Symptom: Dizziness and Disorientation
Without much in the way of preparation, societal conditioning or role models, Dadhood 2.0 can hit a guy like a ton of diapers. Nurturing, caring and patience were not much encouraged on the football fields or fraternity basements of our youth. Suddenly, Dad 2.0 is tackling years of socialization and stereotyping without a whole lot of help.
"For many new dads, parenthood brings such dramatic changes that we just want to scream out loud: 'It's not supposed to be this hard!' " says Hal Runkel, M.M.F.T., a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool (Broadway Books). "But who are we supposed to scream at--our wives? They can easily trump us with all the changes they're going through. That's why it's vital to have some guy friends and other resources to help you through the process," Runkel adds.
Rx: Find authentic, experienced male voices. Read some Daddy Lit like Elisha Cooper's Crawling: A Father's First Year (Pantheon); check out a daddyblog or two at Dadcentric.com; and (with apologies for the shameless plug) view the hilarious and informative videos at my website, DadLabs.com.
Symptom: Feeling Emasculated
You may find yourself in the OB-GYN's waiting room, wondering, What has happened to my manhood? Will I be less of a guy when I am washing bottles and toting diaper bags? Will all the new responsibilities and obligations of being a father come at the expense of all my fun guy stuff? What about the playoffs? Balancing new roles and old can be a challenge.
Rx: Keep a guy thing going. During the pregnancy, negotiate for postnatal preservation of one activity you really enjoy: poker night, golf, action movies--and allow that to be a priority. Be prepared to let the others go, at least temporarily.
"One way I stay in touch with my guy side is retreating to my TV room and watching my favorite teams or catching Tiger making his run on Sunday afternoon," says Robert Yang, founder and publisher of the parenting and design blog Coochicoos.com. "That's my time to reclaim a little of what might be lost when the baby comes."
Symptom: Performance Anxiety
Given the heightened expectations, men are more anxious than ever that they may not be up to the task. Worries range from fears about holding a newborn right to not being able to talk about sex/drugs/alcohol with the kids later without being a huge hypocrite. "It's normal to be a bit freaked out over this," says Russ Adams, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in Austin, Texas. "It's part of a man's development."
Rx: Give it time--literally. The thing kids want and need more than anything doesn't require skill or technique, though it does take planning: It's your time. From the get-go, make it a habit to spend time with your child; the quality will automatically follow. As Adams says, "Focus on the relationship; the skills will work themselves out."
Symptom: Craving Sex
Pregnancy can be a catalyst for sexual anxiety in dads-to-be, as men worry they will have sex less frequently after kids come along. "Their fears may be somewhat warranted," admits Julia Stone, co-author of Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More, Argue Less, and Communicate Better as Your Family Grows (Collins). "Most women told us their libidos went MIA for a while after they had kids. It's understandable, given that when we've had a child (or children) hanging on us all day, the last thing we want is a groper at night," Stone adds. "Sex is definitely something for the two of you to talk about now, and again after you've had the baby."
Rx: Have sex now! Research actually shows there's a correlation between the amount of sex you have during pregnancy and the amount you have afterward. (It's the old use-it-or-lose-it concept.) Unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise, sex is safe during pregnancy, so go for it.
Symptom: Sweating Money
Pregnancy can set off a bout of Sudden Onset Poverty in a Dad 2.0-to-be. Free-floating anxiety about money (we've all heard a million times how expensive kids are and how college will kill you financially) can cause prospective fathers to act in volatile and unpredictable ways in the Baby Megastore: "That much for a freaking crib set? You've got to be kidding me!" (For 10 must-have manly baby-gear items and a creative suggestion for financing them, see "Dad Gear 2.0")
Even money pros like Jonathan Arms, a father of two and partner at American Research & Management Company, an investment advisory firm in Marion, Mass., feel the pinch. "We had just purchased our first house, and I was still getting used to making those monthly mortgage payments, and now this," he recalls. "I started to envision my retirement date slipping into my 80s."
Rx: Run the numbers. Create a short-term budget that anticipates the expenses of pregnancy, delivery and bringing home the baby. Arms urges clients to start planning early. "This helpsdemystifythe process and make the burdenmore manageable," he says."Update your estate-planning documents as soon as is realistic, and make sure you have enough insurance to protect andprovide forthe new arrival through college." Most important, Arms adds, is to research 529 plans and other education-savings options and have a plan in place before the birth:"The earlier you start putting money away, the more you benefit from compounding and the better your chancesof getting Junior through Dartmouth."
What kind of dad will you be?
Attention, expectant fathers! Want to learn what your parenting style is going to be like? Take our fun quiz at fitpregnancy.com/dadquiz.