• Tori Smith

PREPARING FOR FATHERHOOD (OR SECONDARY PARENTING)


As the person in the partnership who is not carrying the child, you are usually referred to as the “secondary caregiver”. But that does not mean you are of secondary importance to your child. This is the time to think about what kind of parent you aspire to be. The primary caregiver is primary only in the sense of the amount of focused time spent with the child. The only thing the mother can do that others can’t is breastfeed – and even then, a father can give a baby breastmilk with a bottle. Holding the baby, changing the baby, bathing the baby, walking the baby – these can all be performed by any caregiver. So make sure to jump in there and share the duties when the time comes.


Providing for the family often falls on the secondary caregiver and it is a huge responsibility, a sacrifice in its own right. Supplying the monetary income to meet the needs of the baby – whether it comes from one or both caregivers – is an essential act of love and care. That hard work should never go unappreciated. But let me tell you something: Babies and kids don’t care about the money or the groceries or the SUV or even the toys you buy for them. You’re going to provide all of those things because you love them, but what children want, crave and need more than anything is your time and attention.


Attention is kid’s currency. What they value is connecting with you. Think of your best memories with your own parents; most people would agree it was the quality time spent together that made it special. (If you don’t have many memories like that with your parents, you can use this opportunity as a new parent to re-parent yourself.) The first step is engaging with your child. Fathers who spend more time in close proximity to their children in the early stages have an easier time bonding with them. Talk to them, sing to them, play with them, watch clouds with them, hug them. Tell them you love them – don’t ever let them doubt it. Many dads from past generations were taught that they weren’t supposed to be affectionate, vulnerable and gentle. Don’t let any preconceived notions of manhood or external pressures turn you into a half-ass dad. Have the courage to allow your baby to open an untouched part of your heart and be brave enough to show it. I don’t care if you are tough as nails or the most macho man in the world, your child needs your affection, love, pride and protection, and you should never underestimate what a gift that is.

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