Today’s dads are also more involved in childrearing and household duties. Danny Teo, The Centre for Fathering’s programmes and development trainer, notes that this shift in responsibilities from mere breadwinner to a greater involvement with the kids, is because of the rise in the number of mothers in the workforce. “This calls for fathers to share the child-rearing responsibilities and men are glad to do so too, as many have acknowledged the satisfaction of being more active in their children’s lives.”
That said, this doesn’t mean a man’s path to fatherhood is going to be a breeze. Notes Kenneth Nah, 31, who will be welcoming his first child in November, “There’re a lot of areas and arrangements to consider ― from the immediate needs like getting a confinement nanny or a stay-in helper, to our future financial needs as a family.”
When it comes to being present during your child’s delivery, you should be frank with your wife and her gynae if you cannot take the sight of blood.
Teo points out that as compared to new mothers, new dads tend to worry about their child’s health and possible labour complications that may be beyond their control. Notes Focus on the Family’s parenting trainer Tan Nam Seng, “Fathers have their unique set of work-life challenges and it is important to remember that it would never be a 50-50 perfect distribution of time between work and family.”
Here are fears many dads-to-be encounters, plus, ways to keep these worries in check…
FEAR #1 Ability to provide financially for the family
WHAT? Used to be that the man was supposed to bring home the bacon, while women were expected to shoulder the brunt of childrearing. These days, although dual-income households are the norm, it still does not remove the stress of shouldering the financial burden of raising a family. Tan notes, “Some fathers may also feel greater pressure over the need to provide a comfortable life for their growing family and are fearful about their financial health.”
HOW TO MANAGE Review your financial status and rein in your spending! Draw up a list of your needs and wants with your spouse. Then sort your needs according to their level of urgency. Notes Teo, “Being ready to make changes to your priorities will help you be more prudent about your financial goals.” Couples could make an appointment to meet with a financial advisor to talk about financial investments such as insurance policies or bank loans, too.
FEAR #2 Being “blur” about your wife’s labour and delivery
WHAT? It’s normal to feel anxious that your other half is going into labour and fret over what you should do in the delivery room. You’ll need to wrap your head around foreign terms like contractions, amniotic fluid and dilation. Coupled with anecdotes from well-meaning but equally clueless peers, you may end up feeling confused.
HOW TO MANAGE When you consider being present for your child’s delivery, be frank with your wife and her gynae if you can’t abide the sight of blood. If you think that you might pass out, you may want to sit out the birthing process or have a loved one take your place.
Attending antenatal classes and doctor’s appointments with your spouse should clear up any misconceptions you may have about pregnancy and the early days of your newborn’s life. These preparatory courses cover topics such as a mum-to-be’s nutritional needs, what to expect during labour and delivery and how to care for your newborn following birth. Even if you are getting a confinement nanny, knowing babycare basics helps you better manage your new fathering duties and that includes carrying and handling a bawling infant.
Says SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, “Of course dads should attend these courses! It’ll help you understand and support your wife better and be better prepared.” Being there with your wife during her prenatal checkups is also a great way for you to better understand the pregnancy process.
Helping your wife write her birth plan is another way to grasp what your role will be during your wife’s labour. A birth plan often includes her wishes on areas such as pain relief choices and birthing positions.
FEAR #3 Fear of missing out (FOMO)
WHAT? Now that you’re transitioning from a loving husband to a doting dad, your social life is going to be on the backburner for some time. As such, it’s natural to experience some FOMO over your (reduced) social life. Teo explains that as a father, your social life will diminish considerably. “Fathers need to be aware of lifestyle changes, so that the impact is less severe.”
HOW TO MANAGE Parenting duties are a shared responsibility, so there’s no reason for you to pass on meeting your friends occasionally. You should be able to squeeze out a few hours per week for your friends while your spouse takes care of your baby. Teo stresses having a supportive bunch of friends you can count on is very important as it will make your fatherhood journey a lot easier. So, ask your male pals, even the dads, out now and again. But be fair — your wife should be allowed to do the same with her girlfriends, too!
FEAR #4 You’ll fall short as a father
WHAT? Within the first couple of days of your baby’s birth, you’ll realise you’re no match for the mother-child bond. After all, she’s had nine months to become familiar with your bundle, long before you held him for the first time. Your baby won’t cry for you when he needs a feed, and it’s unlikely that you’ll interpret his facial expressions as accurately as your wife. So, you might be feeling bad that you aren’t meeting your child’s needs.
HOW TO MANAGE Don’t underrate your role and contributions. As caring for your baby can be overwhelming and your spouse will likely be feeling anxious, Tan suggests that you can be her greatest cheerleader by encouraging her and offering your support. “Tempers can flare, so take a light-hearted approach to changes in your life and make every effort to maintain a positive and loving atmosphere at home, which will help take the edge off things tremendously.”
Parenthood is also a lifelong process of learning and changing as you go along. The good news is that you can sign up for parenting courses. The Centre for Fathering offer a wide variety of programmes for dads with kids of all ages. Focus on the Family — another non-profit organisation — also offers courses like Parenting with Confidence, which also covers topics like relating to your teenager.
Don’t underrate your role and contributions… You can be her [your spouse’s] greatest cheerleader by encouraging her and offering your support.
FEAR #5 Losing the spark in the relationship
WHAT? Relationships require lots of time, effort and hard work. With bubba around, you’ll have less one-on-one time with your significant other, so it’ll require more effort to make couple time happen.
HOW TO SOLVE IT? Teo encourages you to make an effort to spend time with your wife. He also suggests getting someone to care for baby while you and your wife spend time together to keep the connection alive. If childcare help is not available, Tan suggests ordering food in for a dinner date at home after the baby is in bed. He adds, “Or it could just be having a cosy couch conversation time over a drink.” No need to be fancy, just do what works for the both of you. The aim is to communicate and reconnect with each other.
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