Many fathers are perfectionists; they feel that if they’re not excellent, they’re terrible.
Fathers have confided in me that when they first held their babies they felt terrified, as well as incapable, inadequate, ill- equipped, and even stupid. Rather than ask for help, they relegate baby care to their wives, because they don’t want to risk failing as a father. Don’t do this, dads. Here’s why.
Most mothers feel the same way. I was in medical school when our first child was born. My pediatrician told me that since I wanted to go into pediatrics, there was nothing he needed to tell me about child care. I almost burst into tears. Becoming a mother is an over- whelming experience, full of emotion and full of fear; and if you feel the heavy weight of responsibility as a dad, so does mom.
What if I couldn’t feed my daughter? I had never breastfed before. What if I dropped her, didn’t hear her cry at night, forgot about her in the back seat of the car and she suffocated? What if she choked, stopped breathing, or got a high fever? I was almost a physician and I believed deep down that I really didn’t have what it took to be a good mom. And my husband didn’t feel any better. He was working all the time and worried about not bonding with her.
So if you are afraid and feeling inadequate, welcome to the parents’ club. Most of us feel that way—even pediatricians.
If you are feeling afraid and inadequate, welcome to the parents’ club. Most of us feel that way.
The key thing is not to give up or feel like you’re not needed. No, you don’t have to learn to breastfeed. You might understandably feel that your wife is more adept at changing diapers, and dressing, and bathing, and caring for the baby. Mothers naturally tend to take over—and can be very particular about how things are done, what clothes are put on, and how the car seat is situated. But your wife still needs you, needs your help, even if in the early days you often feel like you’re taking orders. Babies need to bond with their fathers as much as with their mothers. Hold your infant as often as you can. And believe me—you, your wife, and your child will be the happier, in the end, the more you are involved.
– Excerpt from HERO, Ch. 1