Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 36, Tuesday April 18, 2006


boot camp for expectant dads?

In one episode of The Simpsons, the TV breaks down, therefore leaving the family to entertain themselves with stories of when the kids were born. One of the several things we discover is the real reason Homer went bald there's a flashback sequence showing him, upon learning about each of Marge's three pregnancies, shrieking and pulling out his hair.

Homer's reaction is overstated of course, but as is often the case, it portrays a cultural reality prominent enough to have created its own stereotype: the uncertain, anxious expectant dad. Dads-to-be express emotions ranging from apprehension to outright panic to elation. Why such a fluctuation of emotions?

Well, there's a deep confusion about what fathers are in the new millennium set against, of course, what society thinks they should be. It is now trite to say that fathers aren't what they used to be, that the aloof, masculine role-model, breadwinner dad who administered the discipline and otherwise left child-rearing to the mom is as old-fashioned as vinyl records. What is far less certain is what the role should be of the new, modern dad, who doesn't earn all the money but doesn't get pregnant either.

Some of today's expectant dads claim that they keep getting mixed messages. On the one hand, they're supposed to get intensely involved, go to all these doctor's appointments, read the books, and be able to hold his own in a conversation about placentas or epidurals. And yet, when people are doling out sympathy about what a pain pregnancy is, it's 'MOM' who gets the attention. Men and women alike exclude dads from pregnancy conversations. The mother of course is the one who is pregnant, but if we want fathers to include themselves in the pregnancy, then we must include them in our attentions. In general fathers are a very under-represented bunch, no one caring about their anxieties that are 'stirred-up' when they find out they'll be a father in less than a year.

Expectant dads fear about their wives' health morning sickness, sleeplessness, mood swings, fatigue, changes in eating habits and the very real possibility of miscarriage. Not used to seeing their wives this uncomfortable they wonder how they can help, feel really inadequate to do so in most cases and so, retreat into a shell of 'best-not-to-interfere'. What they don't realize that it's a catch-22 situation: they don't want to be rejected, so they don't make the necessary effort, which of course leads to rejection.

They also start to look ahead (way ahead in fact till the child's college graduation, first job, and marriage) and feel worried about how having a baby will affect family finances. If their wives are career women, they worry how they'll be affected by the change in income when their wives are off work for a while. Concerns about the need for a larger house, a new car or how to anticipate what new expenses they'll have once the baby has arrived are common.

Finally, they worry about what type of father they'll be. They fear about their ability to secure a place in the child's life through being useful. 'How will I figure out how to take care of the baby? Will I be a good dad? What was it like for dad when I was born? How prepared was he? What opportunities do I have that he didn't?'

Most expectant dads claim that once the baby arrives they'd really like to volunteer to man the bottle, wake up in the dead of the night for some one-on-one-bonding with the baby when it cries and let their wives have some much needed sleep, be the bathe time boss, and even undertake poopy patrol aka diaper changing. They say that in the years to come they'd want to be actively involved in the proper rearing of their child sharing with their wives' responsibilities like choosing the proper school, teaching them high morals and values, nursing them through illness, making time for fun and play, etc.

But why highlight just the father's role? In the case of BOTH the mom and dad, how good they'll be as parents will ONLY be proven when they really DO become parents. I've heard true accounts of guys who were practically zombies during their wives' pregnancies but once they held their newborn in their arms their whole demeanor changed. Except for breast feeding (which is a realm out of their control) they ended up undertaking all other chores because they thought they were better at them!

Hence the true portrait of a father will only be unveiled after the baby is born. And at the end of the day you get out of parenthood what you put into it. To quote the immortal words of a very famous dad, 'Do-h!’

By Simin Saifuddin
Photo: Wasif Munem
Model: Lana, Farzan, Nihal



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