New moms have a gazillion things to think about. You have padscicles to make, nursing bras to wash, and nipple cream to apply. You are waking up all night long and your most important duty is to care for your sweet new baby.
I’m guessing the last thing on your mind is helping your husband transition into first-time fatherhood.
Women are superheroes. We have the ability to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders and still managing to hold down careers, care for our family, and keep our homes running.
Should it be our job to help our spouse in becoming a father for the first time? Not really.
But it is.
Without a doubt, mama, you will have to encourage, inspire, and instigate your man to take part in the care of this new being you both created.
Some new moms will get lucky. They will have made a baby with a person who naturally loves kids and jumps right in there to change dirty diapers and take on night feedings.
If you are like the overwhelming majority of new parents, the male will need a little encouragement to be involved in different parts of baby care.
In this post, we are going to talk about tips and tricks for cultivating a confident, involved new daddy, as well as some expectation management for us moms.
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Before we get into the tips, I just want to give new parents some encouragement.
Maternal instincts seem to kick in the moment you hold your baby and oxytocin surges through your bloodstream. There is a reason why they call oxytocin the love hormone.
God knew what he was doing.
Dads get a boost in this bonding hormone as well, especially if they are involved with their kids.
I think most fathers want to do everything they can for their babies. But somewhere in between the first precious moment holding baby and back to work for the daily grind, the realities of life set in. First time dads need more encouragement from us moms.
My goal is to give you tips to build your man up from the get go.
Taking an approach to coparenting where you cheer each other on will make you more successful in the long run. It will also help keep the momentum so dads stay willing to take on the responsibility in parenthood for the long haul.
If you are a father reading this and feel discouraged by a nagging wife, I hope these tips will help you identify what you need to be successful and happy as a father. Perhaps then you can effectively communicate them to your wife and you two can once again become an unstoppable team.
It’s hard to see the importance of this concept in the beginning where everything is new and exciting. Just remember, parenthood is a marathon and you both need each other!
Simple Steps to Support your Man in Becoming a Father for the First Time
1. Keep in mind the example his father set
You know that old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” If your man had a poor example as a father it may be contributing to his parenting style.
This is by no means an excuse to be a slacker! I am a firm believer that we humans are extraordinary and can overcome the negative experiences of our childhood. However it is important to keep this perspective in mind and offer him a little grace.
Women have a tendency to make comparisons. I hate when I do it, but I am guilty as charged! It must be something in our X chromosome.
We compare ourselves to others, we compare our children to other children, and can even compare our husbands to others dads.
Don’t fall into this mental trap or get yourself quickly out of it because it is unproductive.
We chose this man to father our children and have to work with the building block given, so let’s move forward to some actionable solutions!
The takeaway: Work with him where he is and don’t set him on an unrealistic pedestal. You are both learning on this journey together.
2. Come up with a parenting plan ahead of time
Before you embark upon any specific parenting situation, it is helpful to discuss with your partner how it should best play out.
Let’s use the night time routine as an example. You know you have to do a bath, dress in PJs, read a book, and nurse/bottle.
You do these same steps seven nights a week.
Discuss how you would like to tackle the task ahead of time with your partner, perhaps at dinner.
Maybe each of you would like to do a portion of the routine every night. Or you could take turns every other night doing all of the routine and let the other take a night off to relax.
Planning ahead can work for any situation. The important part is being open with each other to find a method that you both can agree upon.
After time and practice, you will start to flow through the day without second thought and parenting will feel much more natural.
Start with a set framework for the day/evening/weekend that you are coparenting and eventually you will find your groove!
The takeaway: Teamwork makes the Dream work!
3. Communicate kindly and often
Your needs as a parent will change.
You will probably begin the journey with the momentum of the Persian army, but then it starts to fizzle as the nights without sleep stack up.
If you have a particular event you would like to be involved with or a crazy month at work, you need your partner to pull more weight than usual.
When our son was a new baby and his needs were around the clock, we ended each day with a debriefing. We talked about what was working, what wasn’t working, our personal needs, and how to make things better the next day.
We have been at this coparenting thing for a while now and we don’t need to rehash each day so specifically anymore.
However, our need to communicate clearly and respectfully hasn’t changed.
I know it is really hard in the heat of the moment to be kind in the way you talk to each other.
Sometimes you are so disappointed by the other person’s actions (or lack there of) that it feels impossible to talk to them in a non-threatening manner.
This is when you have to grit your teeth and be even kinder. I will admit, I’m not perfect at this. But when I make the effort to communicate sweetly with my husband, I get far better results than when I come at him with guns-ablaze.
The takeaway: You attract more bees with honey.
4. Leave them alone together
Let’s use an analogy just because I love them!
Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to jump off the diving board at the local pool?
You waited in line behind the other kids and when it came to be your turn you stepped up, walked the long plank, and looked down. Wasn’t it sooo much higher than you were expecting?
I was so intimidated to jump that I wanted to turn around, however the fear of embarrassing myself in front of other kids was stronger. So I plugged my nose, held my breath, and JUMPED!
Fatherhood is kinda the same way. Resist the urge to do everything just because you are the mommy. The only way for a new dad to get more comfortable caring for his baby is to jump in feet first.
One of the best strategies to get him there is to go to work or on a prolonged outing on the weekend. Let him tackle the childcare for an extended amount of hours solo.
Even better, go for a weekend trip with your girlfriends. You totally deserve it and multiple days left alone will boost his dad skills and his confidence!
I know it can be hard to relinquish control but you will be happier in the long run by taking some of the weight off your shoulders. And guess what…
…Your kid WON’T die!
If you are a dad reading this, remember that everything isn’t going to go smoothly. You don’t have the all powerful boob to help you either.
Give yourself some credit for what you have accomplished. Know how much character and trust you are building in your children by spending one-on-one time together.
Research shows that children who spend more time with their fathers actually have higher IQs!
The takeaway: Let go and let him be a DAD!
5. Allow him some personal time
The demands of a new baby are high. As a mother a lot of them fall upon you because you get the longer (although not long enough) maternity leave and you have the boobies!
But there are considerable demands on dads.
Dads have to wake up, drive to the job, work for long hours, drive home, and then switch from business to helpful hubby and daddy.
He does this day in and day out.
If your man is the type to place great value on personal hobbies, the transition to fatherhood will come as a greater shock if he no longer gets time for any of them.
It may be that he really needs to have some time with his buddies or tinker around in the garage.
I know what you are thinking “I barely get time to shower why should he get to go out with friends?”
Well don’t worry mommies this is a two way street!
But wouldn’t it be better to suck it up a bit and let him have some “me time” so we can experience a happy, enthusiastic partner in parenthood?
I don’t know about you but when my husband is grump it ruins the whole day!
The takeaway: Allow him to maintain his personal identity as a man by giving him time for the things he enjoys. (within reason of course!)
6. If you are breastfeeding, take the night shift
The saying misery loves company comes to mind here.
If you are on maternity leave and breastfeeding, there really isn’t any reason to involve dad in the night feedings.
The most he can do is save you a trip out of bed. You will still have to wake up so you can safely feed your little one.
This goes back to my advice on what to bring to the hospital for dad.
What you end up with is two zombies and no one gets a break.
If you allow dad to sleep through the night, then he can pick up the slack and give you at least one long uninterrupted nap a day. Even if it’s after he gets home from work.
As someone who has survived the newborn period, I am here to tell you that your body does get used to functioning with less sleep.
It is easier to keep up this momentum until your baby starts consistently sleeping through the night verses taking turns with the night feeds.
The first time you get to sleep for a longer period, your body is like HELLO, and it is much harder to wake up the next night.
Another reason for this: night feedings will help keep up your milk supply.
The takeaway: At least in the beginning, take the night-shift so dad can be equipped with the energy to help out more during the day.
7. Appreciate, Validate, and Invigorate
I would hate to compare training your husband to training a dog but since I already opened with this analogy, it will serve our purpose.
If you ever took psychology 101 you know the story about the Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov. He was able to stimulate salivation from dogs by the sound of a bell because they associated the sound with getting fed. This involuntary reflex came from POSITIVE reinforcement.
In the same manner, when your husband does something helpful as a father, make sure you thank him for it! He is much more likely to do it again if he feels appreciated.
Be sure to mention it at a later date. Say things like, “you know hunny bunches of oats (or insert the preferred pet name), I really appreciate that you changed the baby’s diaper earlier. It really makes me proud to watch you as a dad.”
This validation will imprint on his mind and he will associate doing helpful fatherly things with the positive affirmations he receives from you.
What do I mean by invigorate. Well without getting too detailed, my mother gave me one piece of advice before I got married that holds its value in every situation. Keep his stomach full and his pants empty.
In the midst of all the changes of parenthood, don’t forget to take care of each other. Guard your relationship like a precious stone. Without this you will ultimately fail your children.
The takeaway: Appreciate each other. Give validation for a job well done, no matter how small. Take time out to care for each other.
8. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day
You may be in a partnership with someone who has no idea how to be a parent. Well let me tell you, four months ago I had no idea how to create a website but here you are, reading my blog.
Be patient with each other. You will get there through trial and error. If you keep the first seven pointers in mind, you are already on your way to cultivating a successful team approach to parenthood.
The good news is that children don’t start forming vivid, long-term memories until much later in life. They can remember bits and pieces, but even those memories start to fade as time goes on.
I allude to this so you will remember that you have time to get this right.
Your baby will never know that their dad was scared to hold them for the first year of life because he was uncomfortable around babies.
Your husband however, WILL remember your criticism.
The takeaway: Don’t expect him to be the perfect father right away. Perfect fathers aren’t born, they are made through many mistakes.
Parenting is a journey
Parenting really is the most rewarding thing you will ever do as a person and a couple.
You only become first-time parents once. You go into it with no frame of reference or experience to fall back on.
Have patience with each other as you work out the kinks. I hope these tips for supporting first-time dads help reinvigorate your determination to work together.
Where are you in your journey, what mistakes have you made, and what do you do well together as coparents?
I would love to hear from you!