Who’s Your Daddy?

My wife Jessica and I have decided that we are going to engage an exciting, albeit expensive, new adventure — Operation Little Feet. And, being the INTJ that I am — “INTJs live in the world of strategic planning” — I immediately turned my mind to planning for the pre-emptive invasion of this cute little blood-sucking body snatcher.

Where did I go first to source vital information? From the Ancient Wisdom of Crowds found on Facebook.

  • How do/did you arrange taking care of their newborns?
  • Did the wife stay at home? How many weeks after birth?
  • Did the husband stay at home? How may weeks after birth?
  • Does someone else help? How may times/month? Who?

81 comments later, I noticed several disconcerting trends:

  • Only 4 comments were by men, all of which were fathers except me. Now, nearly half of my Facebook friends are males — why weren’t they more engaged with these questions?
  • While it was reported that women took 3 weeks to 3 months “off” after birth, the fathers rarely took more than 1 week. There seemed to be some less-than-veiled resentment that the fathers weren’t more involved during this period, too.
  • My question posing was called “adorable” and “cute”. Why wasn’t it considered necessary or expected?

I spoke to my wife about this, and she purchased the book The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for the Father-To-Be. From the book cover:

the expectant fatherThis indispensable book explores the emotional, financial, and even physical changes the father-to-be may experience during his partner’s pregnancy. Written in an easy-to-absorb format and filled with sound advice and practical tips for men on such topics as, how to make sense of your conflicting emotions, how pregnancy affects your sex life, and how to start a college fund.

While I’m only one quarter into the book, my eyes are now wide-open. Our culture expects (encourages?) that a father be unengaged during their partner’s pregnancy by not including them in it. I myself never really considered the role of a father outside of being a sperm donor prior to the birth, financier during the formative years, and a role model after. Yet, as a life-long committed contrarian, that means I *must* swim against that shockingly cold current. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

How A Father Can Help with a Successful Pregnancy

dad-to-be-by-Ken-Wilcox-640x400

  • Help your partner eat the proper food during pregnancy. While I knew a pregnant mother should avoid cigarettes (including second hand smoke!) and alcohol, equally important is a diet. There are foods that should be eaten during pregnancy, and foods that should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Exercise together during pregnancy. Not only is exercise important for the health of the baby & mother-to-be, it also provides the opportunity for bonding time together between partners.
  • Expect a “sympathetic pregnancy”. While not formally recognized as a medical condition, studies have found that upwards of 65% of expecting fathers develop their own pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, hormonal fluctuations, back pain, cramps, irritability, and even cravings. Called the Couvade syndrome, the symptoms begin to appear in men during the third month of their partner’s pregnancy.
  • Don’t let your pregnant partner clean the house. It’s unclear whether or not chemicals used in cleaning supplies will negatively effect the baby, but that may be because not enough research has been done. Regardless, at the very least having your partner avoid cleaning agents will help reduce their “morning sickness” nausea, which isn’t limited to just morning hours.
  • Have sex after the pregnancy. There is some interesting research that has found that the earlier your partner has exposure to your sperm, the less likely they will experience pre-eclampsia. Another study found that even oral sex reduces pre-eclampsia. The studies indicate that regular exposure before and during pregnancy helps the partner’s immune system become accustomed to her partner’s sperm.
  • Expect the partner to gain fat. It’s not a matter of if, but rather how much — it depends on their BMI going into the pregnancy. This weight gain should be encouraged.
    How much weight should a woman gain during pregnancy?
  • Make your partner feel physically attractive. A lot of (most) potential fathers already have a tankard of a beer belly, yet they still fool themselves into believing that they are physically attractive to their partners. Surely they can also make their partner’s feel attractive with their temporary home-brew tankard.

Fathers: what were other ways you were able to be helpful during your partner’s pregnancy?

7 thoughts on “Who’s Your Daddy?

  1. I love the post and your desire to research, David. Well done and you know I’m happy to offer any help I can. Regarding your observations of a father’s stay at home leave following the birth — I blame our society more than I do the fathers themselves. We as a nation, unlike, say Sweden, don’t place much value on father’s participating in the post-birth family. Hell, until our generation we didn’t place much value on fathers participating in the pregnancy, birth, or much of the child’s development.

    Today, sadly, fathers are expected to use paid time off, if available, to spend this most important time with their wife and new child. If that time isn’t available then unpaid leave is the only option. Obviously this is an option that significantly impacts the new family’s well being — a core concern of any male, husband, or let alone a new father. Because there is no leave available to fathers except that which is statutory and unpaid, employers generally view excessive (read more than two weeks absence) leave by a father as legally out of bounds for punishment, but career-inhibiting nonetheless. I’ve seen this at work, not with myself, but with coworkers in a prior role.

    Additionally, mothers in this country are rarely offered more than six weeks of paid leave, which then places added pressure on both the father and the mother to return to paid roles in support of the expanded family.

    While I get your point that many fathers aren’t taking much time off, I speak as one who would have loved the option. The benefits my employer offers are generally well beyond average, but in this area, there is no paternity leave available. And, as one who has seen many of my friends across the pond take significant portions of leave for the betterment of them and their family I view this as a societal problem. Sadly, it is a problem that isn’t even on the long list of federal or state issues to be addressed.

    Like many things American, we place more value on work, financial gain and blind indifference to work/life balance than we do to personal commitments, family development or a healthy existence beyond the age of retirement. This is just one example.

  2. You hit the nail on the head w/ it balancing gender equality in the workplace. Probably the biggest gain from what our friends shared with us about their [Swedish] experience. Care to tie this discussion to national tax rates and the benefits of those countries w/ higher ones?

  3. Because salaries are such here that only 1 income is needed, I see A LOT of ‘traditional’ gender stereotypes in effect overseas. Even on the weekends, I tend to watch the moms being moms and the dads kind of doing whatever (even when / if the mothers are working mothers). There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the SAHM thing is in full effect in the expat community. From the outside, it is not a lifestyle I would choose, but it’s not my marriage, family or relationship.

    • Have you spoken to the fathers (you said it was “traditional” gender stereotypes). How have they felt?

      In the book The Expectant Father, it discusses how often the father partner will begin to get panicky about providing more, but that this role is often only in their head. Rather, the mother partner would prefer more time and attention and involvement, and less “being away at work providing”.

      Thoughts?

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