My Son a Father


| by Peggy O’Mara, Editor and Publisher

During their Thanksgiving visit, my son and his wife revealed that they are pregnant. I am ecstatic. Though I’ve got collections of baby clothes and toys stashed all over the house, I had all but given up on ever becoming a grandmother. But soon I will be. And soon, my son will be a father.

I’d never looked at pregnancy through the eyes of the father before. During my own pregnancies, I focused on my experiences, and expected my husband to do so as well. I didn’t fully appreciate that he was having his own, often unarticulated, but equally profound experience.

Like all fathers before him, my son immediately began to worry about money. I had to suppress a laugh as he shared his concerns—they are so classic. I have a photo of him at ten years old, sitting at a desk with his father, who is fixedly hunched over a list.

But most of all, my son wants to know what to do to help his wife. I remember that, during my pregnancies, I found it hard to ask for help; I almost expected my husband to read my mind. The new father has to take up the slack during the early pregnancy and postpartum period, and while he looks to his wife for cues, she doesn’t always know what she needs either. Especially with a first pregnancy, the experience is so new that a couple can be knocked off balance.

This feeling of being out of control is a precursor to being a new parent, a time when life changes dramatically. The adjustment to being a parent is a process that takes time. It also takes some time for the new parents to give themselves permission to be vulnerable. For example, it’s hard for the newly pregnant woman to ask for help, because she expects herself to be able to do it all.

It’s equally hard for the new father to know what to do to help. Often, his wife will resist his help even when she needs it. Still, I always encourage new fathers to follow the lead of their wives during pregnancy and early parenting; while it occasionally may be hard to figure out what they need, taking care of his woman and baby during this time is what a real man does.

A new father recently told me that he and his friends were real men: They weren’t afraid to change diapers, carry their babies in slings, or step up as coparents. Even so,
a 2006 study showed that, during a pregnancy, a father can get mixed messages. While the midwife may encourage the father’s participation in pregnancy and childbirth, the father often feels he’s in the way. The pregnant father can also feel marginalized by childbirth-education classes that focus only on the mother’s experience; he would benefit from preparation for birth and parenthood that is more male-appropriate. The mother’s superior position to the newborn baby, although natural and expected, can be stressful for the father; and while he supports breastfeeding, it may also make him feel unequal to his wife.

A pregnant or new father is having his own unique experience. Who will mentor him? His own dad may have had an experience of fathering different from the one he wants to have. I know that my son’s dad will be a fine mentor to him, but what else is out there for new dads today? As it turns out, lots!

On the Web

Sites Specifically About Fatherhood

Fathers’ Forum Online: http://www.fathersforum.com/ “The Online Resource for Expectant and New Fathers.”

GreatDad.com: http://www.greatdad.com/ “Because Dads don’t always think like Moms.”

General-Interest Sites for Fathers

Dadmag.com: http://www.dadmag.com/ “For the Man with Kids.”

The Father Life:http://thefatherlife.com/mag/ “The Men’s Magazine for Dads.”

FQ:http://www.fqmagazine.co.uk/ “The Essential Dad Mag.”

Special-Interest Sites for Fathers

The Dad’s Group: http://www.thedadsgroup.com/ “A Support Group for Gay, Bi, Trans, & Questioning Dads.”

The Fathers Network: http://www.fathersnetwork.org/ For “fathers and families raising children with special health care needs and developmental disabilities.”

National Fatherhood Initiative: http://www.fatherhood.org/ “To improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.”

Blogs

There are hundreds of wonderful and diverse blogs by and for dads. My favorite is Fathering, http://mothering.com/jeremysmith/ by our own Jeremy Adam Smith, which we are proud to have online at Mothering.com. Jeremy’s writing is also part of Daddy Dialectic, http://daddy-dialectic.blogspot.com/ “a group blog by and about dads who embrace care-giving and egalitarian relationships.” Daddy Dialectic is also mentioned in both of the top blog lists below.

Shawn Burns is the author of the blog Backpacking Dad: http://backpackingdad.com/ “I am a dad. I have a backpack. My kids ride around in the backpack.” He has put together a list of the Top 10 Deliberate Dad Blogs, http://www.blogs.com/topten/top-10-deliberate-dad-blogs/ and says that he’s “drawn to dad bloggers who have, not necessarily an agenda, but a decision.”

Shawn’s top three choices of daddy blogs are:

Always Home and Uncool: http://blogonkevin.blogspot.com/ “Fatherhood isn’t just funny in Kevin’s world, it’s the most hilarious thing ever.”

Cry It Out: Memoirs of a Stay-at-Home Dad: http://mikeadamick.com/ “Mike Adamick is an extremely gifted writer and also a stay-at-home dad.”

DadCentric: http://www.dadcentric.com/ A group blog for fathers “who seem lost in a sea of mommy blogs.”

Almighty Dad, “opinionated since 1974,” has put together a list of the 125 Top Dad Blogs of 2010. http://www.almightydad.com/blogs/top-dad-blogs His top picks include:

GeekDad: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/ Wired magazine’s popular blog for techno dads.

The Republic of T.: http://www.republicoft.com/ “Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.”

Frugal Dad: http://frugaldad.com/ Financial advice and philosophy.

Technorati, the Internet search engine for blogs, lists nearly 500 family blogs, many by dads. Here are some unique ones:

Stay at Stove Dad: http://www.stayatstovedad.com/ “A Site for Working Fathers who Cook for their Families.”

VeganDad: http://vegandad.blogspot.com/ “A realistic look at a vegan family in a northern Ontario city.”

African American Dad: http://fatherdad.com/ “One good black father among many . . . Tackling fatherhood and loving (almost) every minute!”

Mocha Dad: http://www.mochadad.com/ “The Musings of a Harried Dad in His Quest to Raise Three Kids.”

Guy Dads: http://guydads.blogspot.com/ “Two married Jewish gay dads, their six children, and life on the town. Plus a dose of social action and gay activism.”

Forums

Many of the sites and blogs listed above have discussion forums, but surprisingly, according to Big Boards, http://www.big-boards.com/ Mothering.com has the top discussion board for dads. We currently have 596 threads on our Fathers Forum, which is moderated by Papa Bliss.

Books

Here are some of our favorite books for fathers, many of them reviewed by Managing Editor Melissa Chianta in past issues of Mothering.

The Baby Bonding Book for Dads: Building a Closer Connection with Your Baby, by Jennifer Margulis and James di Properzio (Willow Creek Press, 2008). Reviewed in Mothering no. 150, September–October 2008.

Bill Cosby on Fatherhood by Bill Cosby (Peter Pauper Press, 2002).

The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils, and Humiliations of Fatherhood, by Ben George (HarperPerennial, 2009). Reviewed in Mothering no. 154, May–June 2009.

Crash Course for New Dads: Tools, Checklists & Cheat-Sheets by Greg Bishop (Dads Adventure, 2008).

The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family by Jeremy Adam Smith (Beacon Press, 2009). Reviewed in Mothering no. 154, May–June 2009.

Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand and Support Your Daughter, by Joe Kelly (Broadway Books, 2002). Reviewed in Mothering no. 115, November–December 2002.

FatherBirth: A Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind, by John B. Franklin (FatherBirth, 2001). Reviewed in Mothering no. 111, March–April 2002.

Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change, by Armin A. Brott (Abbeville Press, 2003). Reviewed in Mothering no. 121, November–December 2003.

Fathering Right from the Start: Straight Talk about Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, by Jack Heinowitz, PhD (New World Library, 2001).

Fatherlove: What We Need, What We Seek, What We Must Create, by Richard Louv (Diane Publishing Co., 1993).

Father’s Milk: Nourishment and Wisdom for the First-time Father, by Andre Stein, PhD, with Peter Samu, MD (Capital Books, 2002). Reviewed in Mothering no. 115, November–December 2002.

Hit the Ground Crawling: Lessons from 150,000 New Fathers, by Greg Bishop (Dads Adventure, 2006). Reviewed in Mothering no. 152, January–February 2009.

Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad, by David Eddie (Riverhead Books, 1999). Reviewed in Mothering no. 121, November–December 2003.

Pregnant Man: How Nature Makes Fathers Out of Men, by Gordon Churchwell (Quill, 2001).

Classes

In addition to an excellent website, http://www.dadsadventure.com/ a magazine, http://www.dadsadventure.com/dads-adventure-magazine/ and the two books by Greg Bishop mentioned above, Dads Adventure offers a program that has become a national model: Boot Camp for New Dads, http://www.bootcampfornewdads.org/ an innovative workshop for guys expecting their first child. The website offers a video about how to change a diaper, and such sections as Ramping Up for the Birth, Becoming a Dad, Helping a New Mom, Return to Romance, and Finances and Other Basics. Boot Camps are offered in 43 states and on US military bases, and are expanding internationally.

Groups

A young dad friend asked me today if there were any groups for dads. Yes, there are. Dr. Moz has a comprehensive state-by-state list of dad groups, and also lists fatherhood organizations and events, and online networks and resources. http://www.drmoz.com/dadgroups.html

Dads Meetup Groups are found in 157 cities in seven countries. These get-togethers are for meeting other dads to discuss the role of a father, as well as parenting, school, and other “dad” topics. http://dads.meetup.com/

Rebel Dad, http://www.rebeldad.com/index.html the weblog of a stay-at-home dad (SAHD), offers a Stay At Home Dad Group and Playgroups Map,

http://www.rebeldad.com/map.html as well as guidelines for starting your own dads’ group. http://www.rebeldad.com/startgroup.htm

And, finally, AtHomeDad.org, http://www.athomedad.org/groups the “Stay at Home Dad Oasis,” offers discussion forums and a directory of groups.

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