fatherhood

Mamas on Bedrest: Why it’s critical that WE celebrate fathers

June 17th, 2015

Hello Mamas,

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 21st. How are you planning to celebrate the very special man in you and your baby’s life?

Perhaps you are thinking,

“My baby’s father isn’t in our lives!”

I hear you. I am no longer with my children’s father, yet he is an important part of their lives-and mine as we are co-parenting them. But if you have remarried, or there is a “father figure” in your child’s life who has stepped up and stepped in and is fulfilling the role and duties of father, I invite you to celebrate that man this Sunday (and everyday!!)

I know that this website is Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond, and the whole focus is to provide you with the tools and support that you need to have a fantastic pregnancy and a healthy baby. But I would be remiss, and some may even go so far as to say that my actions would be unethical, if I didn’t highlight the important role of fathers-biologic and otherwise-in the lives of birthing women and their babies.

So let’s start with mamas. Fathers/partners provide emotional support throughout the pregnancy. Yeah, sometimes they just don’t get us, but hey, there are times when we don’t get us either! Those who are present are taken on the rollercoaster ride that is pregnancy; full of ups, downs, mood swings, close calls and the joys of labor, delivery and-the baby! As overwhelming as childbearing is for us, imaging how colossal it must be for men?  They have to watch the woman that they love (hopefully) grow, change, be uncomfortable (often times sick!!), be on bed rest, endure the endless tests and treatments and then the grand finale-labor and delivery (or a c-section, major surgery) and be able to do very little to make the situation better for her. For many guys, this is this side of insanity! Guys inherently want to fix things and when it comes to childbearing, after insemination, there really isn’t much for them to do but watch and wait. And yes, for some men, this is too much and they leave. So kudos to those who stay, stick it out and hang in when the going is tough and are a solid rock for their women to lean on and rest upon.

The influence of a father, a daddy (a man who provides more than mere sperm donation!) in the lives of children is priceless. According to the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, 

“When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.”

In 2006, Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD co-authored a manual on fatherhood through the US Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration for Children and Families,  the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and the Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect called, “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” In this publication Rosenberg and Wilcox note that children raised by loving, married parents learn how a man is to treat a woman in the context of a healthy relationship. They also note that even when the parents aren’t married and don’t live together, children who see their fathers speaking to and treating their mothers with respect and courtesy learn that men are supposed to treat women with respect and courtesy (boys) and they learn that behavior that is not respectful and courteous is not acceptable (girls). In summary, Rosenberg and Wilcox found the following characteristics in children who had active fathers in their lives (regardless of the parental relationships)

  • Children with involved, caring fathers have better education outcomes that start in preschool and continue throughout their school careers.
  • Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.
  • Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. As such, children whose fathers engage in rough housing are more likely to learn to cope with aggressive behaviors and learn its okay to strike out and explore without being anxious.
  • Children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior.
  • Boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems
  • Girls had stronger self­ esteem.
  • Children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.

What this study also found and what was also confirmed by a study done by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is that lower income fathers are no less involved in their children’s lives than higher earning dads. In fact, many lower income fathers are more “hands on” with their children, especially those who didn’t live with their children all the time; caring for their children on weekends and for other extended periods of time and providing all the care and nurturing that mothers provide in addition to financial support.

I think that fathers are the unsung heroes of families. Yes, we mamas do much to keep that family moving and shaking, but a good dad really holds the family together. So this Sunday, do a little something special for the dads in you and your children’s lives. And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!!

 

 

Dad and Me

Me and My Dad, circa 1968.

 

References

The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children”. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. Written By Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, PhD.

20 Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to Be an Active Father Prepared by Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., Child Development Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, October 2000.

The Effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Research Summary of the Evidence Sarah Allen, PhD and Kerry Daly, PhD. Centre for Families, Work & Well-Being, University of Guelph 2007

Mamas on Bedrest: When a Dad Loses His Dad

June 23rd, 2011

On November 30, 2003, my husband’s father died.

It was a heartbreaking loss. We had all gathered at my inlaws to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. My husband, daughter and I had flown in to surprise my inlaws and together with my sister and brother inlaw, we were going to throw a big family party to commemorate the event.

On the morning of the anniversary, my husband and I were jolted from sleep by my mother inlaw’s cries, “Daddy isn’t waking up!”  While I tried to perform CPR my husband called EMS. The emergency rescuers worked on my father in law for some 45 minutes before transporting him to the hospital. My father in law never regained consciousness. The doctors estimated that he had actually died a couple of hours prior to my mother in law waking up. My mother in law lost the love of her life on their 40th anniversary.

Losing a parent is never easy. Losing a parent in such a dramatic fashion is even more difficult. My husband speaks very little about his father’s death, yet I know that it had a profound impact on him. For months following his father’s death, my husband functioned on autopilot; he went to work, came home, played with our daughter abit and then retreated to his home office. While I knew that he was in great pain, I was unable to get him to talk about his father or to get help in the form of counseling. Those were very dark days.

Even now, 9 years later, my husband speaks very little about his father or his death. When we spoke recently, he admitted that the void that he feels is almost unspeakable. Without my father inlaw, my husband finds himself with no male role model, no patter for fatherhood. His grandfathers are deceased. His father had 2 sisters and his mother has 3. My husband is the oldest grandchild so others look to him as a role model. There is no living male relative to whom he can turn for advice or guidance.

It really took me aback when I considered my husband’s situation. When I had my daughter, I was constantly on the telephone with my mother and sister, making sure each little “coo” was okay and that I was providing her with everything she needed. When I had my son 3 1/2 years later, my sister became my beacon, as she had 2 boys. I talked to anyone and everyone; moms at parks, moms at preschool, moms at church, women in the grocery store, friends…I sought out and accepted any and all advice. I don’t know how I would have made it without all the sage advice of the multitude of women in my life. I really could not imagine how my husband was making it on his own.

I have repeatedly suggested that my husband obtain counseling to help him cope with his feelings surrounding his father’s death as well as his feelings of being the family “patriarch”. I have also suggested that he seek out other men, other fathers, with whom he can share ideas and gain support. To date he has refused.

Dr. Bruce Linton has clearly outlined the stages men go through as they transition into fatherhood. According to Linton, an important stage is reconciling one’s feelings with one’s own father.  My husband has admitted that there is much he had hoped to share with his father and now he’ll never have the chance. It’s tragic indeed.

I will keep trying with my husband.  It will be very difficult for him to resolve some issues as my father in law is gone. Ultimately he has to find a way to cope with his feelings so that he can have some peace. But he will have to choose whether he wants to resolve his feelings or bury them.

Mamas on Bedrest: This may be the end of my marriage, but…

June 8th, 2011

After much thought, I have decided to write a series of blog posts exploring the impact that my pregnancies had on my husband. Why would I put this on Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond you might ask? Well, I just read a very interesting article by Bruce Linton, Ph.D on Pregnancy.org called, Fatherhood: How Fatherhood Changes Men and it has really made me realize the profound effect my rocky reproductive years had on my husband. Until I read this article, I would say that I was “casually aware” that my high risk pregnancies and births were traumatic for my husband. But in examining this article and the events that happened in my own family’s life as I was having my children, I see that the impact was far more profound than I imagined. (And truth be told, we are still feeling the fall out!)

My husband is a man of science, a graduate from MIT with a degree in physics. When you consider the definition of  a linear thinker, he is it. He sees life from the perspective of risk management and problem solving. (Those of you who know me and my round about way of thinking may be wondering how we ever got together. I guess opposites really do attract!) If a situation arises, he immediately begins pondering how to solve the problem and be done with it. I like to gnaw on things, discuss them (sometimes ad nauseum) and then gradually work towards a resolution that “feels” right to me. Obviously, these are two very different approaches.

While I was getting pregnant, having complications, miscarrying, having a near emergency c-section with my daughter and learning how to be a mom, I was constantly talking to my mom, my sister, my friends, my mother in law and pretty much any other woman who I could beseech for wisdom. Looking back, I don’t think that my husband talked with anyone except for his father, who died one year after I had my daughter. Since then, from what I can tell, my husband has been trying to sort this fatherhood thing out on his own.

Before reading this article,  I had not given much thought to my husband’s experience of becoming a father; either from the literal sense of me getting pregnant, maintaining the pregnancies and delivering the babies (more on that later!) or from the emotional sense in that as much as my world changed, so did his. But after reading Dr. Linton’s article, I can clearly see areas in which my husband has been profoundly impacted, and yet, I don’t think that he’s had the resources he may need to cope with the situations.

Does your husband have support and resources? Does he have people, men, with whom he can talk, ask questions and glean wisdom about fatherhood? If not, consider bolstering his support network now, while you are pregnant, to help him through. Like motherhood, fatherhood is a journey of untoward events for which there is seldom any warning and most certainly no “how to” manual. We women, being the gregarious beings that we are come together and share news, tales and tips. Guys are rarely like that-at least not in the beginning. According to Dr. Linton, men don’t begin creating a community of fathers until their children become school/activity aged. But I am here to tell you, a lot happens between birth and school! They need support right out of the gate.

So I have decided to really delve into Dr. Linton’s article and look at it from the perspective of my husband’s experience. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll interview my husband and let him share his story. (I’m making no promises here. My husband is my polar opposite, so not much for conversation!) In any event, my hope is that by sharing what happened to me and my husband, I can  help other couples (fathers) who have to cope with high risk pregnancies and a rocky road into fatherhood.