From Partner to Father
Have you ever wondered what an expectant dad usually hears from his male friends? “Buddy, once this baby is born, you can forget about sex for the next six months.” If I were about to become a father, and was probably a little unsure about my new role, this advice would not be particularly comforting.
Why do women persist in thinking that once the baby is born, they will just walk off into the sunset? And why don’t childbirth educators discuss the importance of “expectations management” and good communications?
It is undeniable that the arrival of a baby, especially the first, transforms the relationship inside a couple. Three people now must share love, time, and energy—the exclusive nature of the couple’s relationship comes to an end. Moral and material responsibilities dominate, lives must be better organized, improvising becomes difficult, if not impossible. New conflicts can arise on matters that both partners thought were resolved, especially regarding values and important decisions such as education and religion.
Today, a further challenge faces parents. When they become mothers, many women judge their partners according to a new criterion: their ability to be “good fathers.” With her newly-acquired protective instinct, even the most relaxed, easygoing woman will become over-critical if the father does not live up to her image of an ideal dad. Yet he is often caught between the weight of tradition and modern expectations.
The Mother Advantage
A woman has the advantage of a progressive preparation for motherhood over the course of nine months. She carries the child not only in her body, but also in her heart and in her mind. Once the baby is born, she benefits from an extremely intimate relationship. The father-child relationship, however, is external and more abstract. Once home from the hospital, the baby and its supplies seem to take over the house. He is expected to stand close by the mother-child unit, but cannot enter into it; to instinctively take over all the housekeeping; and to have a sudden, burning desire to change diapers. It is hardly surprising then that he feels left out of the magic bubble. He may feel sexually frustrated, clumsy, and useless around the baby, but not dare admit his feelings.
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