Last week I asked on Instagram what topics you wanted me to write about. One common one was about the role of Rishi (aka the dad) in parenting starting at pregnancy.
This is actually something that Rishi and I talk about a lot! It can be a really difficult thing for both mom AND dad to figure out, especially with the first baby.
We’ve had some growing pains and learned a few things in our 3 years of being parents that we’re more than happy to share!
Just a note, every family is different so what works for us may not work for you. Most important thing is to figure out what works best for both parents and continue improving on that.
Father’s Role: Parenting, Pregnancy + Birth
Role of Dad in Pregnancy
Let’s start with the first stage – pregnancy.
Again, this will look differently depending on many factors. Things like: what # pregnancy it is, how hard the pregnancy is for the mom, etc. will have an impact.
Go to the important doctor appointments
You and your spouse will need to decide what “important” means. For us, Rishi can’t possibly make it to every single appointment so we make it a priority for him to attend appointments where ultrasounds happen.
He feels like he is part of the process, I get to experience the joy of seeing our baby together and we all win!
If dad can’t make it to ultrasounds, do something else! Carve out time to show him pictures or share anything the doctor shared over dinner that evening or something special.
Ask how mom is doing
Maybe she’s very verbal about how she’s doing – mentally, physically and emotionally – or maybe not, but regardless ASK.
Pregnancy is a crazy rollercoaster of emotions so despite the fact that you felt amazing in the morning doesn’t mean you’ll feel great that night.
If you take the time to ask you may learn that she’s actually sleeping terrible which would also contribute to her moodiness. 😉
After you find out how she’s doing, be proactive in supporting her. Is she tired? Encourage her to take a nap. Is she feeling overwhelmed with getting the baby’s room ready? Help her get the crib put together or wallpaper up. She’ll appreciate it more than you know!
Do some extra work
Pregnant mama are going to be exhausted because of pregnancy. First trimester tiredness is literally nothing to joke about! (I was convinced I had mono before I knew I was pregnant with Roy!) By the third trimester she’s up numerous times each night to pee and is trying to find comfortable positions for her giant bump to actually get some sleep.
In short, she’s TIRED. Help her out!!
Is her job laundry? Do a load now and then.
Does she do all of the cooking? Take a stab at the job (or pick up takeout on your way home!).
Every little bit of help you can do will go a long way!
Strongly encourage naps, early bedtimes or at the very least sitting down!
If you’re anything like me, doing “nothing” is not always the best. I’m not great at napping and can’t always actually get myself to bed early because I need to be doing something.
Rishi gets me to sit down while he cleans up from dinner or starts getting the kids ready for bed.
Take notice of how tired Mom looks and act accordingly. 🙂
Dad’s Role in Birth
Again, this is going to be vastly different for each person AND each birth so I’ll just share ours!
Do whatever I want him to do
I had a super long labor with Roy and was at home for most of it. Through each contraction I would instruct him what I wanted (or yell at him after for not reading my mind, depending on how awful a contraction was).
He was so good at literally just sitting there and saying encouraging things through each contraction which was one thing I consistently always wanted.
It’s good to have an idea of what you’ll want during labor but chances are it’ll change! I assumed I’d want to do all the positions we learned in our birth class but actually all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and not move. Rishi just rolled with it!
Rishi’s pretty much the calmest person I know, so this one wasn’t hard for him.
I was induced with Penelope and was a ball of emotions the morning of the induction and his calm demeanor kept me from going crazy.
I cried, threw up and almost passed out in both my labors and Rishi never even flinched. He stayed through it all (except when the nursers forced him out of the room to get some food) and rubbed by back/arm/head and encouraged me.
Staying calm while the mom is going through tough moments is key!
Dad’s Role in Parenting Newborns
This is the hardest one to figure out.
In the beginning it can be really difficult for the dad to get involved, especially if the mom is breastfeeding. The dad physically can’t feed the baby so mom is in charge of every 2-3 hour feeding.
However, the dad CAN get involved with doing other things like changing diapers, bathing and getting the baby dressed.
One thing we quickly learned is that this is a 2 way street. The mom has to be willing to let the dad get involved and the dad has to be willing to actually get involved.
One time when Roy was a fresh new baby he got super fussy when Rishi was holding him. I knew I could fairly easy take him and calm him down but I knew Rishi was going to need to figure it out on his own otherwise I’d never be able to leave Roy alone without me!
Rishi put Roy lying down on his arm (that he hated when I did, mind you) and he calmed right down. It gave Rishi a boost of confidence as a dad and me some peace of mind!
I know some friends who were nursing who had the dad get up with them for middle of the night feedings and change the diapers after the mom fed. The mom felt supported and not alone at 2am while nursing and the dad got some additional bonding time. That worked great for them!
Rishi’s up early for work every day so we chose to let him slept while I did the feedings so only one of us was sleep deprived. We quickly realized that when both of us aren’t sleeping we’re quicker to get annoyed with one another. When Rishi was able to get a full night’s sleep (he has commented on how great it was the baby slept through the night when that definitely wasn’t the case haha!), he’s more patient with me and has more energy to help out around the house or play with the other kids.
If you’re bottle feeding maybe you could take shifts or nights so you’re getting a break.
Whatever it is, talk through it together and figure out what makes the most sense!
And don’t be afraid to change things up! Maybe mom is feeling really tired one night and needs dad to wake up with her to keep her alert while feeding. Whatever it is, be adaptable and flexible!
Be on the Same Page
We decided with Roy that we wanted to do less attachment style parenting and a bit more scheduling type of parenting (obviously everything is fluid and constantly changing so we’re not strictly one “type” of parent).
Deciding the type of of parenting style we wanted to do was key for us to be able to support one another in decisions we made because we agreed with the type of parenting we wanted to do!
Whatever you decide to do, have a discussion together to make sure you’re on board with one another’s plan.
Talk to one another
At the end of it all, the biggest thing is communication. Share your thoughts and concerns as they come up instead of waiting until they’re big issues.
Sometimes there’s not always a solution to your problem but sharing them will often times help you feel better! I dreaded night time feedings with Roy and even though there was nothing Rishi could do about it, telling him helped him understand me a bit more.
Continue to talk to one another and figure out what works best for you! Things that work for your best friend or sister may not work for you so keep an open mind and do your best.
All photos by Erica Loeks Photography
And one final thing – don’t forget to take time just the two of you! Parenting is so hard and never ends so be sure to keep dating one another and taking time for just the two of you. Keeping your marriage strong and healthy is the first step in being amazing parents.
What are things that worked for you with parenting? I’d love to hear!