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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.

Changing Priorities

"Guys have trouble letting go of their freedoms, their routines, their self-imposed duties that they actually relish," says Swain. "But taking care of a child full-time demands that you shelve all that. The challenge of being a good dad is relinquishing some of yourself and giving it to your child."

Brott agrees. "As your kids grow, you'll learn to be more patient and understanding of people's foibles and mistakes," he says. "For instance, I used to be the most uptight person about being on time and about other people being on time. But once I had kids, I'd get ready to go and one of them would fill her diaper. By the time the diaper was changed, I was late. But it didn't matter as much anymore."

People who aren't parents might assume that parenthood causes an inward retreat; after all, new parents seem to talk about nothing but feeding and nap schedules. But Brott says that fatherhood often spurs people to have a wider and more comprehensive view of the world.

"When you have a kid, you start thinking about stuff you didn't think about before," says Brott. "You start thinking about childcare, neighborhood development, and the state of education in this country. You start worrying about landfills and disposable diapers."

"It may sound kind of silly," Brott continues, "but you may realize that you don't really want your child to grow up in the same world that you did, or you want to give them a better chance that you had, and so you start trying to change the world in any little way that you can."

Finding Support

So where can a new or expectant father find support? Organizations that lead support groups are out there if you want them, although many men tend to shy away from that sort of thing.

"Men tend not to flock to support groups," says Goldman, "although most local hospitals with OB services will have groups for interested dads."

Regardless of whether you're seeking help elsewhere, it's important that you not be too hard on yourself. Everyone feels intimidated when first taking on the role of fatherhood; in fact, many of us feel like imposters at one point or another. It's also common for new dads to feel guilty about their ambivalence toward their new child.

"Don't get suckered into thinking that fatherhood is all supposed to be great," says Goldman. "Don't feel foolish if you're enraged by your baby's frequent awakenings at night. Scream into your pillow if necessary. I did."'

And Goldman and Brott agree on the first person you should turn to for help.

"I think that the place for a guy to start getting support is with his partner," says Brott. "You need to talk to her about the things that frighten and concern you. You can do it in a reassuring way, telling her that your fears don't mean that you don't love her or that you're going to hop on the next plane to Brazil. You just need to talk."

"There may not be a solution sometimes," Brott says, "but feeling understood will make everything easier."

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Reviewed on March 21, 2003

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