Anyone who tells you fatherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to you, they are understating it.”
– Mike Myers
So, you have a new dad (or are about to become) a new dad?
Becoming a new dad for the first time can often be a daunting prospect. Especially if you were void of a good role model in your own life growing up. Research tells us that around 47% of fathers today still believe that their role in those first three years of their child’s life is that of a “Helper” – rather than a “Primary Care Giver”.
I would suggest to fathers everywhere that they begin to embrace the idea of being a “hands-on father” and realize that you were never meant to simply be a “helper”. Your intimate involvement from the first day of your child’s life is just as vital as that of their mother.
Most new dads carrying around some nagging assumptions about what it means to be a Dad. Many times, these dad myths and misconceptions are based on our own experiences with our fathers, other people’s experiences with their fathers, or how we believe the world views fatherhood.
The problem is, you aren’t your dad, you aren’t their dad, and you aren’t some dad that’s been written to produce the most laughs from a live television audience.
The biggest misconception out there is that there is a single ideal for being a “good father.”
Making modern fathers believe several unsupportable myths, like:
- Dads Can’t Have Fun
- Men Don’t Need Support
- Guy’s Can’t Be Nurturers
- Dads Are Dumb
Never believe it! Fatherhood is as varied and unique as the individuals that make up a family, and you can be the best possible dad for your family by shaping your goals to match that uniqueness and not anyone else’s stereotypes.
Here are four common myths that new fathers are often told…
Dad, you’ll never golf again! (or fish, or play drums, or whatever you “do”)
Dad Myth: You know all those fun things you used to do? The football games, fishing trips? The poker nights? Well forget it, you’re a dad now!
Busted: Like anything else in life, having a baby will probably throw you off balance for a while, but rest assured, balance will be restored.
At first, you’ll probably just want to spend time with the kid anyway (be warned – some of your friends might struggle with this) but soon enough you’ll adjust.
Your “guy time” might be a little less frequent, but with some judicious planning, you can still do all the things you loved to do. The key and this is what a lot of guys don’t get, is to make sure that mom gets time to enjoy herself as well.
To re-word a familiar phrase, “When mama’s happy…everyone’s happy!”
Do what you have to do to keep mama happy, and she won’t begrudge you a night out with the boys. Also…donot forget those date nights with your sweetie…that’s what babysitters (or Grandma & Grandpa) are for!
Dad, you’re a man…you don’t need support!
Dad Myth: Real men don’t ask for help. Asking for help means you’re a failure, so you better figure this whole “fatherhood” thing out for yourself!
Busted: This one might have flown when our dads were waitin’ around for us, but not anymore.
Go to Google and type in “Tips for Dads” or “First-time fathers” and you’ll find the answer to just about any question you can think of, and more tips than you’ll ever have time to read.
There’s also a growing number of “Dad Authors” out there. Armin Brott (Mr. Dad) happens to be my favorite, and he has a series of books that will guide you, month by month, from conception to sending your kiddo off to school. He also has a great website, Mr. Dad, with FAQ for every age group. Check it out!
You can join one or a dozen Yahoo Groups for dads, as well.
Best of all, find a couple of your buddies who have been there, are still there or are in the same boat you are.
Dad Myth: Men go out and kill the brontosaurus, women stay home and take care of the babies. If YOU took care of the baby, it’d probably grow up to be a brontosaurus.
Busted: Men and women may express their feelings in different ways, but that doesn’t mean that men don’t have feelings, don’t value feelings, and can’t pass those feelings along to their children.
It’s all a matter of what the child perceives. If Mom's the one who always wipes away tears, give hugs, and rocks her to sleep, she’s naturally going to gravitate to mom when she needs comforting.
If both parents are nurturers…well, you’ve got a lucky kid.
Men have historically participated closely in domestic life. Take this small linguistic fact: “hus” is the old spelling for house, and “band” is the bond to the house he rented or owned. A man primarily farmed to take care of his home, a meaning still in use today in “husbandry.”
- Chad Prevost, Ph.D
Kids are the best; you can teach them to hate the things you hate. And they practically raise themselves, what with the internet and all.
- Homer Simpson
Dad Myth: Dads can perform surgeries, build skyscrapers, and fly jumbo jets all day long, but as soon as they walk through the door, their brains turn to jelly and they become bumbling buffoons that you wouldn’t trust with a sharp stick.
Busted: Despite the bad press we’ve gotten from the likes of Homer Simpson and Al Bundy…men are smart, and capable, and forget what you’ve heard, men can even multitask.
In his seminal Washington Post article, Why this is the end of the dumb dad era author Chad Prevost, Ph.D states:
Men tend to focus a lot of energy on things that interest him (work, cars, sports, etc.,) and very little on things that don’t. It’s not that you’re a dumb dad, it’s that you’ve never learned to be a dad (just like moms aren’t born knowing As Homer Simpson — perhaps the most enduring of his ilk — quips, “Marriage is like a coffin, and each kid is another nail.”
For generations, those bumbling oafs set a subconscious example for the rest of us, giving us implicit permission to leave household duties to our wives because – obviously – we just weren’t that good at them, anyway. But now the disconnected father who exits stage left for the better part of the week and washes his hands at the door of competence or emotional engagement is starting to fade into pop-culture history.
how to be moms, and they’re not, we aren’t born knowing how to be dads!)
You didn’t rebuild your first transmission without a manual, you didn’t play football with our someone teaching you the rules…why would you think that something a huge and diverse as fatherhood would just come naturally?
So, go to the library and check out some books, go online and join some message boards, best of all look around you and find the guys who seem like great dads…take ‘em out to coffee and ask ‘em some questions.
Side note: In all fairness, guys, some of this one comes back on us...
“Playing dumb” is a great way to get out of an unpleasant responsibility, but…in the long run…it’s not worth it. Do we really want to spend the rest of our lives being treated like idiots?
So, bust these four common new dad myths! In fact, bust any myth that tells you there’s an inherent reason why you can’t be a great dad. Read up on fatherhood, ask questions, get advice, believe in yourself and be the best dad you can be.
Novelist, blogger, and award-winning food writer, Perry P. Perkins is a freelance author and work-from-home dad living in the Pacific Northwest.
Perry has written for hundreds of magazines, from Writer's Digest and Guideposts, to American Hunter and Bassmaster Magazine. His work has been included in 16 Chicken Soup anthologies, and he writes a monthly column, Renaissance Dad, for Vancouver Family Magazine.
Perry lives with his wife and daughter in Western Washington State.
More of Perry’s writing can be found at www.perryperkinsbooks.com