When a new baby enters the household, his or her parents’ lives shift irrevocably as their values and priorities reshuffle around the new precious family member. Moms have a specific role in bringing up baby which begins with conception and runs throughout their child’s life, but its not as clear-cut for dads and many first-time dads struggle with how they can get involved in the life of their newborn baby.
No recipe for SuperDad
When baby first comes home, dads want to help but may be unsure how to step in. “Unfortunately there is no single recipe to being a day 1 Superdad,… but what is most important is that you want to be observant and available. “ says second-time dad Kresan Munian. “ In my experience Mamas usually want to be priority caregiver to baby and dads take the role of being caregiver to her needs…so, being a stellar dad usually means being a stellar husband first. This way both mama and baby are cared for during recovery. You’re never really ready for dadhood… but you’re also never gonna need more than you have right now to be a great dad! ”
The primary caregiver, usually mama, sacrifices a lot during and after the pregnancy journey, from her physical to her emotional and mental well-being. Dads can support her efforts by sacrificing their personal time as well, to allow her time to RESTORE and REGROUP.
“I’ve learnt that there’s a period after birth called the 4th trimester and this is where support is necessary! As a partner, you want to be able to take on as much as possible in terms of assisting mama in her recovery as well as make a connection with your newborn. I took on bath times and changes and mama did the feeding and we shared cuddle and playtime. This way mama doesn’t have to awkwardly bend or strain to meet the baby’s needs as she recovers. ALSO newborn nappies are much easier to change and are great for desensitisation of the dreaded infant and toddler bombs to come! So get in as early as possible!
Take leave if you can
Although it varies from business to business, standard practice in most companies allows for 3 days of Paternity Leave and then the remainder is taken from annual or unpaid leave. Kresan took his annual leave in ‘half days’ breaking up 5 days of annual leave into 10 half working days (2weeks) – a good solution for his family.
“This solution really worked well for us as mama could have a slow morning and I would be back home by lunch to assist for the rest of the day…However, it’s important to prep your workplace for your absence and have assistance with your workloads as it does become a bit hectic once things return to normal,” he says.
Managing family and visitors
Navigating family and visitors can be really challenging in the early days. Moms and dads need to decide what is, or isn’t, acceptable and stand together in drawing the line with their nearest and dearests. “Coming from an Indian family we had so many different voices telling us what we should do and supporting cultural traditions that we didn’t necessarily understand, “ explains Kresan. “We did, however, intentionally decide to set up boundaries around the way in which we
decided to raise our babies. We definitely offended some, unfortunately, but I believe that boundaries are critically important to protect the longevity of relationships with family and friends” he says.
“We got to bond well with our babies on our own terms! And also we got to learn from them and understand their weird quirks and sounds… We also definitely became a stronger husband and wife unit which is a great foundation for raising strong families. We noticed that doing this made our babies them much more ‘secure, in the sense that they weren’t continuously crabby or upset with environment changes and were generally happy.”
Staying involved in the day-to-day life of your children as a working dad.
After paternity leave, when dad goes back to his full-time job, it can become much more difficult to remain involved and the short time that they get to spend with baby may feel much less rewarding. While Kresan and Natanya were fortunate to be able to work and parent from home through her maternity leave, he nonetheless felt the distance created by workday demands when he went back.
“Most of my efforts happened at night while the children were asleep… night feeds and changes and the odd playtime during regressions. It was simply the way things worked, but I am grateful that we had immediate family support to fill in the gaps where we struggled,” he says. “Of course, time away from home does make it a bit more difficult to be present for special moments, but thank goodness for technology. In my personal experience whenever there was a milestone, my wife graciously video-called or sent a video of our baby in action which helped me feel quite involved.”
Spending quality time.
Kresan maintains that skin to skin contact with your newborn is the best form of quality time and that as your children grow, you can create special moments with them around things that they really enjoy doing. “My boy loves to dance… so we always choose to dance to certain advert jingles or create YouTube dance parties once in a while. Toddlers really feed off energy so if you are with them on something or dive into their imaginary games or even be really amazed by their super cool skills- they really value that! I enjoy just being there with my children and being their personal hype man.”
“As your child grows older, I believe that dad’s role evolves to boundary enforcing and risk management – helping your child understand (through modelling) the best ways of navigating situations and what the definite no-no’s are along the way. When it comes to risk management, it’s all things wild and fun like rough and tumble play, climbing, jumping, swinging etc… your role is to create confident and good decisions makers through these avenues. I don’t think the role of dads has changed that much since my own childhood, but I do think the awareness of what a dad should be has been heightened. There are plenty of old school dads who were, and are, great at being involved and sharing the load equally with their partners in raising their kids, but I do think the machismo alpha male pride was quite a lengthy process to navigate out of for dads before me.”
“Kids are like a picture; dad has the responsibility of creating the solid outlines and mama adds colour between them…. no single role is more important but when coordinated well, the result is beautiful.”
By Kresan Munian