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The Supportive Father

The paternal instinct

Women often wonder whether it has been carved in stone that child-rearing is the mother's job, while the father has been designated as the breadwinner. For centuries, men and women have followed this unwritten rule. However, this edict, if it does exist, certainly does not hold true today. While women are supposed to have a natural maternal instinct that is aroused automatically on the birth of a child, nobody talks about a paternal instinct. Some men feel awkward around babies, frightened to even touch these tiny, fragile creatures. They want to wait till the baby becomes a 'real person' before they step into the father role. It may be too late though, because by then the mother has become an expert and can manage quite well without the 'father.' 

Men can be parents too

New fathers should remember that while fatherhood might begin at the time of conception, it certainly does not end there. In the age of the nuclear family, men cannot afford to take a backseat when it comes to rearing their children. The joint family system, particularly in metropolises, is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Thus, new mothers are being done out of a valuable support system. In addition, young couples often require two incomes to survive which means that the women go to work too. In such a situation, men have no choice but to get into active parenting. 

Equal partners

It is important that fathers have the right attitude to parenting. Men should share the load of bringing up children with their wives in a spirit of partnership. Men are not doing their wives a favour when they help out with the children. After all, both spouses have played an equal role in bringing the child into the world, so it is only fair that they share the responsibility of rearing the child. 

To their credit, men themselves have more emancipated views on parenting today. They are not averse to changing dirty diapers and burping drooling babies. This is a sign that men respect the significance of being a parent. They realize that bringing up a child is something that requires skill and judgement and cannot be taken lightly. Sometimes the exclusion of the father from parenting can be linked to the mother's attitude. If the new mother is excessively possessive about her baby or believes that looking after the baby is a woman's job, she may succeed in killing any enthusiasm her spouse may have for fatherhood. It is imperative that both parents view parenting as a joint venture. This will succeed in combating the development of sexist ideas in children. 

How can fathers help?

There are a hundred ways in which a man can play an active role in child-rearing and help his wife in the process. Besides breastfeeding, fathers can lend a hand in almost all other aspects of baby care. They can bottle-feed the baby, change its diapers, bathe it, play with it and soothe its tears. Fathers can also take turns with their wives to attend to babies that wake up at night. This has a two-fold benefit as it gives the father an opportunity to bond with the baby as well as giving the beleaguered mother a break. Fathers can also help by taking on routine household chores like shopping, cooking, laundry, making the beds, dusting the house, etc. This will make for a more harmonious home life as it will give the mother a chance to take a breather. 

Fathers will soon realize that parenting is a lifelong process. They may have made a reluctant foray into fatherhood when they changed that first dirty diaper, but before they know it they are telling bedtime stories, doing homework, playing cricket, attending PTA meetings - It sometimes comes as a revelation to most men that parenthood is a wonderful journey of discovery that they really do not want to miss out on. 

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