Pointers For Pops

Dads-to-be often feel left out, but there's really plenty they can do to help their partners.


A lot of expectant fathers think they have two jobs—you know, the one that begins the whole pregnancy process, and then the one that starts nine months later. But the reality is that even though moms are the supreme bearers of physical responsibility during pregnancy, men can play big roles, too. So print out this page and leave it on his nightstand. He won't have to read your mind, and you won't have to nag.

The Practical

Get the nursery ready: Paint and air it out (no fumes for mom or the baby). Also, get the flooring and furniture ready to go ahead of time so it, too, can off-gas before the nursery is needed. Learn to embrace the words "assembly required": From crib to two-wheeler, your hands-on skills will be in high demand.

Take charge of childproofing: Cover electrical outlets, attach heavy furniture to the walls, install baby gates and so on. It may seem like a long time until your child will be crawling and exploring, but that day will be here before you know it.

Secure your child's future: If you haven't already done so, draw up a will and guardianship agreement, health proxies and other important documentation, and make sure your life and disability policies are in place.

Expand your chore horizons: Anything you can do to ease some of your partner's day-to-day burden will alleviate her stress and make her just feel better all the way around, scoring you major pop points. She asks for a banana at 3 a.m. and there are no bananas? Well, you know where your shoes are.

Help with nursing: She's going to be exhausted after giving birth, and even if she's breastfeeding, you can help by getting up and bringing the baby to her in bed. Little energy savings will have big benefits.

The Emotional

Listen first, then talk: Your conversations about sports, politics or whatever happened during your day should take a backseat to topics like morning sickness, weight gain and anxiety over prenatal tests.

Go with the flow: She's probably going to have mood swings. Remind yourself that her hormones are behind a lot of it, and don't overreact.

Show your support: She has to give up alcohol, so forgo your booze, too. Go to as many prenatal appointments as possible. Tell her something nice—just because.

Remind yourself that you're no longer numero uno: It's easy to know that this new era is coming, but you may feel different once it's obvious that the baby comes first. This shift is all for the good of your new family.

The Physical

Use your hands: On her back, her neck, her shoulders, her feet. Rub, caress, knead—whatever she likes when she likes it. All the extra weight she's carrying means she's holding a lot of tension. You can help her release it.

Be sensitive about sex: She may or may not be interested in hanky or panky. If she is, find out what's most comfortable for her. One option: lie side by side (man behind); the shallow penetration might be better. Another: When she's on top, there's no pressure on her belly and she can con- trol the speed and depth of movement.

Show her affection in other ways: Small physical gestures—the hugs, the kisses, the hand holds—can have big emotional implications. Initiate them. Often.