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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...

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 community."

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.

"This has been a nice dose of reality," says one of the expectant dads as he heads toward the door. "I'm excited and I know I can do it. But I'm still nervous."

 

Gordy Slack is a science and health writer based in Oakland, Calif. He is a columnist and contributing editor at California Wild, the science and natural history magazine published by the California Academy of Sciences. He is also the "veteran" father of two young boys.

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