But sometimes, it feels like the world hasn’t quite caught up. Whether it’s a baby product that has been ‘tested by mothers’ or a ‘mum and baby group’, dads are often made to feel like the secondary parent, and that can have a big impact.
Why dads are crucial at newborn stage
Biological mothers are often prioritised around the time the child is born, which makes sense – after all, it is they who go through labour and often breastfeeding. This can make a father feel helpless and like a ‘spare part’.
But by no means is a father redundant during this time. Believe us when we say every new mother needs support and every baby needs more than just feeding. By being a kind, empathetic and helpful partner, and a loving and attentive dad who cuddles, rocks, winds, cleans, dresses and entertains his baby, you will be invaluable to both mother and child right from the off.
The importance of dads as a baby grows
The assumption that a dad is the ‘secondary’ parent often continues as babies grow up. ‘When I told some of my colleagues I was taking three months’ shared parental leave, it was as if I’d grown a second head,’ says Andy, dad to Ellis. ‘There was such shock and while it was all in good humour, in hindsight I’m sure it reinforced some of the nerves I already had, as to whether I would “cut it” as primary caregiver.’
Little things can have a big effect, whether it’s being the only dad at the playgroup or jostling for the baby-changing table in the female toilets. But instead of feeling self-conscious of your status, be proud. That your baby is getting such love and care from you is a brilliant thing, both for their development and your relationship. And there is a growing number of ‘fatherhood’ communities, particularly online, so do give them a look; it can be a great feeling to share your experiences of modern fatherhood with those who can relate.
Similarly, if you wish you could spend more time with your child, remember – it is quality over quantity. Dedicating any special time to be with your children can help to form a special bond, plus create memories you both will cherish.
The long-lasting impact of fathers
To be a positive role model for your child is so important, and they will carry that with them into the future. But that doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Every parent – male, female, biological, adoptive – starts out on this journey as a novice and learns as they go along. There is no ‘right way’ to be a father so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The most important thing is to be yourself, be kind and loving, and be there for your family. You can’t get a better dad than that.