Becoming a father comes with its share of questions. Will I be a good dad? Will I be able to bond with my baby?
Becoming a father comes with its share of questions. Will I be a good dad? Will I be able to bond with my baby? Will I be able to take care of my baby?
“When I heard my daughter’s heartbeat for the first time, I said to myself: “Wow! This is it! I’m a dad!” says Pascal, father to 8-month-old Jeanne. But this isn’t how all fathers react. “If women make babies in their bodies, men make them in their heads,” says Raymond Villeneuve from the Regroupement pour la valorisation de la paternité (Coalition for the recognition of fatherhood). “In most cases, men only realize they’ve become dads once they’re holding their baby in their arms.”
The announcement of a pregnancy brings up a lot of questions in men, even if they don’t talk about them much. Charles Huteau is a good example. “I’m happy about my pending fatherhood, but at the same time, I’m full of uncertainty,” says the soon-to-be-dad who shares his experience via the French webcomic Les 9 derniers mois de ta vie de petit con (The last nine months of your life as a moron). Will I be a good father? Am I ready to make the sacrifices that come with having a baby? For me, fatherhood means the end of a carefree life.”
Fathers will benefit from spending time with their baby right from birth to begin to form an attachment bond.
While waiting for answers, Charles has started practicing haptonomy, the art of communicating with his baby using a soft touch on his partner’s belly. “I’m not convinced that my baby recognizes me, but he responds to my touch and I’m happy to represent the outside world for him,” says the father-to-be.
Patrick Denoncourt, father to 2-year-old Charlie-Ann, wrote the book Attention : papa droit devant! in which he gives a few tips to soon-to-be dads. Some of the pointers he shares include inviting them to start getting involved during the pregnancy. “I think we need to show our partners from the outset that we’re serious about fatherhood. The way to do that is by sharing tasks and getting involved in the preparations. Guys get ready to become dads by doing concrete things like painting the baby’s room. But they can also help find an obstetrician, a paediatrician and a daycare.”
When baby arrives
It’s not always easy for a new dad to discover his role with baby in the first weeks post partum! Some fathers concentrate on chores and hardly touch their baby all day either because they feel clumsy with a newborn or because their partner is breastfeeding. Raymond Villeneuve encourages new dads to spend a few quality moments with their baby. “Burp him, give him his bath, massage him, rock him, take him for a walk, babble with him! It’s important to establish an attachment bond quickly.” Stephen, for his part, discovered his place with skin-on-skin contact. This type of contact soothes babies and promotes bonding. He also likes to wiggle his daughter’s arms and legs. Pascal, for his part, loves using the baby carrier. “I clean, shop for groceries and work in the yard with my little Jeanne cuddled against me. I play peek-a-boo with her, tickle her and sing to her. She loves it and so do I!”
Fathers more involved than ever before
When Myriam goes back to work after her maternity leave, Pascal is the one who will stay home to take care of their daughter. Stay-at-home dads like him are still the exception, but their numbers are rising. In 2011, there was a dad at home in 13% of Canadian families compared to 7% in 1991 and 1% in 1976.
Fathers are also spending more time with their families. In 2005, they spent 5 ¾ hours of their time each day on family activities. In 2010, this number climbed to 6 1/3 hours. A full 80% of Quebec fathers are availing themselves of the 5 weeks of paternity leave offered by the Québec Parental Insurance Plan. However, only 30% of fathers are taking a portion of the parental leave, which can in fact be divided between both parents. The Conseil du statut de la femme has recently recommended extending the paternity leave to 8 weeks by transferring 3 weeks of the parental leave to fathers. This is ongoing, so we’ll have to wait for the outcome.
Source: Magazine Naître et grandir, September 2015
Research and copywriting: Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review: Daniel Paquette, Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, Université de Montréal
Photo: Maxim Morin