Having welcomed his third child to the world, Prince William summed up well the feelings of many fathers-to-be when he said: “thrice the worry”. If a seasoned pro like Prince William can still feel the angst of fatherhood the third time around, it should come as no surprise that many men embarking on fatherhood for the first time, have their own distinct worries.
Impending parenthood is both daunting and exciting for both parents who will share many of the same concerns, paramount among these are having a healthy child. However, men have their own particular fears about their new chapter in life. More often than not, these concerns are not communicated at the time for fear of how it will be perceived.
Today’s fathers-to-be want to be more involved than their dads were and yet caring for a baby is often unchartered territory because boys, in general, are not taught to be caregivers. According to Armin Brott, co-author of The Expectant Father (Abbeville Press, 2001): “Society perpetuates the belief that women are better at rearing children. And the media reinforces the idea that men know next to nothing about parenting. Turn on any TV sitcom and the fathers are portrayed as buffoons. Sitcom dads are treated like another kid in the family. They’re caring and loving but totally incompetent.”
Little wonder then, that there is a lot of anxiety that goes unexpressed in the lead-up to the due date.
Based on hundreds of interviews and surveys with fathers-to-be and new dads, Brott has identified the most common fatherly fears. Chances are if you are a soon-to-be dad, at least one of the below thoughts has crossed your mind since hearing the good news.
Will I be able to handle labor and delivery? What if something goes wrong?
For most men, their understanding of labour is based on what they have seen on TV, that of women crying in agony for hours in excruciating pain with partners by their sides helpless to do anything. It’s not easy to watch someone you love in so much pain and not being able to prevent it. Many men also confess to worrying that they will pass out or throw up during labour. While this is a common fear, it rarely happens. And if a partner needs to some time to take a few deep breaths, better to step outside momentarily than detract from the work at hand in the delivery room. That said, the better prepared a new father is for the delivery the better. A good ante-natal class will help alleviate some of the nerves.
Am I ready to be a dad?
This thought goes through the majority of fathers-to-be minds, and yet they still go on to be great dads. Having these thoughts just means that future fathers are aware of the enormity of bringing a new life into the world.
Understanding that these thoughts are linked to their own self-doubts is the first step in overcoming them. Usually such thoughts disappear as fast as they arrived. However, if it does continue despite all attempts to get past it, then it might be helpful to speak to someone, if not their partner than a friend who already has children.
How are we going to afford this?
Financial security for his growing family is one of the biggest concerns on a man’s mind. The arrival of a baby typically means going from two incomes for two people to one income for three people. Of course the new expense of a baby does not stop once the bundle of joy arrives, but is a long term financial responsibility that often sees parents supporting with the costs of higher education and even helping to get their children on the property ladder as young adults. The trick is to start budgeting as soon as possible, even a little and often soon grows, as does the feeling of taking control of the financial situation.
How will this affect my relationship with my partner?
Men often fear that their partner will love the baby more than them and exclude them.
It’s true that having a baby can put a strain on your relationship with your partner. It’s also true that dads can feel left out of the strong maternal bond that is created in the first few weeks. These fears often occur before the arrival of the baby and it’s important for fathers to realise that they have an important role to play and that your partner will need to lean on you more than ever and in ways she perhaps hadn’t before. This will be a time of adjustment for both parents, keep this in mind and make allowances for one another.
Will we ever have sex again?
It’s natural for men to wonder about when (and if) a couple’s sex life will resume and whether they and their partners would ever have time, privacy, or energy to make time for them as a couple. Many men do not feel that they can talk to their partners about this without seeming as though they are putting pressure on them. Keep the channels of communication open and recognise that you will have a period of adjustment after the arrival of the baby and relax. Life does return to normal…eventually.
What am I supposed to do with a new baby?
Many new dads wonder how on earth they will be able to care for a new born baby. Its unlikely that many men have even thought about caring for a baby prior to becoming a father, let alone had any hands-on experience before the baby arrives.
One father described it as “the fear” – a “terror” that they might break or hurt the baby while handling it. As the saying goes, children do not come with an instruction manual and its more common than ever for mums-to-be not to have any hands-on experience either. Draw on the experience of grandparents or friends who have trodden your path before you and remember practice does make perfect.
Will I be a good dad?
As soon as the good news is broken, the expectant father begins to worry whether he will make a good dad or not. This fear can be as a result of realising the importance of a strong male role model because they did not have one growing up or because they had such a good relationship with their own father that they feel they have a lot to live up to. Fatherhood is about learning on-the-job, mistakes will be made and occasionally things won’t be handled as well as they could be, but no father ever got it right all the time. The desire to be a good father coupled with identifying the characteristics of what makes a good father, is the first step to achieving it.
Will I ever see my friends again or have any time to myself?
Expectant parents, both men and women, worry about the loss of independence that comes with having a child as their focus is on caring and providing for the needs of their new child. Its not uncommon for male friendships fade with the birth of a new child as time and energy is focused elsewhere. They key is to make time for relationships and nurture them, whether that is with your child, your partner or your friends. Everyone needs to have an outlet outside of the home, and remember, in eighteen years you are going to have a lot more time on your hands so be sure to maintain those friendships now.
by Linsey Worgan