Here's to involved dads. Things have changed since my dad was an odd man to be sharing baby care. Partly it's due to the increased participation of men in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. How can anybody disengage and shove all the parenting off on somebody else when they've been so involved for nine months with centimeters, ultrasounds, and breathing? These dads are the dudes who cut the cords, after all ... what are a few diapers, after that?
It's a fortunate thing to be a new mother with an involved parenting partner. It's even more fortunate to be the baby.
Back when Annie still spent much of her life lying on her back and waving her arms, I watched my dad with her. "Piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy," he said, counting her toes. In my new-mother's concerned voice I spoke. "What if she begins to think that 'piggy' is the word for toes?" I asked him, terrified. My father, who'd borne me on his back around three cities, trimmed my toenails, and comforted me when I didn't get cast in the school play, looked at me, rolled his eyes ever-so-gently, and smiled.
Tips for New Moms on Their New Dads
Here are three things to keep in mind:
1. Dads often have a different style—let's just say that the "dad" in your life may be rougher (or more physically stimulating) than the typical mom's gentle and soothing approach. Make sure that your "dad" understands the basics of baby care and then step back, and let father and baby negotiate the terms of their relationship. Babies are fairly resilient; they thrive on physical stimulation.
2. Dads like to sleep. Don't be alarmed when your "dad" sleeps soundly through 20 minutes of midnight screams. Perhaps their hormones aren't as wired for night wakings as women's are. They wake slower, they get grumpier ... and yet they should not be excused. Sleep deprivation is best survived when shared. Take turns getting the baby down (yet again).
3. Yep, diapers are part of the bargain. The traditional dad says piggy things like, "I don't do diapers," and, "I'll teach him ball once he's potty trained. Give him to me clean." If your baby has a traditional father reluctant to father, remind the guy that: a) baby poop is nowhere near as offensive as the grown-up version (especially for breastfed babies); b) if you change enough diapers you barely notice the fumes; and c) he who goes the miles gets the smiles.