Every parent says that having a child is a life-changing experience. It's as rewarding as it is nerve-wracking. There’s a big difference between enjoying close cheek-to-cheek time with your baby and experiencing performance anxiety. This is even more so for dads, who sometimes have to work harder to find their place in the child's life. This is a perfectly normal feeling that happens to all dads! Familiprix, in collaboration with Vie de Parents, will debunk some myths in this article to restore your confidence and to help equip yourself for the future.
There's more than one way to be a dad
A father’s role changes according to the age of the child(ren) or the family situation. These can be named or categorized by considering character traits and actions. Here are some "types" of dads:
The partner dad
The one who wants to team up, get involved as well and participate as much as possible.
The dependable dad
He has well-established traditional values and wants to enjoy making memories with his family, which is his priority.
The hip dad
One who wants to be a friend, a brother and a dad at the same time!
These types of dads are from a 2011 study1. However, a few new categories can be added nowadays.
The stepdad juggling with a blended family and overflowing with love.
The new dad, doing his best combining stress, love and lack of sleep.
A dad can play more than one of these roles without being strictly one or the other. That's what being a dad is also all about! In any case, this role is unique and there is no job description to follow. To avoid sinking into comparisons and performance anxiety, we need to question ourselves and be aware of our strengths, weaknesses and limitations.
Dad as part of a team with mom
Although a mother develops a special bond with her baby over the course of her pregnancy, the presence of the father is important. He must communicate his fears and desires in the face of the baby’s arrival, to lay the foundations of his involvement, and to question the place he will be given. Some moms are affectionately called wolves because they have difficulty agreeing to share parenthood, and this could be harmful in the life of a new dad who wants to get to know his child.
The answer is simple: be prepared, communicate and listen.
New fathers are often heard saying they feel guilty if the baby is born in poor health, experience anxiety about childbirth, or the burden of supporting the needs of the family. By opening the dialogue in advance, he will have his bearings and avoid feeling anxious about a role he’s trying to shape.
The father is an important partner when the mother recovers from childbirth, as babies sleep little and cry a lot. He’s also there to detect early signals of postpartum depression. He also knows how to take over for the baby's care. By taking Mom’s place, both parents enjoy a nice balance and avoid any unnecessary anxiety. It’s also important that the mother values the father’s role2, because he has its own strengths, his own skills to offer the child.
Performance anxiety and mental overload is the root of all evil
Yes and no. Let us remember that not so long ago, moms stayed home and tended a large household and dads went to work to earn money to feed and care for the family. This was another reality that brought its fair share of stress. Today, the pressure to provide a balanced and diverse environment causes mental exhaustion. Everyday life involves signing your child up for extracurricular activities, cooking healthy meals, spending quality time with them, and singing them lullabies before bed. Psychologists3 may be partly responsible for this pressure, which creates performance anxiety. By popularizing the importance of attachment and education in the child's transition to adulthood, parents—often too well-informed—feel an accumulation of obligations, of "duty" to succeed in their parenting role.
For fathers, stress can also come from the mother's idea of the father’s role, or the ideology that the father has created for himself. To avoid feeling pressure, he must establish his place in the family4, as soon as the child arrives by communicating his personal needs, concerns, hopes, etc. It's important to always refocus on who you are and what you can offer. The idea is to live up to the parent you are, without having expectations, as your child only wants to be with you.
While some of parental anxiety is blamed on Instagram and other social media, parents are hard on themselves on their own. And dads often try to play their superhero role too well when their kids don't want a perfect parent. They just want a happy dad. This father’s testimonial clearly demonstrates the essence of the message: "It feels good. Some days are a little harder than others, but in general, it's fun. It's cute, funny and impressive. It’s beautiful to watch a child discovering and taming their surroundings as much as their own body. We love them, but there are definitely mornings when you want to throw your child into the dryer! Of course we’d never do that, but we have the right to think it! All in all, becoming a dad was good for me."