Becoming A Dad
I recently asked myself how men prepare themselves for fatherhood. Should they read books? Should they listen to their partners and follow their lead, or should they just act like typical men do and work, work, and work, hoping that all will fall into place eventually?
Well, my wife is 3 months pregnant – I am becoming a father. These sorts of questions have been drifting in and out of my mind for the past 3 months. As my dearest wife has been going through all the highs and lows of pregnancy, I have been left bewildered that men don’t really have a clue what to expect. There is no maternal instinct. There is nothing they can physically feel before becoming a father. Their only hope is to rely on their emotions. Emotions will determine how much they need to prepare and how much they want to prepare. Your pregnant partner has no choice. Does this make it harder for men to bond with the idea of becoming a father? I certainly believe so. I have been emotionally preparing myself since I was old enough to determine who I am and where I came from. My parents separated when I was very young. As a result, my father drifted in and out of my life, like a recurring dream, a dream that regularly appears and you never want it to end but, eventually, you wake up. Although I was blessed with much love, happiness, and health, not having a constant father figure around me has made the thought of becoming a father very important to me. It made me realise at a very young age that my life ambition was to become a father figure and to give my child everything that I never had. Since the day I developed that ambition I have been emotionally preparing myself for fatherhood. So, emotionally, I feel a connection to fatherhood. Does this mean I’m ready to be a father? Certainly not. It is my understanding that you can never truly be ready for fatherhood.
You can only ever be as ready as you are prepared to commit yourself. What do you have to commit to? What is the most important? What is most urgent? After all, if you are expecting a child you have less than a year to prepare for a lifetime! To start committing to the responsibility of fatherhood, men should use the pregnancy period as a stepping stone. During this time the wife/partner is in constant need of care and help. This can be a fantastic learning curve in establishing responsibility and also understanding the magnitude of life growing inside. By going through every step of the pregnancy together you will not only prepare yourself to care for her every need, but you will form an early emotional bond with that ever-growing bump.
What becomes reality during pregnancy is the sudden need for security and protection, not only for the growing unborn baby but also for the weakened and sensitive pregnant partner. Your partner at this stage will become extremely vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. She has to endure an emotional roller coaster of joy, fear and excitement. Once the novelty of knowing she’s become pregnant has worn off, she will go through the daunting thought of what responsibility and pure selfless dedication that lays ahead. Traditionally, once the baby is born, society demands for one parent to sacrifice most, if not all, personal or professional commitments for at least 6 months. Of course, there are the select few people who put ambition and personal gain before nursing a baby. There’s nothing wrong with prioritising ambition and personal success as it is well-known that a successful career may provide more options for your child in the future. However what is more important for a baby? A father/mother figure closely present at all times during those crucial first years? Or will it bear no difference if a Childminder looks after your baby in those early years? Clearly, this is a question of moral opinion. But it is of my personal opinion that one parent should be caring for a new-born baby at all times for at least 6-12 months. Those that have partners will find it easier to establish a suitable balance between sacrifice and personal/professional desire. Unfortunately, those that don’t have partners face an uphill battle to raise a child in today’s money-feasting modern society. They face obstacles far beyond any unwillingness to sacrifice ambition for personal gain.
Of course for the wellbeing of a baby, it is still vital that the parents remain ambitious and career driven. In an ideal world, the parents would strive to balance the care aspect so that the baby benefits from both. I.e. one parent nurtures and one parent provide financial stability. For many traditional family backgrounds, the mother is thought to do the nurturing but today’s modern era has widely proven that fathers can be just as gifted at caring for a baby, right from the beginning. So, what happens to the men/women whose partner puts their careers on hold? What do they have to sacrifice? How does it affect their ambition for success? How do they cope with their career? I will answer this with my own experience later on…
So, with your partner already questioning how good a mother she is going to be, what she has to sacrifice and how she is going to provide for the baby, she also begins to learn about the GOOD the BAD and the UGLY: “LABOUR” and “BIRTH”. Once her mind connects with the pain and torment that awaits her, anywhere from 2 to 40 hours she becomes even more worried. Imagine you are asked to attend an appointment for a lifetime experience. You are thrilled at the prospect. Your heart fills with joy and jubilation. Then you read the small print on the appointment card: “Please note this appointment will deliver the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. However please bear in mind that you must be willing to experience excruciating pain and several days of insomnia.” How would you feel when you find yourself counting down the time until you face D-day?
Ok, let me stop there before you decide to never have a baby. At first glance, the above may read as though I share a very negative and depressive view of pregnancy and childbirth. Absolutely not, it is by far the most amazing, heart-warming and life-changing event you will ever experience. However, the point I am leaning towards is that throughout pregnancy the men often don’t fully realise what a difficult journey your partner embarks upon. Your partner needs extra security and encouragement for what lies ahead of her. The mental strain added by the overwhelming physical changes that constantly evolve for 9 months calls for a strong and positive partner that can protect her feelings and wellbeing at all times. To me that calling marks the beginning of a dad.
Now that your partner feels secure and is well cared for by you, everything is perfect, your families are excited your partner is happy, you’re happy, and lady luck is on the horizon. Both of you go through hundreds of baby names. Warm smiles bright enough to light a room appear when you see her bump grow every month. Soon you find yourself mapping out your future with a little baby. First, there’s the baby room, which houses the baby cot, the baby changing unit, all the little fluffy toys and all the little cute clothes. Then there’s the buggy, the car seat or perhaps even the car you don’t have yet. The nappy changing bin, dishwasher, steriliser, blankets, baby bouncer, nappies, wipes, baby bath, baby health care kit, little cute mittens and little cute hats etc. This is just great. A seemingly endless amount of shopping. And what makes this even more exhilarating is that you don’t feel any guilt for spending money as it’s a purely selfless deed. However, by now some of you may have started to paint a picture of the point I am leading up to with that lovely shopping list. ‘YES,’ you’ve guessed it – the powerful and intimidating word, “MONEY”. I strongly advise all dads to check your finances. Work out what you can afford! If you’re not doing it already then budget your money as this is man’s biggest hurdle of becoming a dad. Take my list for example. You will want to give your child the best there is! So why don’t you go online and gather prices for the best of the best that’s out there? Make a list and sum up the total. WARNING be sure to seek medical advice if your eye sockets are not securely attached to your head as your eyes will not have widened this far before and may drop out. And you might want to sellotape your jaw around your head just to keep it from locking when you see the price list. Whatever total you reach, that is only a little sand corn in a desert of growing financial commitment that you face on your journey through becoming a Dad.