Why Bonding Can Be Difficult for New Dads
A perfect example of why guys can find it difficult to bond with newborns is found in Gary Greenberg and Jeanine Hayden’s truly helpful (and genuinely funny) fathering manual Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. In the section covering the newborn’s first week, an illustration shows three men huddled over a video camera’s viewing screen, smiling, and pointing at the proud dad’s family footage. Five feet away from them, lying on a blanket and wearing nothing but a diaper, is the recent addition in question. The caption reads, “Your buddies will all be enthralled by your new baby.”
This picture reveals an often-overlooked obstacle to father-bonding: dads can get distracted from direct involvement with their kids by their well-intentioned use of objects designed to facilitate that involvement.
Similarly, many times as I’ve helped Alexis play with her blocks and books and puzzles I eventually realize that I’ve begun playing with them on my own, and that she’s rummaging around for something else to do. Or, I’ll be dozing or daydreaming while holding her and will not have noticed that she’s finished drinking her bottle and is squirting the residual milk on the sofa.
I’m sure not all guys are as distractible as I am, but many face the same challenge of not getting much of a learning curve when it comes to taking care of the baby. Fathering guru Armin Brott points this out in his book The Expectant Father: Advice and Tips for New Dads. He describes a common scenario: the dad picks up his baby to change his diaper, and when the baby starts to cry, the mom steps in and says, “Here, let me do it.” What men need to do, Brott counsels, is arrange with their partners not to take over for them if they start struggling with the child. In fact, Brott cites research showing that parenting involves more behavior that is learned than innate, which means that mothers and fathers alike have to learn to become parents—it’s just that mothers typically get much more practice. Below are some entry-level things guys can do to develop their parental sides and facilitate bonding.