Walk down the street in a busy city and you’ll see fathers with tiny babies in carriers or strollers. Photos of Prince William in England filled newspapers and screens, showing him leaving the hospital holding his new baby in his car seat. Dads and their young children now play major characters in TV shows.
We see fathers everywhere actively involved with their children from the youngest ages, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy. And being actively involved in pregnancy can be even more challenging for dads than being involved after the little one is born.
Pregnancy can still seem like it is all about the mom, but it is so important for dads to be part of the experience. Of course, the physical aspects of pregnancy are experienced only by the mom, but there is more to pregnancy than the physical part. There is also emotional preparation that happens during pregnancy which is important for dads to be part of.
A Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy
- Prepare emotionally: It is just as important for dads as it is for moms to be emotionally ready when having a baby. Nine months gives time for dads to read about babies and what to expect, particularly if being around young children will be a new experience. Engage in all parts of the pregnancy including accompanying your partner on doctor’s visits; shopping for baby items; helping to paint or decorate the baby’s room; setting up the crib; talking about names, etc. The more engaged you are in the process, the more a part of things you will feel.
- Work together: Sometimes the best laid plans for equality in relationships go by the wayside. This is a good time to re-evaluate the division of labor in your household. Even when both adults work outside the home, surveys show that the majority of household work is still done by females. Adding a baby to your home will mean a significant increase in responsibilities (as well as joys). Take some time during pregnancy to discuss with your partner how you think things will change and talk about how you might meet those new expectations. In some cases, you’ll need to adjust responsibilities more quickly to help during pregnancy. While many pregnant women feel great, some experience challenges that may limit what they can physically do and may require you to take on more before the baby’s birth.
- Check your employee benefits: Many companies offer paternity leave for new dads. Is this a benefit at your company? If so, how long is it? What are the policies around time off for prenatal visits? Fully research your options.
- Talk about your worries: We think of pregnancy as a happy time, but many dads find that it brings on concerns about finances (particularly if you are moving from two paychecks to one); about the baby’s and mother’s health; about how you will handle the new responsibilities and on and on. Talk with your partner about your worries. You may also want to talk to other new dads about any tips about having a baby. Reaching out for help and support is a sign of strength.
- Stay healthy together: You can support the health of your pregnant partner and your baby- to-be by cooking and eating healthy meals together and exercising together (take walks or do yoga, etc. per doctor’s recommendations) throughout the pregnancy.
- Be proactive: Because the physical demands fall on moms, your partner may especially appreciate if you are proactive in offering help around your home and/or any help related to the pregnancy or with preparing for the baby. Don’t wait to be asked, and look for places you can make a difference.
- Planning for the birth: There is a lot to consider about the birth itself. Will your baby be born in a hospital or birth center or birthing room? Who will be present? What role will you play? Attending child birth classes together does a lot to help answer your questions and feel more ready for the big day.
- Be present: Sometimes your physical and emotional presence is all that is needed to help share the pregnancy.
Don’t settle for minimal involvement in this big family milestone. Become engaged and reap the full benefits of this very important time in your life and that of your family. And don’t be hard on yourself for what you can’t do. Each busy father-to-be has to figure out what works for his schedule and that of his family. Celebrate what you can do and strive to make as many key milestones as possible.
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