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Advice for Expectant Fathers

Expectant fathers go through profound changes, too, even though their bodies don't change. Overcoming fears and assumptions is part of becoming a father.

Challenging Conventions

According to Brott and Goldman, expectant fathers need to fight against some of the societal assumptions about parenthood.

"While a lot of women are brought up to think of themselves as a natural parent, men often think of themselves as just a secondary or back-up parent," says Brott. There's still a common perception of fathers as bumbling and inept when it comes to taking care of their children.

But even though you may not always get a welcoming reception, you need to stay involved. For instance, Brott and Goldman say that you should be accompanying your wife to at least some of the doctor appointments, even if you may feel a little awkward being there.

It's important that men not surrender their position as active and involved fathers. If you give into your fears about fatherhood and hang back, burying yourself in work and letting your wife do all of the childcare, you may find yourself feeling more like a babysitter than a parent.

"We've all seen the situation where a mother will go out for the afternoon and leave her husband in charge of the kids," says Brott, "but only after giving him a detailed list about exactly what clothes the baby should wear, what the baby should eat, what stories the baby should be read, what music the baby should listen to, and even how the baby's hair should be combed."

Being more involved earlier can prevent this from happening. "And studies show that the earlier guys get involved," Brott says, "the more involved they are as parents for the long run."

Dealing With the Boss

Deciding whether to take time off from work is also deeply troubling for a lot of expectant fathers. It doesn't help that for many men, the strong impulse to be home to care for their wives and babies collides with their equally strong anxieties about their finances.

If you and your wife do decide that you should take time off, Brott recommends that you talk to your boss about it as early as you can. "Your employer doesn't want you to come in one morning and say, 'Oh, my wife's in labor and I won't be back for three months,'" Brott says.

Exhibiting some tact might also be a good idea. "I strongly recommend that you don't go into your boss's office armed with a copy of the Family Leave Act and slam it down on his desk, saying 'These are what my rights are!'" says Brott. "No one wants to hear that." Instead, go in with suggestions, perhaps with the offer to work from a home office a few days a week.

Although it may not be an easy conversation, Brott says that having settled the issue with your boss early will allow you to feel much more in control.

"Men also tend to have exaggerated fears of what could go wrong with their jobs," says Brott. "Your boss may be more accommodating than you expect."

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