Fatherhood is a big job and it starts with taking care of your partner during the pregnancy.
The link between dads’ involvement during pregnancy and healthy outcomes for moms and babies is powerful.
A father can communicate with and influence his unborn baby in two ways; by talking directly to the baby and by caring for the mother, giving her emotional and financial support so that she can better care for the baby. Helping your partner with household chores, attending prenatal sessions, ultrasounds, listening to your baby’s heart beat, massaging or laying on of hands on your baby’s bump if mom is happy for you to do so; feel his kicking. Your unborn baby can hear, feel, suck and recognize your voice by about 32 weeks. In fact research has shown that your baby can hear their fathers’ voices better than mothers’ because the amniotic fluid transmits the resonant low-pitched male voice more easily than a higher feminine voice. And so dad, as you sing or talk your baby listens.
Babies are not the only thing that grows during pregnancy; relationships grow also. Use the time during pregnancy to strengthen your commitment to each other. As baby grows so should your relationship. For the first time in a man’s life not only is another person - your partner - as important as himself, but a second person - the baby- becomes as important or more important. Take inventory of your relationship. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is too bring your baby intro a home built on a loving relationship. Best gift to your baby is to love your partner.
Father presence at the birth provides another window into the health of mother and child . Several important studies show that the single most important birth circumstance that protect against birth complications in the newborn was the father’s presence at delivery. This held true even when the father was less than enthusiastic about being present. A related study concluded that father’s presence reduced length of labor and overall rate of birth complications.
Father involvement during pregnancy does more than grow a baby. Nothing matures a man more than becoming a father. This may be the first time in a man’s life that he has had to and wanted to focus more on people other than himself- his wife and his baby. Pregnancy prepares a father for the real world of parenting. Often it takes a baby to make two mature adults.
On this Father’s Day in the United States according to the US Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, will go to sleep tonight in homes in which their fathers do not live. Male absence from family life is a major social consequence of our era. Never before have so many children grown up without a father’s presence and provision.
Fatherhood and manhood continue to be under siege in our society. Fathers are often viewed as superfluous to family life. Our society is not only losing fathers, our society is facing a cultural loss which has been affecting every home without a father. Public scrutiny has been on the roles of women and the plight of children as if the male role was somehow irrelevant.
Involved fathers are essential and play a central role in the family and in the development of healthy happy children. Research findings are very clear. Children who grow up with their fathers do far better emotionally, educationally and physically. And in every way that is measurable, than children who do not . The truth is that fathers are central in shaping the moral character and competencies of their children. And to the extent that fathers are positively involved, the children’s and the mothers’ lives are better.
Fathers bring a unique contribution to parenting. Studies continue to show that fathers who are involved in the lives of their children positively impact their social development. The children of affectionate and supportive fathers have higher self esteem, better self-image and are better able to handle stress. A father’s relationship with his children shapes their relationships with others. This father effect begins during infancy. Children whose dad has regularly changed their diapers, burped them and rocked them to sleep have a special reserve of strength in dealing with stress and the frustrations of everyday life. They are less rigid in their gender stereotyping of their peers , more empathetic in their response to other children and to society in general. All of these positive effects are even stronger and endure longer when they are complemented by a mother’s support of her partner’s active contribution of her child’s emotional, social and intellectual development.
In understanding the fruits of early father presence and engagement and the effect that men have on child development, it is not how the father feels about it, but how well his child does as a result of it. So whether your are a single-father, a stay-at-home dad, a step-father, adoptive father or the primary family provider, you matter. Fathers, you are are essential.
The National Fatherhood Initiative encourages responsible father involvement in families as protector, nurturer and comforter. Father as nurturer is the foundation of all the ways in which a dad serves as a role model. Paternal nurturing during early infancy builds trust and trust forms the basis of all subsequent relationships.
‘Comforter’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘to give their strength’ if which fathers are to be models of strength they also need to model comfort. This is important for sons and daughters. Sons need to grow up learning to be sensitive to their children’s needs and to balance assertiveness with tenderness. Daughters also relate to these qualities in their fathers and they are likely to seek out these qualities in their own Partners.
Fathers touching, holding, talking and gazing at their infant following birth and during infancy leads to affectionate behavior during childhood and adolescence. From a father’s nurturing example your children learn to connect with people with their eyes, hands and heart. No matter what occupation a child goes into, the ability to connect with people is a valuable asset.
Nurturing, comforting and protecting from the newborn period on, forms the basis of a child’s
emotional experience. The Professional journals and the internet are now filled with articles reporting results confirming the importance of the father’s nurturing presence. Involved responsible fathers are critical in the development of healthy, happy children.