When a man and a woman have a baby, it is a profound transition – the most important change in their adult lives. How becoming parents can affect them as individuals and as a couple is still not well understood in our culture. Of all the Western industrialized countries, the United States offers the least support for family adjustment and development. Politicians would like us to believe that we put a priority on family life, but the reality is just not so. How a man makes the transition to parenthood, and how a baby changes a man’s relation to his wife, are very important areas for us as men to understand.
When a baby is born, the focus of the new mother’s attention is on the baby. This is part of the normal developmental process. Mothers become preoccupied with the baby’s needs, often to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. This is part of her biological makeup. Most new fathers are unaware of this normal maternal preoccupation and are often surprised and frustrated at how abandoned they may feel. We have no information about what to expect after a baby is born. Men have very little preparation for this intimate part of life. Childbirth preparation classes often help us share with our wives the experience of pregnancy, but we are unaware of what to expect emotionally after the baby arrives. So what’s a dad to do?