For many years it was believed all a baby needed was his mother. A father’s role was just to provide, and protect the family.
More active involvement was left up to each dad, who would decide how much time he wanted to spend and interact with his children. The positive effect of dads spending time with their children was underestimated.
We can’t deny the special bond between a mother and baby is, in most cases, stronger in terms of the physical and biological aspects.
The trauma a newborn baby experiences after losing or not having a paternal figure since birth can’t compare with the trauma experienced after losing a mother.
Having said that, the more love, support, and security a child feels from very early in life, the more a child’s development benefits.
Although not much research has been done on parents’ early involvement in their child’s early development (as early as conception), Dr. Michel Odent has spent decades studying the primal period (from conception through birth until the first year of age) and the link between the primal period and the genesis of antisocial behavior in adulthood.
Why do mothers need involved dads?
You might have heard the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. A solo mother or solo father can parent with very little support, but we know the more support the parent and baby have, the easier it is for them to navigate these times happily.
Even if we haven’t become parents yet, we all know the challenges that face women when they become mothers in a modern family.
For the last few decades, the way modern society is structured has isolated us more and more from the communities we used to belong to.
We’ve slowly shifted from raising our kids with a lot of help and support to becoming parents almost in solitude.
The number of changes a woman experiences in her life after giving birth aren’t comparable with any other ‘normal’ experiences in the world. Going through it with little support becomes an uphill battle for new mothers.
You can read more about this in:
- 13 Ways To Help A New Mama After Birth
- 14 Things New Mamas Need After Birth
- 10 Things That Are Normal When You Have A Newborn.
Having a partner who is actively involved in fatherhood is extremely important for the woman and for the baby’s wellbeing.
Postnatal depression rates are very high and their numbers keep creeping up. Being unable to cope with the day-to-day situation is one of the main risk factors for developing postpartum depression.
An aware and involved father can make a difference. Read more in How Partners Can Combat The Effects Of Postpartum Depression.
Postnatal depression isn’t exclusive to new mothers, however; it can also affect new dads.
Here are some articles you might find useful:
After giving birth, a woman’s main task is to nurture and care for her new baby. That’s why many mothers tend to find it difficult to care for themselves; their number one priority is their babies.
If women are expected to keep active and do all the chores and household management tasks they were responsible for before the baby was born, they will either be unable to cope with them or fail to care for their babies’ emotional well-being.
This is exactly why mothers need involved fathers.
An involved father’s role is extremely important for the healthy development of the growing family. As a dad, the more weight you can lift off your partner’s shoulders now, especially during the first few months, the more you will be doing for your family’s wellbeing.
Why do babies need dads?
During the first few months of your baby’s life, do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility and the lack of assistance? Of course, babies need their dads for more than doing house chores while they snuggle with mama.
To have time between baby and dad alone is very important not only for both of them but for the whole family.
Babies need to explore the world to be able to adapt well to it. Since conception, their mother has been most of their world but after birth, the world isn’t going to be made up of just the two of them. Babies are wired to learn so many things after birth, and their father can help them understand this new world.
The more time babies spend with a person who really focuses on them, the better. A solo mother will have very little time to develop an in-depth bond if she’s sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with family and household life. As well as providing baby’s basic needs, she needs to be mentally available and focused when the baby is awake.
So dad, get ready to play and interact with your baby as he grows.
How does it feel to be a father for the first time?
Most dads would agree it is a very different experience from anything they’ve lived through so far. All their feelings will be multiplied: love, happiness, self-esteem, pride, and a feeling of achievement.
They will also experience the not-so-positive ones, such as tiredness, sleep deprivation, stress, and worry.
You’ve become a father and your child is in real need of protection for his survival. This can lead you to worry about him in a way you’ve never experienced before. Overwhelming love and worry seem to be in conflict but it’s part of the way evolution has made sure humans keep looking after their offspring.
When should men start preparing for fatherhood?
It’s wonderful that human pregnancy lasts around 9 months. It gives mothers and fathers plenty of time to prepare mentally for their new role as parents. It also gives them plenty of time to seek information to prepare fo the birth, and then to parent their babies once they’re born.
It’s easy to think dads will just pick up how to do things once baby’s arrived: changing a few nappies and getting up at night sometimes when baby cries to let their partners rest. Or even have the fun job of carrying a sleeping baby in the baby carrier while mum gets some chill time too.
But it helps to be prepared for exactly how intensive parenting is. Seek support and information from parents groups and do lots of research so you really understand what being an active father really means.
How becoming a father changes your brain
Looking after number one is part of what has helped our species survive, but this changes when we have a baby. The importance of our child’s survival becomes the priority. Unless there’s a very unhealthy level of selfishness inside us, most of us will understand this principle and our brains will adapt to this change. Your child’s development, happiness, and safety overtake your own.
In order to protect your children, even with your life if necessary, you’ll receive many hormonal highs from becoming an involved dad. This cocktail of love hormones is nature’s way of ensuring your lineage carries on.
What are a dad’s responsibilities?
A dad figure is very important in a well-balanced family with a healthy structure.
All these responsibilities can be brought together into one main one: to protect his family, with everything that implies and means. It’s a responsibility to make sure they are safe, happy and healthy (mentally and physically).
If new fathers follow this one principle they don’t need a long list of responsibilities.
What first-time dads should know
It’s easy to think you’ll wing it as a first-time dad but if you didn’t have a strong role model in your own father, it can help to prepare yourself a little for what’s going to happen.
#1: What happens to mothers and fathers brains when they become parents?
As we’ve seen earlier, our brains need to readapt when we become parents. Our deepest instincts will readjust to protect our kids’ lives and wellbeing.
How we interact with our children, the amount of time spent with them (through eye contact, playing, spending time together, talking, and listening to each other) will have a positive impact on their social development.
Shifting from selfish beings to parents who puts our kids’ needs before our own will produce a flow of love hormones that will send our brains the very clear message that our efforts are worth it.
#2: What happens to babies’ brains as they grow?
When humans evolved from walking on four limbs to two, this meant the female pelvis had to readapt in structure to allow birth to happen safely. Babies’ heads had to fit through this space, so pregnancy couldn’t go on for too long or the skull would be too large for the pelvis.
As a result, human beings give birth to highly immature babies who need their parents much more in order to survive, compared with other mammals. For example, we’re the only mammals that don’t start walking a few minutes after birth, and aren’t able to run from predators if need be.
From birth onwards, a baby’s brain development is rapid because there’s nothing to stop it from growing. Babies are born with survival instincts and one of these is to make sure their parents are compelled to look after them.
The more time we spend with our children, from the time they are young babies to early adulthood, the more they will grow into confident, self-loving people with good life skills.
#3: How best to support your partner in her motherhood
A great way to grow as a couple is to talk to each other, sharing your concerns and your feelings about the journey of parenthood. Being the father means you’re less physically involved with your baby’s survival but you can support the person who is doing that work.
You’re probably the person who knows the baby’s mother best. Being informed about what to expect in the postnatal period and preparing to take on a hands-on role in baby care is a big part of supporting your partner and helping your baby thrive.
#4: It’s okay not to know and to ask for help
Many fathers tend to think they must be supermen to their families. Certainly, some dads look like they are, but we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. Focus on your own family and how to have a positive impact on your partner and your children’s lives.
Parenting is a learned experience. How we were parented plays an important role in the kind of fathers or mothers we’ll become. This means that the way our parents raised us has been registered in our brains for when we have children of our own. This happens in every generation.
We’ll reproduce most of our learned parenting behavior but there will be things that we’ll improve and adapt. It’s very likely we will parent with a partner, and her own circumstances and the way she was raised will also have a big influence in how you both raise your own kids.
‘Gentle parenting’ and research into what appropriate parenting is about are relatively recent ideas and although most parents did the best they could, most of them just raised their children in the way they had been raised without giving it too much thought.
If you had a very strict upbringing, or your parents were very laid back, there might be many things you’d like to change but you don’t know-how. It’s absolutely okay to seek role models or ask for help.
You don’t know everything; nobody expects you to. But you have to be humble enough to accept this before you can find the support you and your family need.
#5: Fatherhood will very likely be your biggest achievement in life
The level of fulfillment you will gain from becoming a father will, very likely, be impossible to compare with any other personal achievements. Becoming a parent is not just about leading your kids safely into adulthood and with a good grounding before ‘flying solo’ but it’s also about the pride you’ll feel and the new level of happiness this experience will bring to your life.
This feeling will be greater the more involved in parenting you become.
Here are more articles you might find of interest:
- 10 Thoughts All New Mamas Have On Daddy’s First Day Back At Work
- 10 Things You Can’t Ask Her Straight After The Birth
- 10 Things That Are Normal When You Have A Newborn, which focuses on the mother’s perspective to help you help her better.
- The Goddess Myth- Why Do So Many Mothers Feel Bad?