Impending Fatherhood Fears
How Men Can Cope
But back to the relationship-based fears: what can fathers do about them? The suggestions offered in parenting literature are basically the same: talk about anxieties and concerns as a couple. Wives can help their husbands read about/chat with guys who have been new dads (online fatherhood forums are a great resource) and have them “practice” for a morning or even a whole day with a friend or family member who has a baby.
Whatever methods they use, dads must challenge their fears or face the consequences of them. Fatherhood expert Dr. William Sears suggests that if men don’t involve themselves in caring for the newborn, their wives will “pick up the slack” and develop an attachment to the baby that can leave men feeling alienated. It’s a classic example of the catch-22 of rejection fears: you don’t want to be rejected, so you don’t make the necessary effort, which of course leads to rejection.
It’s critical, then, for dads to assert themselves in the care of the baby. The good news is that being a guy doesn’t render a person any less able to do so. Armin Brott, author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be, states that parenting research shows fathers can be “just as responsive to their infants’ needs as mothers”—and that parenting mainly involves learned rather than innate skills.
Despite everything that anxious future dads can do to prepare, there’s only one complete cure for fatherhood fears: help your partner have the baby, then help her take care of him or her. Talking, role-playing, and rehearsing before the birth won’t conquer pre-paternal anxiety, but they’re still necessary steps to help guys normalize and understand their fears so that they don’t come true.
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