As a first-time dad, your image of what a father should be like tends to be shaped by your own childhood. You may see your own father as a shining example or an embodiment of everything you plan to avoid.
Your ideas about fatherhood may also be influenced by various myths about what a dad should be like. But ultimately it’s a choice you make.
First-time dad – Mats’ 5 expert tips
Mats Berggren is one of Sweden’s leading experts on gender-equal parenthood and fathers. He usually gives this advice to the soon-to-be parent who isn’t pregnant, giving birth or breastfeeding.
1. Chose to become a parent. When you’re not actually the one who’s pregnant, giving birth or breastfeeding, you may feel excluded. It may also be easy for first-time dads to leave mum to take on a greater share of the responsibility than is strictly necessary. Nothing happens spontaneously, especially in relationships. At some point, the choice is mine: Do I want to be involved or to be outside?
2. Look at what paternity leave is worth, not just at what it costs. Economic considerations usually take precedence over all others in this respect. Who earns the most and who should stay at home? They say we dads listen to how our partner/spouse wants to share parental leave and then we check to see what our boss thinks. If there’s any time ‘left over’, we make do with that. It may be time to ask yourself: “What do I want?”
Who earns the most and who should stay at home?
3. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Talk to your dad or guys you know who have kids. Reading books and surfing the net are all well and good, but there’s a lot to be said for good old-fashioned conversations. Men who already have kids also have experience that money can’t buy. Good advice and know-how gives a first-time dad insight.
4. Discuss expectations with your partner. It’s easy to have expectations before the two of you sit down and talk at length – you make assumptions based on your own upbringing, or your ideas and dreams. Make a point of telling your partner what you want and really listening to what they want.
5. There are many ways to bond with your baby. It’s frustrating for a first-time dad to feel that they’re not good enough. You can’t breastfeed. So do what you can do instead. Bond with your baby in ways that suit you as a dad and meet your baby’s needs: change nappies, rock them to sleep and give cuddles. There are many ways to bond with your baby, such as carrying a newly fed baby (word to the wise: hand a hungry baby over to mum straight away).
Please get in touch if you have more tips for parents who want to be involved from the word go, even if they aren’t pregnant, giving birth or breastfeeding. Send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lives near Stockholm and has four children and three grandchildren.
- Works for the Swedish organisation Men for Gender Equality.
- Operations manager for the Equal Parenthood unit, which works with expectant/new parents, especially first-time dads, to encourage men’s involvement in parenthood.
- Project manager of “New Men in Belarus”, a gender-equality project in Belarus that aims to get men more involved in their children’s upbringing.
- Author of Becoming a parent on Sweden’s 1177 healthcare website.
- Has been working with gender-equal parenthood and fathers’ groups since the late 1990s.
- Lectures and runs training courses on gender-equal parental support for midwives, paediatric nurses and district nurses in Sweden.