Thoughts and tips for new dads, from new dads

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"Nappy changes, walks and feeding times make for important bonding moments so grab every opportunity that presents itself with both hands."  Photo: Getty Image
"Nappy changes, walks and feeding times make for important bonding moments so grab every opportunity that presents itself with both hands." Photo: Getty Image

'Fathers are not as important as mothers.'

That is a myth that is reinforced in subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) ways by advertisements and stereotypes, but it is long past time to bust the myths on fatherhood: what it is and what it should be.

We know that 82% of studies on father involvement found that there is a significant relationship between positive father involvement and the well-being of a child.

Research has shown that having a loving and nurturing father is just as important as the presence of a loving and nurturing mother.

Yet, dads are often regarded as less important or have their opinions and emotions disregarded when it comes to the process of raising and caring for their children.

More harm than good? 

Given that the child is generally carried in the womb of a mother, a common myth is that fathers cannot be as involved and valuable as mothers.

Nan Waldman, Parenting and Education Consultant, wrote: "We can talk all we want about co-parenting but the fact remains that human beings are carried in the womb of a mother from conception to birth. The chemical changes of pregnancy cause her body and her feelings to change, and changes continue from conception to birth. She is hard wired to provide for the new-born in a way the baby's father isn't."

But is the normalisation of mothers being pre-conditioned to be more involved doing more harm than good?

A survey found that the majority of fathers have mentioned feeling left out, isolated or useless during their child's gestational period, the birth and sometimes during upbringing.

"We're trying to figure it out" 

"We're trying to figure out: what does it mean to be a dad besides just paying for things? It's frustrating because society doesn't aid you in that self-discovery – mothers are still expected to do the bulk of the parenting," says new father, Luyanda Mthimkhulu.

The role of the father has changed significantly from the days where gender roles specifically dictated their place in society as providers and protectors, and yet the shift in expectation seems minimal.

"Higher expectations for mothers"  

"Society has higher expectations for mothers. You find people applaud when a father changes a diaper or does laundry for his own child. Even though I am a proponent of shared parenting and I purposefully try to share the load, the scales of labour tip towards my wife," says Anesu Ruswa, who is dad to a new infant.

"We aren't ranked the same"  

"I don't think society believes that a mother is the first go to for every child. We aren't ranked the same expectation-wise," says dad Olivier Ntumba.

The stereotypical myths that exist offset the fact that fathers have very similar worries to mothers – ensuring that their children learn the correct values, manners and morals and that they get a good education and most importantly, that they are happy.

Also read: 'An opportunity to bond with my child': How to successfully co-parent with a hostile ex 

Tips from new dads 

Therefore, despite societal expectations and misguided opinions, the key is to stay active in your child’s life the best way your know-how.

If you are a new dad, here are some tips from other new dads to help you along your new journey, and allow you to be more involved:

1. Assist wherever you can.

Though it may not seem like it, nappy changes, walks and feeding times make for important bonding moments so grab every opportunity that presents itself with both hands.

2. Actively help your partner.

Post-natal fatigue can be rather intense so make it your duty to offer a helping hand whenever you can.

3. Ask for and accept help.

Seek it out. Not only are there various online platforms for new dads that might help you feel understood, but these platforms provide a great basis for communication wherein you may ask questions you may feel too embarrassed not to know the answers to.

4. You have the right to be exhausted.

No, you did not birth a tiny human, but raising and caring for an infant is frustrating and often quite draining. Your feelings are valid and you have every right to take a break.

5. Be present.

Do not worry about what people think you should be doing. Be present at the moment and make sure that you are doing everything in your power to raise your little one to the best of your ability.

Chatback:

Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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