So, congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a father! How do you feel? Happy? Excited? Stressed? Nervous? Frightened? Angry? Mixed? Maybe it’s also a bit daunting? Or maybe you don’t really feel much – or anything – yet, and that’s fine.
Many men experience a variety of emotions before and when they first become fathers. It’s natural. What matters most at this point is that you’re here and open to thinking about what this all means to you. In this guide we’re going to focus on helping you make sense of what it can be like to be a Dad, to look after yourself and the others around you, and to do the best possible job of becoming a confident father.
Some men become Dads in a really intentional way, having made an active decision to become a father and taken whatever steps are necessary to get there. For others, it’s more of a surprise or even a shock.
You may find that once you discover it’s going to happen, you really don’t feel ready for fatherhood. The important thing is to try not to worry too much. A lot of men feel that way but end up surprising themselves as to how well they adjust.
You will learn, mostly by finding your own way and trusting your instincts – which are probably better than you realise. No parent is perfect. We all make mistakes. But one of the first lessons you’ll learn as a Dad is that nature has built you for this. Men are designed for fatherhood, just like women are for motherhood.
We Dads can be as sensitive to a baby’s cries as mothers are. Within hours of birth, we can recognise our babies just by the touch of their hands, even when we’re blindfolded. Our bonds with our children can be as strong as iron if we put the time in – and that’s true even if they don’t share our genes or live with us full-time! You’ve got this.
Here’s an outline of what we cover in each chapter of the guide
- The science of ‘becoming Dad’ Many centuries of evolution lie behind what you’re experiencing as a soon-to-be-father or a new father. What can science tell us about what children need from fathers, and how fatherhood changes us as men?
- Looking after yourself - It’s a cliché, but true: how can you look after somebody else if you don’t know how to look after yourself? This chapter is all about opening up to yourself, being honest about your feelings around fatherhood, and finding ways to stay calm and focused on the things that matter during what can be an exciting, but stressful time
- Supporting your baby’s biological mother - Whatever the nature of your relationship with this person – romantic or otherwise –they will be hugely important to your baby, and will go through some serious stuff. Here we focus on biological mothers’ physical journey, and what you can do to help
- Looking after your relationship with your partner - The perinatal period can be a minefield for couples’ relationships – it can make or break them, or it can make little difference. In this chapter, we focus on key challenges and offer practical tips on how to maintain or even improve your relationship. We also look at what you can do if it’s all going wrong
- Getting to know your baby - Men can find it hard to ‘engage’ with the baby in the womb, and even once they are born. Here we look at simple ways to connect with your child, to build a strong bond and start to work out how everyone fits together in your new family
- Juggling work and home - Family, friends, wider society – and we ourselves – can put a lot of pressure on Dads to be ‘the provider’. Here we look at how to navigate this aspect of your paternal identity and offer practical tips for making the most of the time you have with your baby, and for creating a work/life balance that allows you to be an involved father
- What to do if you're struggling and where to find help - Early fatherhood can be tiring and stressful. Most Dads muddle through, but some find it extremely difficult to cope. This chapter is all about how to spot problems before they get too serious, and where to go for help if you need it