Silence of the Dads

Ever wonder why new dads often feel inadequate or unsure about their abilitit to parent well?

Look around your network of friends and acquaintances. How many of them hire teenage boys to babysit their children if the boy isn't already a member of the family? How many use girl sitters instead? Very few boys get hands-on training in child-rearing—especially infant care.

For example, when you were a boy, did you learn to change diapers? If you did, that’s unusual. It’s even more unusual if your father was the one who taught you to do it.

Pregnant Pause

Don’t let your lack of experience with infant care deter you. You can and will learn good ways to do this work and connect with your child.

Now think about what you learned from your father or stepfather about parenting. How much did he ever talk to you about how to be a father, or about how his life was enriched by having you as his son or stepson? This lack of words—father silence, if you will—is important for any new dad to acknowledge. Because you tend to start out with less training and information in fathering than your partner has in mothering, you have to recognize your need to reach out actively for knowledge.

That makes it essential to break this generational cycle of father silence. If you start talking about fathering—asking questions and sharing your experience—your own parenting will be better and easier. Other dads will benefit, too. The men you talk with will be ahead of the game. More importantly, your open discussion of fathering will give your own children words of wisdom they'll need when they take their turn as fathers and mothers.

Fathers could complain they were shortchanged as boys. Instead, I suggest recognizing there are things you need to learn now, and get on with finding ways to learn them. Then, if and when you have sons or grandsons of your own, you can make sure they get experience caring for infants and children.

Adapted from Idiot's Guides: Pregnancy for Dads by Joe Kelly, copyright 2014 Alpha Books and used by permission.


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