It can sometimes seem like your partner is from another planet—or still on it—when he appears slow to bond, and a bit more detached than you feel he should be as a father. He doesn’t coo over your new baby every time she crawls or giggles; he doesn’t take pleasure shopping for new baby shoes; he certainly doesn’t hang around the play pen as much as you. So what’s going on here?
First of all, let’s remember that while we women had a head start in the whole parenting thing, our men did not. Think, for example, how we have nine months to go through physical, emotional, and mental changes during pregnancy, giving ourselves the time we need to get adjusted to the thought of this new life—making plans for our future, and daydreaming about just how perfect our little one will be. During that time, we are conditioning ourselves slowly for the amazing, long-term life changes that are about to take place.
Our men, on the other hand, experienced no physical or emotional changes from the night they first ‘sowed the seed’, till the day of Baby’s birth. They went from independent cool guy, to must-be-responsible-father-now, overnight. And change never comes easy. Suddenly, they are expected to provide, nurture, and raise a brand new life—a whole other person. So, what to us comes as second nature, they may appear slow to grasp.
How can we make this parenting process easier on them? I asked a few fathers what works for them. I’ve also been observing my husband, and how marvelously he is doing at being a new parent. Here are ten ideas to help dad’s bonding time:
1. Appreciate the little things he does. Does he wake up once a week to rock the baby back to sleep? Appreciate him even just for that, and tell him all that you admire. He’s trying, and it’s easy as asking us (well, some of us) to go and repair the truck.
2. Encourage him to get involved in the physical, sporty activities. Once your child is old enough to stand, your partner plays a key role in teaching him physical coordination and testing his own strength. Dad may like to be the one to build the play pen, to model a gadget board for baby, or to construct a climbing device. My husband John once made a simple contraption out of bamboo, which our little boy loved! It still hangs out in our living room.
3. Schedule a time that is just for them. Kids know—and love—that dad brings a different kind of fun into their little lives. Their special time may be in the early mornings, when baby is up ready to play, and you just want to crawl back in bed. While you get your 15 minutes extra sleep, dad can take baby outside and show him the world waking up to a new day. Baby will love this routine, and look forward to it.
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