You’re becoming a father. Congratulations! Are you prepared? Having a child can be an emotional roller-coaster ride for new dads as well as for expecting moms.
During this period, before the baby arrives, much of the attention is focused on your partner. And that only makes sense, she is going through physical, hormonal, and emotional changes daily. Being there for her and helping support her at each step along the way can be an important way to strengthen your family connection and prepare for fatherhood.
Don’t limit yourself to passive involvement in this life-changing period of your family development. Get active. Here are some ways that you can do this.
Play with actual children
One thing that can help give you some perspective is spending time with kids. If you have family members or friends with newborns or young children, visit with them. I know that before my wife was pregnant, I never really paid much attention to kids. However, once we knew that we had our own child on the way, I was fascinated by them and couldn’t get enough of playing with them.
It helped with the transition from being terrified of fatherhood to being impatient for the baby to arrive.
Be an essential part of the team
Things are changing and emotions can run high. Make sure your partner knows that you are in this together. Don’t wait until she asks for help. Look for ways to proactively embrace the changing dynamic.
Suggest low impact exercises you can do together. Prepare healthy meals chock full of the essential nutrients that mom and the developing baby need. Talk about your feelings and ask about hers. Read the parenting books. Statistically most of the research is done by women, while men are more likely to ‘wing it.’ Show that you are truly interested and involved and do your share of the reading. Your physical and emotional presence are needed to help share the pregnancy.
Attend the doctor’s visits
While you wouldn’t normally attend your partner’s medical appointments with her – visits to the doctor during pregnancy aren’t just about her health. They are about the health and development of your child. There is something magical about seeing those first images of your baby on the ultrasound. Be as involved in the process as your partner is comfortable with.
Shop for baby supplies together
Babies need a lot of stuff. Shopping with your partner for these things can be a bonding experience as you plan for the arrival of your child. Looking at the tiny size of baby socks, onesies, and infant pyjamas make it all more real.
You’ll need to pick up a crib, car seat, and highchair. Most people also like to have the vibrating sleeper chair, baby monitor, and a pack ‘n play. (The later is a portable safe place for toddlers to sleep and play that can be very handy when travelling or visiting others with your young child.)
It is also not a bad idea to start stockpiling diapers early. You’re going to need them, and they can take up a lot of room in the grocery cart.
Check out your paternity leave at work and discuss parental leave with your partner
Many companies offer paternity leave specifically for new dads. Find out if this option is available at your workplace and how much time you want to take off when the baby arrives.
Canada allows new parents to extend their parental leave for up to 18 months, and this time can be shared between parents. With this extended policy, parents don’t receive any additional money from employment insurance, but they have the option of stretching their existing payout over a longer period of time. So, while EI benefits would pay 55 per cent of your salary over 12 months of parental leave, Canadians now have the choice of taking 33 per cent over 18 months instead.
Plan with your spouse which one of you will stay home with the new baby and for how long each of you could afford to be away from your work.
Once the baby arrives, both you and your spouse are going to have your hands full. Use this period of anticipation to solidify your connection with each other and prepare for the big day.