Pregnancy is a game-changer, but the spectrum of changes disproportionately affects women compared to men. I often joke that guys contribute half the genetic material to pregnancy then do nothing until it is time to start changing diapers. I ask women what is more challenging: taking care of a baby growing inside during the last month of pregnancy or taking care of a newborn during the first month of life? I honestly don’t know the answer from the mom’s perspective, and it seems like it is different from person to person and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. I see the response from the dad’s perspective. Our help with the baby doesn’t begin until the baby is born. Let’s talk about what dads can do during pregnancy to help and be more involved and what they can do to help once the baby is born.
During pregnancy, dad has the job of being the biggest cheerleader and supporter. Sometimes this means being the therapist just to let your partner vent to you. Sometimes this means being a massage therapist on demand. My favorite role in seeing dads assume is what I call “accessory memory.” When I ask patients if they have any questions, they turn to their partner to remind them what questions they had because pregnancy brain is a real thing! The take-home message is to be there for whatever your partner needs and wants.
Once the baby is born, you get to do all the same things you were doing, plus add a baby to the mix. That means holding, soothing, changing diapers, giving baths, and helping feed. There is a lot of unpaid labor in any household, the daily chores that keep the home running (see “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates).
Often this unpaid labor is done without much appreciation or notice. Most of the time, it is women doing the bulk of this unpaid labor. While mom is recovering from delivery, this is dad’s chance to pitch in and do those dishes, take care of the laundry, and get the groceries. Maybe it will become a lifelong habit that pays dividends in brownie points with your partner.
There are many books about parenting, but my advice is to get in there, have a hands-on experience, and make it up as you go, just like everybody else does when it comes to parenting. Figure out what works for your family and do that. From one dad to another, you don’t have to be perfect. Honestly, you don’t even have to be great, but you have to try. Best of luck, and make lots of memories along the way!
Jason Morris, MD, OB/GYN
Canyon View Women’s Care