Today’s families* need fathers to be hands-on caregivers. Why? Lots of reasons.
- Babies need more than one caregiver.
- Moms need all the help and support they can get.
- Involved fathers are good for babies in lots of ways.
- Today’s women want and expect their partners to be actively involved in parenting.
- Sharing the experience of parent is good for dad/mom relationships.
Here’s how to get started.
On the job experience
The best way to get comfortable with looking after babies is by doing it. That’s how mothers learn. The reason moms usually become good at looking after babies pretty quickly is that they get lots and lots of hands-on experience in the early days of parenting. Sometimes fathers think, “Wow! She’s amazing. I can never be as good as her. If I try to get involved I might just mess things up.” That can lead to a situation where Mom is doing everything herself. She gets overloaded, maybe a bit resentful too, and the gap between Mom’s skills and Dad’s skills gets wider and wider. This can make it even harder for fathers to develop their skills, and the unbalanced parenting workload can put a strain on mom/dad relationships.
So let your partner know you want to be involved in looking after the baby and that you need a chance to build your skills. Just as much as she needs your support to be the best mom she can be, you need her support to be a great dad.
Find one job to become really good at
Some guys say it helps to take on one baby care job and really become comfortable with it. Giving baths is a common example. Lots of men like to be the bath guy. Of course, it’s useful to become skilled in lots of aspects of baby care. But, getting really good at one particular job helps some guys start to feel confident and competent. It also helps to build in the time together that dads and babies need to get to know each other.
“When I wasn’t at work I did almost all the diaper changes, partly because that was a way I could contribute when my wife was breastfeeding. But it also helped me make the connection with Molly. It got her used to being with me.” Peter, 37
When Dad’s got the baby sometimes it might feel like Mom is always looking over his shoulder, checking out what he’s doing. Sometimes she might even take the baby so she can breastfeed or soothe the baby in the way that she thinks is best. That’s perfectly normal. Although today’s mothers want their partners to be involved in baby care, women usually feel that the baby is mainly their responsibility. That’s why some mothers can’t help doing a little “backseat driving.” But, the more you develop your skills, and show that you really want to care for your baby, the easier it will be for her to let you “drive.”
Being a hands-on dad is good relationship maintenance
When a mother feels that she is carrying an unfair load or her partner isn’t committed to the work of parenting it can strain the relationship. So becoming a hands-on dad who shares the work of parenting is actually one of the best kinds of maintenance you can do for your relationship with your partner.
* We recognize that not all families have a father present. This article refers to families where mothers and fathers are parenting together.