhood is pretty much on the job, I hope you have noticed that you have grown as much as your baby over the first year.

I want to continue to encourage you to find what works uniquely for you and your family. That there is no "blue print" for how a family should be. Each family and each father needs to examine what meets their needs. Perhaps you have become a stay-at-home dad and your wife works? Maybe you and your wife are both working and trying to co-parent equally. Maybe in your family has you are working full-time, and your wife is at home with the baby. Only you and your wife can decide what is best for the two of you.

This first year has been both survival and experimentation. Take time to decide how you want the next year to be. Try and be realistic, over time, fatherhood and parenting will become easier, but it takes time and tolerance. We as fathers need to understand that the "tolerance for uncertainty," is the coping skill we need to allow the normal changes of fatherhood and family life to unfold.

I have enjoyed sharing this first year of fatherhood with you! Here are a few last practical tips that new dads have shared with me to get the most out of your 12th month of fatherhood.

For your baby:

  • Notice how your baby may have about three recognizable words. He will like "pop goes the weasel," especially if you help him clap his hands on the "pop."
  • Keep up the pat-a-cake practice. Most important, keep talking and singing to your baby.
  • The exciting first steps are near or perhaps your little guy is already on his way!

For your wife/partner:

  • Keep up a "parenting" talks with your partner. Support each other in your roles as father and mother.
  • If you find you get stuck and feel to isolated or angry with each other talk with your pediatrician about seeing a family counsellor. Don't be afraid to get some outside help and support if you need it.

For yourself:

  • Develop relationships with other fathers and families with whom you can share experience about parenthood or just "hang-out" with.
  • Remember to take time for yourself. Exercise and stay healthy and keep up your friendships with other men.
  • Find a special way to congratulate yourself on being a father for one year!

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.