Children’s health and development

Mamas on Bedrest: What’s Dad Got to do With it?

June 18th, 2017

In the birthing world, dad’s often take a very distant third place behind the baby and the mama (and usually in that order!). Many men have told me that they want to support their partners, but are unsure how, and feel left in the dark when its time to make major decisions.  My own experience having my daughter was a prime example. When my daughter was first delivered by c-section, she was having difficulty breathing so they whisked her over to the warming table to clear her airway and check her out. Meanwhile, my uterus would not contract as it should have and I began bleeding. As my obstetrician went to work on me and the neonatal team was working on my daughter, my daughter’s father was standing in the middle of the floor clueless as to what was happening. He says of that day,

“I didn’t know if I was going to come home with one of you, both of you or neither of you!”

Health care providers often neglect to acknowledge and include fathers in the perinatal process. While this oversight is almost always unintentional, health care providers and other birth workers often explain their actions with,

“I’m so focused on the well being of mama and baby, I kind of forget about the needs of the dad.”

This is a horrible oversight on the part of the medical team, and a terrible omission of a very valuable resource.

When a woman is pregnant, and even more notably when she is in labor, she’s very vulnerable. She can’t function at her normal level due to the physical changes going on in her own body, and as her body is developing the fetus. She needs her partner more than ever to help with very practical activities around the house as well as for emotional support. In my time as a doula, as much as I love supporting the women I serve, a wonderfully supportive partner almost always trumps what I can offer a mom. The bond that the couple shares having created the baby is now heightened as that baby makes its way into the world. Whether he is quietly whispering encouragement in her ear, massaging her back during contractions or literally holding her up as she labors dads’ strength and very presence are often the most soothing balm for a laboring mama.

And dads’ presences are critical to the growth and development of their children. Not only do dads give infants a sense of safety and security, as children develop, dads’ influence contributes to a lower rate of behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment.(1) Additionally,

“Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers,”

says Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut.(2)

Dads seem to also be responsible for giving their children persistence. Laura Padilla Walker, a researcher from Brigham Young University found that dads who provide loving but firm guidance, and encourage their children to persist-even when it’s hard-endow their children with life long persistence that is closely linked to future success. Additionally, a persistent personality, in turn, was related to less delinquency and more engagement in school over time.

“Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms,” study researcher Laura Padilla-Walker.

So none of this is really anything new. We know that dads are important and that their presence and loving interaction have a tremendous positive impact on their children. So today, Father’s Day, show some dads that you know some love-whether it’s your own father, a father figure, or a guy that you know who is really giving his all to be there for his children. And it’s not whether or not a dad is in love with the mother that counts. It is important for children to see their parents treating one another with respect. But parents don’t have to be married to exert their loving positive influences on their children. It’s their presence in their children’s lives that matters most.

Happy Fathers Day to all the dads!!!

Share a story of a great father that you know in our comments section below!!

 

References:

The Huffington PostThe Important Role of Dad, By Dr. Gail Gross. June 12, 2014

LiveScience – The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dad’s Matter. Stephanie Pappas, June 15, 2012

The University of Connecticut, Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance & Rejection

Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Randal D. Day, W. Justin Dyer, Brent C. Black The Journal of Early Adolescence, vol. 33, 4: pp. 433-457., First Published June 18, 2012.
Transnational Relations Between Perceived Parental Acceptance and Personality Dispositions of Children and Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review.A. Khaleque, R. P. Rohner. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2011; 16 (2): 103 DOI: 10.1177/1088868311418986