New Dad Jitters
Today's fathers are more involved than ever with their newborns -- and sometimes more stressed than ever. Here's how to cope with the everyday demands of 'dadhood.'
A Magic Moment continued...
Other research suggests that the benefits of a strong father-child bond are
significant and enduring. A study by Harvard researchers published in the
September 1995 issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
Medicine found that fathers who spend a lot of quality time with their
3-month-olds are likely to be strongly bonded to their kids nine months later.
And researchers at the University of Maryland, writing in the July-August 1999
issue of Child Development, found that when fathers enjoy parenting and
play with their kids in a nurturing way, the children seem to develop stronger
cognitive and language skills.
Such down-the-road benefits may seem a bit abstract to the dad who's down on
the floor working on his diapering technique. But he completes the job (to a
round of applause) and the mood in the room shifts from awkward and silent to
relaxed and talkative.
Fitzgerald asks the men to say a few words about their experiences with
their own dads. Many report that their fathers were "quiet,"
"absent," or "preoccupied with other things." To a man, these
future fathers say they want to have more intimate and communicative
relationships with their kids than they had with their own dads.
Bruce Linton, a Berkeley, Calif., psychologist who also leads support groups
for expectant dads, says the heightened aspirations and anxiety of today's
fathers "represent the emergence of something great in men who are about to
have kids. It's a period of amazing developmental growth, of wanting the world
to be a safer place, and of intense love toward the newborn, the partner, and
The sentiment may sound a bit grand, but the theory seems to hold water here
at boot camp: While the rookies fidget, the vets are focused, self-assured, and
calm. Though only six months or so farther down the fatherhood road, they have
crossed the Rubicon and have earned the power to console. By the end of the
fourth hour, the babies have started fussing. But four or five diapers have
already been changed, the babies have been passed around like precious
footballs, and the mood is high. When the meeting ends, some of the men hug and
others shake hands and trade numbers. But the focus has shifted from the men to
the babies, who are now being tossed, burped, and tickled.