Preparing for parenthood, fatherhood and family life is A MUCH BIGGER TRANSITION than simply buying all the baby stuff, getting your finances in order and being birth-ready. Yes, absolutely! – these things are of course mission-critical, but the most important preparation work to be done is within yourself, with your partner and with your baby.
You most likely have some aspirational visions for how you want life to be like as a dad and family man, as well as for your kids, relationship and family – your hopes and dreams. You want to be an awesome dad, have a great, long-lasting relationship and a happy family life. We all start out wanting the same things! These visions take conscious effort and work – and that work begins now, during pregnancy.
Bonding with your partner and baby bump
Those golden moments of bonding like we often see in the movies don’t just magically happen – the groundwork begins, and we need to ‘be there’ as much as we possibly can, to build and nurture the bond we have with our kids. Attachment science tells us that pregnancy; birth and the early years are formative years for the parent/child relationship, so it’s important not to underestimate how important you are as a dad now, and how important this time is to your bond and relationship with your child.
The reality is, the first year of new parenthood is a high-risk time for couples and their relationship. The radical changes, stress and pressure of adjusting to parenthood are the ultimate relationship tests. Relationships need a strong foundation to do better than just survive and not become a statistic. Now’s the time to make time to connect with your partner, communicate with her and listen to her, and to be all in, in the preparation for welcoming your baby and becoming parents.
Make time each week to take time-out from the busy of your life to be together – as a couple and a family to bond with your baby bump. Buy a week-by-week baby development book or download an app. See what miraculous feature your baby has grown inside your pregnant partner’s belly this week! Spend some time talking with your baby, or even singing, playing music or reading. These are all great ways that you can bond with your baby now and feel more bonded to the pregnancy experience. Remember, that your baby knows and recognises your voice.
Importantly, also make time to share what’s going on and to listen to what’s going on for your partner. Ask her how she’s feeling. You most likely know how she is managing (or not) physically, but more emotionally and mentally. This is one of the best ways you can support her now – with your loving presence and reassuring her that you’re 100% on board.
Ask her what she needs and ask questions that help you discover what ‘support’ means to her. It means different things to different people. The key to supporting your pregnant partner during this time is knowing what the little meaningful ways she wants and needs to be shown care, love and support – not just grand gestures. It’s the every-day things and connection that really count now!
Let her inside your head and your heart. We, as men, often make the mistake that we can’t show vulnerability during pregnancy because we think that we need to be the pillar of strength and the rock for our pregnant partners. Yet, this often leaves them questioning and even doubting if we are truly all-in, because we seem unaffected. Vulnerability is a gateway to deeper and more authentic connection. Share your fears and concerns with her openly and honestly.
Becoming a dad, parent and family is the biggest transformation you will ever experience in your life – both nerves AND excitement are perfectly normal.
In fact, being both nervous AND excited is a very good sign that you’re connected to the gravity of this life-changing event, and that you’re preparing emotionally and psychologically, as well as practically.
One place men can get stuck is stressing about finances. Inadequacy is the kryptonite of men, and worrying if we’re going to be able to provide ‘enough’ can keep us awake at night. Read more about what I call ‘The Provider Dilemma’ here, which includes tips on how to deal with the anxiety of providing – both as a partner and father.
Exercises for you to think about
What do you need to consider and how can you prepare to be the dad, team parent and partner you want to be, and that your partner and baby need you to be?
Your Becoming Dad Journey
- Do you feel bonded to the pregnancy journey and your baby now? If no, what can you do to turn that around?
- What kind of dad do you want to be?
- How are you going to be that dad?
- What is your relationship like with your dad? Is there any clearing work you need to do with him or in yourself before you become a dad?
- What strengths do you bring to fatherhood?
- What potential challenges do you anticipate you’ll face and how do you plan to manage those challenges?
Your Team Parenting Journey
- Do you know what your partner’s vision for the kind of mum she wants to be is?
- What does ‘team parenting’ mean to you?
- What does it mean to your partner? And are you aligned? If no, what do you need to work through to be more aligned in your team parenting vision?
- How are you going to share the work of parenting while providing enough financially?
- Have you got your head in a good place in yourself and a solid understanding with your partner on how you’re going to meet the needs of your family – financially and otherwise?
Contributed and written by Darren Mattock, Founder of Becoming Dad
Dad Tip: Talk to Other Dads!
They are some of your greatest teachers and can give you the score on the reality vs. what you’re imagining in your head things are going to be like. You may be running worst case scenarios that are way off base. You might be thinking that what you’re concerned about is just a problem for you, when in fact; you’ll most likely discover that a lot of dads had the same worries as you do. Most dads love being asked questions and are happy to help. It gives us a sense of being valued and helping another ‘brother’ out.