It’s about time
Today’s fathers spend triple the amount of time with their children that they did in 1965, and researchers have noted many positive changes resulting from the increase. “High levels of paternal involvement lead to increased self-esteem, better academic performance, improved cognitive and language development, higher moral reasoning and fewer behavioral problems,” says Dr. Ted Cohen, professor of sociology at Ohio Wesleyan University. “The involved father gives his children a greater understanding of men as nurturers, not as mysterious absent figures.” Studies also show higher levels of empathy, self-control and social competence in children with involved fathers.
Just as a mother does, a father will pick up on his baby’s behaviors and signals as he spends more time with her. This familiarity enables him to respond effectively to his baby and take a nurturing role in her life. In turn, the baby forms attachments to both her mother and father, reaping the benefits of both relationships.
It’s about style
Two parents will inevitably exhibit two distinct parenting styles. While mothers tend to exhibit cuddly and affectionate behavior, fathers typically engage in more physical and unpredictable play with their babies, helping them to develop different cognitive responses. It’s not unusual for a baby to turn to her mother for comfort and to her father for excitement. Two complementary parenting techniques will produce a well-balanced child with more advanced emotional understanding.
As a mother, don’t be afraid to allow your husband to develop his own parenting behaviors and form a unique bond with your baby. Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, a psychiatrist with Positive Solutions of New York, warns, “Mothers should be careful not to discourage their husbands or make them feel as though they don’t know what they are doing! Women must learn that while parents need to appear united on important matters, their husbands should also have independent relationships with their children. So if he dresses them in blue when you wanted them in red, bite your tongue!”
It’s about trust
It’s only natural for a new mother to feel protective of her baby. However, encouraging your man to be more involved in your baby’s care will benefit you as well as your baby. Cohen points out that the necessary contributors to a father’s relationship with his baby are his wife’s high expectations and trust.
Don’t expect your partner to be clueless about your baby; he has all the intrinsic parenting capabilities that you do, and—regardless of gender—any parent needs to learn through experience! Be willing to assist, but allow him to develop confidence in his parenting abilities by swallowing unnecessary criticism. Trust him to be a competent father, and you can appreciate greater independence to pursue your profession or other activities while he shares responsibility at home.
It’s about love
Babies first learn about relationships by watching their parents, and even young babies visibly enjoy being part of a loving family. Energize your marriage by encouraging your husband rather than nagging him. Cohen states, “Research shows that men’s involvement as fathers stems from mothers. The quality of the relationship between father and mother is often determinant of how involved the father is with his kids. Some fathers have a hard time separating their role as father from their role in the initial family relationship. A better marriage means a more involved father.”