Not Cut Out to Be a Parent

QUESTION

Dear Mr. Dad,

My baby is just 4 months old. I know that my wife expect me to be more actively involved in parenting stuff like playing, talking with my son, feeding, changing him and all that. However, I treasure my lifestyle and I don't exactly have a desire to be as involved as my wife. Well, she's pretty upset with me. What should I do? How do I get the desire to be an active parent?

ANSWER

You raise and interesting question. Sure, you treasure your lifestyle, but the fact is that things have changed and probably won't ever be quite the same. Not everyone has the desire -- or is cut out -- to be a really involved parent. And, of course, not all couples are going to be equally involved. There are a few important reasons that you should consider taking on a more active role:

  • The more involved you get with your child the easier it'll become and the more you'll want to do it. It actually gets kind of addicting. The longer you wait the harder it'll be. If you don't start now, one of these days you'll turn around and your child will be 18 and you'll wish you'd had a better relationship.
  • The more involved you are, the happier your wife will be, the better your marriage will be, and the longer it'll last.
  • Dads who are actively involved with their kids tend to be happier in general and more satisfied in their jobs.
  • Most important, kids whose dads are actively involved with them do better in school (better grades, greater chance of going on to college), have more fulfilling careers, do better on all sorts of IQ and intelligence tests, get along better with their peers, manage their emotions better, are less likely to express themselves violently, are less likely to start smoking or drinking or to become teen parents.

So how to start? Step one is jump in. Just give it a try. It's a little hard in the early months, when the baby doesn't do much besides sleep and fill diapers. But there are plenty of things to do. Start by just having fun -- tickling, rolling around, going for walks.

Babies just want to be with you -- they don't really care where you're going or what you're saying. Read your son the newspaper, put him on your chest and have him nap while you do something else (but that shouldn't be your only interaction).

I've got tons of age-appropriate activities and suggestions in my book, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year.

-- "Mr. Dad"

Armin Brott

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the bestselling author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, Fathering Your Toddler, The Military Father: A Hands-on Guide for Deployed Dads, and four other books on fatherhood. He has written on parenting, fatherhood, and health for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting," which airs on a dozen stations in the US and worldwide on the American Forces Network. Armin lives with his family in Oakland, California. You may visit his website at mrdad.com to learn more.