What Expectant Fathers Should Know
“The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be” is now in its fifth edition. Written by “Mr. Dad,” Armin A. Brott, the book features real-life advice and the latest research. His other books include “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year” and “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the Toddler Years, 12-36 Months.”
Atlanta Parent spoke to Brott about how first-time dads can prepare for this new, exciting and terrifying time in their lives.
Since the original publication of this book, in what ways has the parenting world for fathers gotten better or worse?
When the first edition came out, I imagined that by the time my kids had kids, there would be resources specifically for expectant fathers. Dads don’t get the same type of respect. Dads are looked at as afterthoughts and aren’t really given equal weight as parents. It’s not good for parents or babies to consider dads to be not as important as moms. By having that attitude, it puts the mom in a position of having to do everything, while dad is mom’s little helper, instead of someone who’s an equal. Our culture looks at the primary role of man as the provider/protector, and that means the guy is the one who goes out and provides money. Mom doesn’t feel like she has someone who can help her at home, and it becomes a vicious cycle that doesn’t benefit anyone.
What main piece of advice would you give a first-time father?
Close your eyes, jump in, and start making mistakes. You’ll become a competent and confident dad by making mistakes. Your partner figured it out by figuring out the ways that didn’t work. You want to have an independent relationship with kids that’s not based on mom, and that is what your partner and your kids want, too. Take refuge in the fact that she never would have gotten involved with you if you were a danger to kids. Kids are resilient little creatures, and you’ll learn together what works. Read a lot of books, find resources, and educate yourself as much as you can. But mostly, it’s the hands-on, on-the-job training. Be there as often as possible.
What advice do you have for fathers regarding their child’s first two years?
I use a lot of technology in my life for pretty much everything, but I look down on phones and tablets for baby. Doctors are finding kids who spend time with tablets have less eye-hand coordination and muscle tone, especially in small muscles. Occasionally, parents can use technology as a babysitter for 5-10 minutes while taking a shower or making a phone call, but when it’s for hours and hours at a time, it’s a problem. They’re not learning to communicate, and they’re not learning from you.
How can you and your partner navigate your different emotions together throughout the pregnancy?
The pregnancy is very interesting emotionally. Dads go through the same emotions mom does, but they’re generally a trimester behind. The expectant dad doesn’t want to tell his partner what he’s feeling or worried about, because he’s worried about putting more pressure on her, putting her off or making her think that he’s not into the whole baby thing. Start early on by talking through what you’re thinking or feeling. Talk for a few minutes every night, and just listen. Be nice to each other – there’s a lot going on physically and emotionally, and this is just as profound for dad as it is for mom.
How can couples maintain their emotional bond after the baby is born?
Continue to connect after the baby has shown up – what are we thinking or talking about, listening to each other and having productive discussions. Make sure you have some time off, both as dads and moms. Me-time is super important. Don’t be afraid to double count things. Taking your kid to the grocery store can count as time with the baby, even while you are completing errands. Make the baby a part of your everyday life.
How can men help their partners during pregnancy?
Some of it is stereotypical, as part of that provider/protector role, but nesting, building furniture and financial planning are concrete ways to stay involved during pregnancy. Guys have a stake in the pregnancy, too. Go with your partner to the doctor appointments, and ask questions. Many end up not coming to the doctor and feel separated. Building a crib, helping with menu planning, thinking about school districts, buying a new car and working through issues make it feel like you have a stake in it and give guys a way to feel involved. From day one, they feel they can be fathers and are ready to go.
How can expectant dads lessen their own feelings of stress or anxiety around the labor and delivery process?
Read as much as you possibly can, and prepare yourself as much as possible. Make friends with the nurses. There’s a point in there – usually when it’s time to start pushing – where the dad takes a secondary role to the nurses. You can still be a full participant, and ask how can you be most helpful. But knowing what to expect and knowing your own limitations, the better you’re going to be at that time.
What’s the best advice about being a dad that you’ve received?
For the first year or so, don’t try to force the kids to be something they’re not. Take your direction from the kids. Let the kids be who they’re going to be, and don’t worry about making them into who you want them to be.