The Importance of Being a Dad
Being a father is an act of nature, but being a dad is a measure of will.
Creating a new human life isn’t particularly difficult. Barring fertility problems, becoming a father doesn’t require anything more than being at the right place at the right time. Being a dad, however, is a much more complicated process that requires a conscious and consistent willingness to be present in a baby’s life.
There’s been a lot written over the years about the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. They are role models for their sons and can influence the kind of partner their daughters will choose as adults. Good fathers have been credited with everything from building character to making girls better at math. But all the laurels being given to men who are actively involved in the lives of their children aren’t really being presented to fathers – they’re recognizing great dads.
The point is that all children benefit from having to nurture and loving adults in their lives, and when it comes to raising confident and happy children, the more the merrier. The contribution dads make to the well being of their kids may be different from mom’s influence, or not, but what really matters is that they’re contributing. Studies have consistently shown that children do better both academically and socially in a home with two engaged parents – but that children in homes with a distant father were on a par with those from single-parent families when it came to teen pregnancy, depression and behavioral problems.
Early Bonding Matters
When a new baby first comes home from the hospital, it can be difficult for men to find a role with infants who seem so dependent on their mothers. Yet early bonding is the key to establishing your place as a mindful and present dad, so it’s important to be there for your baby right from the start.
If your baby is bottle feeding, hold her close in the same position a mother would when breastfeeding. Look into her eyes and let her look at you as she drinks, identifying your face as that of someone who is taking care of her most basic needs. If your baby is crying, be the one to soothe and calm him, with soft words and a gentle touch. After bath time, try giving your baby a light massage. She will come to associate you with a part of her daily routine that feels calm and comforting.
Most importantly, set aside sometime every day to spend with your baby. Take a walk with him strapped to your chest or read a story together. Being a dad takes consistency so that your child can count on your attention.
Finally, don’t push the “maintenance” chores onto mom. Going to the doctor, getting introduced to daycare, or dealing with a host of tummy upsets and sniffles is all part of being a dad. It’s the accumulation of memories that count, and that means the everyday routines as well as those special times together.
Ultimately, dads matter in the lives of their children because they love them. Every now and again, consciously push aside all your other demands and responsibilities and think about how great it is to have someone around who still lights up when they see a garbage truck, or giggles wildly when you blow in their ear. You just might find that being a dad has become as important to your own happiness as it is to your child’s.
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