Make Room for Daddy


Here’s how to step back and let the bonding—and his share of the work—begin

By Nanny Stella of Nanny 911

So you think you want to get dad more involved with the overall care of the baby? I say think because you really aren’t sure—part of you believes it’s your job to be the main caregiver, and another part of you is ready for him to get off his butt and participate!

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he’s scared and nervous. Resistance to handling a baby can be all about fear of the unknown, especially if he hasn’t had much experience. Show him the safe way to hold the baby, and little tricks of the trade like getting all your supplies ready before a diaper change or bath.

Whatever you do, don’t boss him around, make fun of him, or question his capabilities. The idea is to support him, not criticize him. Let him observe for a while and when he feels confident to have a go on his own, stay close but don’t hover, and praise what he does master.

Don’t give too many instructions when he has the reins, tell him that if he has any questions you are there to answer but you trust him and know that he can do it. Keep your cues to a minimum; giving too much direction might be seen as interference, not guidance. After all, you were a novice yourself not too long ago.

Years ago a friend of mine was asked by another friend, “Is daddy at home babysitting?” My friend replied with much disdain, “No, actually, he is at home looking after his daughter.” Your husband isn’t a babysitter. Although you gave birth to the baby, that doesn’t make you the boss or the #1 parent. The idea is to be a team, which means equal parenting. There is no hierarchy.

Plan some one-on-one time with dad and baby, that way you aren’t hovering or commenting when you see something not being done the way you like it. Having this time alone allows them to bond and also helps dad truly discover what his skills are. Maybe he really enjoys bath time with baby, giving you the end-of-day breather that you’re desperate for. He may be reluctant to do the night feedings, but he may really enjoy the first feed of the morning before he goes to work; this can make way for you to have a little lie in.

As soon as possible, talk about what your roles are going to be and ask yourselves, What kind of parent do I want to be? Work out how you can support each other in those goals. If one of you does something with the baby that the other doesn’t like, what would be the best way to handle it? Keep the communication open.

I really believe that dad’s participation can be measured by mom’s encouragement. If you keep complaining instead of praising, you may not see the results that you want. Remember positive reinforcement works much better than negative.

Nanny Stella, celebrity family consultant, author, and star of Nanny 911, is known for her no-nonsense approach in helping families. Her passion is children—all ages, sizes, genders, and ethnic backgrounds.

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