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#9 Ways for Working Men to Start Off With Their Journey of Parenthood To all the new fathers who are striving hard and juggling their roles- you've got this!

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The journey of any couple from pregnancy to childbirth is a time of incredible closeness, warmth, and love. Mixed with all the joy are also moments of apprehension, uncertainty and a sense of increased responsibility.\

Parenthood brings out feelings of overwhelm and emotions to an equal extent in the new father as that of the mother. Men respond to pregnancy is no way less varied than that of women; they too go through joy and fear, denial and acceptance, nervousness and excitement. When the baby finally arrives and reality hits- men gradually begin yearning to pitch in and do their bit. However, they are often left stumped in trying to understand how to support their spouse and lend a helping hand. Many times fathers feel disconnected as they believe a breastfed child bonds best with its mum. Often, they feel unequipped to understand what is going on with their spouse post labor and delivery. Add to this: the sudden shift of their partner's attention from them to the newborn baby makes it challenging.

Ample of time, energy and resources are spent by family, friends, healthcare professionals and birthing professionals to help the pregnant or new mum through her journey of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. However, not much support is provided to the new father who is equally trying to balance his role into fatherhood while also wanting to be a strong support to his partner.

To all the new fathers who are striving hard and juggling their roles- you've got this!

Contrary to what one may have heard, it is a long journey ahead for the new mother to completely recover physically, mentally and emotionally before considering the transition back to work. As a couple, look at taking each step at a time through every stage of parenthood.

Tips For New Fathers:

The best way a father can start off with his journey of parenthood is by simply being available

  • Spend some time understanding company's policies for paternity leave. If it is financially feasible and not monetarily draining- look at taking time off soon after delivery so that both parents learn to divide the newborn chores equally.

If paternity leave is not an option, fathers could look at taking some time off with a chunk of their paid leave post-delivery (vacation time could come next year too!)

  • If taking off is not an option, consider maximizing time at home by making your partner and baby priority. Learn to strategize your working hours better and avoid overtime, late meetings, frequent business trips that can be passed off. No matter how stressful or demanding one's work routine the new mother- baby too requires time and attention.

Step up and Offer to Look After Home Chores Make it Easier for the Partner

  • While the mother may look after the newborn's chores during the initial days, fathers can play a major role by reducing their spouse's responsibility towards household chores. Consider completing home chores such as cooking, laundry, groceries, looking after visitors and guests who come in to meet the newborn.

  • If hiring help is feasible or helping hands exist- work towards allocating duties for the same and ensure your partner does not have to look into matters with respect to home duties.

Support the Partner by Ensuring She Gets Enough Rest to Recover Well

Ensure the mother gets ample rest, by taking turns to stay up during late hours at night when the baby may need to be cared for. Remember postpartum recovery and healing are dependent on the amount of rest a woman gets. Lack of sleep could result in over exhaustion for a breastfeeding new mother.

Offer to Take Over Newborn Chores:

  • Fathers often feel overwhelmed and scared to perform newborn duties owing to the baby's tiny size, but they must remember the precious little one is their own and nobody can handle the baby better than his/her father. Hence, fathers can volunteer to perform the routine: diaper changes, massage sessions, bathing and sponge time duties. These activities could serve as a bonding period between the father and the baby, while also providing the new mum with much intended relief and rest.

Patience is the Key:

  • New fathers must remember to be patient with themselves, their partner and their newborn baby. All three of them are new at this and would require their own time to settle in. One must be sensitive towards the new mother's emotional state. Hormonal surges, physical changes, newborn responsibilities can make a new mother feel anxious and at the edge. Men must work at respecting, understanding and supporting these feelings of overwhelm in the new mum.

Ensure Both Partners are on The Same Page With Respect to Home Visitors & Guests:

  • While it is important for new parents to spend some time together going over their philosophies and beliefs to raise their child. It is essential fathers spend some time with their partner discussing their thoughts on opening their homes to visitors who want to meet the newborn.

  • Visitors and guests often spend time commenting and judging new mothers birthing choices, feeding strategies, parenting philosophies and other such decisions. Everyone has an opinion to give but not everyone is sensitive while voicing the same. For an already coping mum such interference can result in self-doubt and inability to cope. It is best if the new father is around when guests come to visit and back their partner to the fullest, if at all the situation arises.

  • Limit the visiting hours and number of visitors who come home at any given point of time. Dealing with home guests can be energy consuming for both partners and prove to be much more cumbersome than imagined.

Look Out for Sign of Postpartum Blues/Depression in the New Mother & Gain Help:

  • As important as it is for a woman to recover physically, it is equally essential for her to heal mentally. Fathers must be on the lookout for postpartum blues/ depression in their spouse. Watch out for symptoms like feeling of sadness, doubt, guilt, helplessness, lost appetite, inability to sleep, excessive concern or worry, lack of interest in the baby and/or family, inability to take pleasure in leisure activities in your partner. Fathers can play a major role in identifying and eventually helping their partner overcome this phase by getting the right help. Encourage her to take breaks, make her feel loved, applaud her for doing a great job as a mother and support her to see a therapist.

Take Responsibility of the Older Child & Help Settling in Your First Born Once the New Baby arrives:

  • In case the couple has an older child, men can help with settling the older sibling through this new phase. Older children often need time to settle in with their new sibling and sometimes may feel jealous, angry or even disconnected from the new baby.

  • While the mother is busy with the newborn. Not having the mother around may just fuel the feeling of insecurity in the older child. Fathers can step up at this time and help with providing that extra sensitivity, attention and care that the first-born needs.

  • Work on spending a good amount of time with the older child keeping one on one time with them at hand and reminding him/her that they are equally loved. Look at involving them in the chores of the new baby, stress on them being the big brother/sister the little one will look up to along with highlighting perks of being the older sibling.

Encourage & Support the Spouse to Resume Work When She Feels Ready:

  • When the new mother is ready to transition towards resuming work again, fathers can help by working around their own work schedule to ensure a smooth transition for their partner back to work.

  • Both parents can look at ensuring either one is around to tend to the baby as far as possible. If both partners must go to work together- look at hiring help or enrolling the baby into a creche/daycare.

  • Remember the baby's responsibility is as much of the father as the mother. The mother must have an option to return to work if she wishes to and must not feel bound to the child as a duty alone. Support the mother's choices and work towards raising the child together as a unit.

Most fathers today thrive to be hands-on with their newborns and wish to be part of every new milestone in their baby's lives. However, not always is their decision to do so encouraged and applauded. Many times such men face criticism and may also be looked down upon in the patriarchal society that considers child care to be a primary role and duty of the mother.

While it's the mother who nurtures the baby in her womb for nine months and is believed to have the strongest bond in the world with her child, the role of a father in the life of his little one cannot be dismissed and his decision to support his partner as a pillar of strength should be appreciated.

Dr. Vanshika Gupta Adukia

Founder of Therhappy, Pregnancy, Childbirth & Lactation Specialist and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

Dr. Vanshika Gupta-Adukia is a Pregnancy Specialist and the Founder of Therhappy. She is an internationally certified Pre and Post Natal Fitness Educator, a CAPPA certified Childbirth & Lactation Educator Counselor and a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist.

Dr. Vanshika's keen interest in women’s health, curiosity about childbirth and life of a fetus in a mother’s womb led her to venture in the journey of birthing and beyond as well as start Therhappy. During her journey as a Physiotherapist, she realised that India has very few Trained Experts in Pregnancy & Childbirth and hence, Dr. Vanshika founded Therhappy.

Therhappy is a one-stop shop that educates pregnant mothers and new moms until their child is a toddler on areas including lactation, nutrition and fitness for both the mother & the child. Dr. Vanshika has successfully trained and helped several mothers during their pregnancy and post their delivery. She is a member of the Maharashtra State Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy Council as well as a member of the Indian Academy of Fitness Training. She devises a tailor-made programme for each of her client and gives them individual attention as per their requirement.

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