Advice for Expectant Fathers
Expectant fathers go through profound changes, too, even though their bodies don't change. Overcoming fears and assumptions is part of becoming a father.
"Guys have trouble letting go of their freedoms, their
routines, their self-imposed duties that they actually relish," says Swain.
"But taking care of a child full-time demands that you shelve all that. The
challenge of being a good dad is relinquishing some of yourself and giving it
to your child."
Brott agrees. "As your kids grow, you'll learn to be more
patient and understanding of people's foibles and mistakes," he says.
"For instance, I used to be the most uptight person about being on time and
about other people being on time. But once I had kids, I'd get ready to go and
one of them would fill her diaper. By the time the diaper was changed, I was
late. But it didn't matter as much anymore."
People who aren't parents might assume that parenthood causes
an inward retreat; after all, new parents seem to talk about nothing but
feeding and nap schedules. But Brott says that fatherhood often spurs people to
have a wider and more comprehensive view of the world.
"When you have a kid, you start thinking about stuff you
didn't think about before," says Brott. "You start thinking about
childcare, neighborhood development, and the state of education in this
country. You start worrying about landfills and disposable diapers."
"It may sound kind of silly," Brott continues, "but
you may realize that you don't really want your child to grow up in the same
world that you did, or you want to give them a better chance that you had, and
so you start trying to change the world in any little way that you
So where can a new or expectant father find support?
Organizations that lead support groups are out there if you want them, although
many men tend to shy away from that sort of thing.
"Men tend not to flock to support groups," says
Goldman, "although most local hospitals with OB services will have groups
for interested dads."
Regardless of whether you're seeking help elsewhere, it's
important that you not be too hard on yourself. Everyone feels intimidated when
first taking on the role of fatherhood; in fact, many of us feel like imposters
at one point or another. It's also common for new dads to feel guilty about
their ambivalence toward their new child.
"Don't get suckered into thinking that fatherhood is all
supposed to be great," says Goldman. "Don't feel foolish if you're
enraged by your baby's frequent awakenings at night. Scream into your pillow if
necessary. I did."'
And Goldman and Brott agree on the first person you should turn
to for help.
"I think that the place for a guy to start getting support
is with his partner," says Brott. "You need to talk to her about the
things that frighten and concern you. You can do it in a reassuring way,
telling her that your fears don't mean that you don't love her or that you're
going to hop on the next plane to Brazil. You just need to talk."
"There may not be a solution sometimes," Brott says,
"but feeling understood will make everything easier."