The reality of parenting: Dad on the sidelines

The first few weeks of parenthood are a whirlwind of excitement, joy, relief and pure fear. To ease the transition from pregnancy to with-child  you will probably adopt different roles. Mummy may be chief baby feeder and comforter, daddy maybe mummy feeder and rehydrater plus half-arse cleaner. Eventually you settle into it and manage to negotiate your way through this adventure.

For us we had different roles. As the wife was breastfeeding I was not required to provide baby with any refreshments. Seen as food is a fundamental life source not only offering hunger relief and quenching thirst but also providing comfort, I found myself often on the sidelines doing nothing much more than cheerleading. I would feed the wife, ensure she was hydrated but in terms of feeding Floence I was useless. Couldn’t do it. I don’t have breasts that produce milk. The only thing she got from me if she ever latched on was a mouth full of hair which I imagine she was not expecting. We tried bottles and it just didn’t work for us. To much fath and Florence never liked them when we did use them.

As a result I often felt a little bit pushed out. So I made the effort to provide comfort and bond with Florence in other ways. I would burp her after feeds, I would dance around singing songs at 2am when she woke up when she was colicy and refusing to go back to sleep. I changed nappies, I put on silly puppet shows and gave very light soft baby massages. I attempted cutting her nails once but failed miserably (this pops up a lot in my stories as the whole event has left me traumatised) and would use the baby carrier instead of the pram whenever we went out so I could be close to her. 

All the above things, minus nail cutting, brought Florence and I closer together. We have developed a really good relationship. Because although feeds and changes are important, strong attachments are formed by playing and communicating with your baby. When I’ve spoken to dad’s going through the same thing I’ve always recommended trying doing some of the above. I then also warn them about what happens between 7-9 months old.

Before this period babies quite happily interact with familiar caregivers. You will get a look in aslong as you are there and responsive. However at around 7 months babies develop a fondness for a specific caregiver, the primary caregiver. Now in our house I had fecked off back to work after 2 weeks, doing the old 9-5 living for the weekend dance. The wife was on maternity. She was with Florence pretty much every hour of the day. Grafting, raising our little girl and developing an amazing relationship with her. Securing that primary caregiver status. I was firmly in secondary caregiver position, although nana was trying to edge her way in.

Then Florence turned 7 months old and pretty much over night I became unwanted. I couldn’t get a look in. She just wanted mummy all the time. Didn’t want my cuddles to help her sleep or listen to my musical repertoire. Just wanted mummy and her moo moo’s. It got to a point where the wife would get Florence to sleep and if she woke up and I went to see her she screamed the house down.

It wasn’t the greatest feeling at the time and looking back it’s definitely not my favourite developmental stage. But like everything it soon passed. A few months later I was back in the good books and pretty much a bedtime teddy bear, cuddling Florence whilst she went to sleep.

Everynow and again I do find myself back on the sidelines. The last few weeks for example Florence has been all mummy mummy again. If she has woken up at night she has wanted nothing to do with me just wanted mummy. Wasn’t the nicest of times but then again just like all the times before it didn’t last for long and I was back in the being wanted books.

With Edith I am following the same pattern. I am on the feeding sidelines but everything else I can get involved in. I am also mentally preparing myself for that 7 month point again but at least this time I am aware of it and now what to expect.

So if you feel on the sidelines just try and get involved in anything you can think of. Remember communicating and playing with your babies is essential and will help you build that special bond. And when those times come when you get pushed out a little, just remember it doesn’t last forever.

Much love






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