Becoming a Father
By Frank Hays
Becoming a Father is one of life’s most wonderful challenges. It entails huge adjustments and demands on men and their loved ones. And it provides a real opportunity for men to Step-Up, Show-Up, and Do Their Best.
I remember before the birth of my first child in 2000 speaking with Rex McCann (Founder of Essentially Men) about support services available for expectant and new dads as I had just returned to New Zealand after 4 years overseas.
I had already worked professionally for over 10 years so really understood the importance of getting off to a good start. So I was looking for support but was shocked to learn there was very little/none for men specifically dealing with the transition to Fatherhood.
My experience of the ante-natal process was medical, mother-baby focused to the relative exclusion, or lip service, to the importance of men and relationships in the emerging family.
And I was thinking, “I want to be a great dad, but how am I gonna do that?” and “I can’t do it on my own.”So in Rex’s wisdom , he suggested I do an EM (#41) course as there was no specific support available for new dads but the course, Rex assured, would be able to cover my needs.
Now fast forward ahead. My son is turning 17 years old next week. EM was the start of a richly supportive community of men that enabled me to do my best.
As a result of my experiences of becoming a father, in 2003 I started New Born Fathers, which was a group that addressed what was missing for men in the process of becoming fathers and formed the basis of much of my research.
What I’ve learned from the hundreds of men that passed through the group and my work with Parents Centre, Maternal Mental Health, and Midwifery practices is that all men want to be great dads. But they’re not sure how to do it, as they often didn’t have the best role models themselves, and experience a lot of pressure to do it right/well.
Their 3 main concerns of becoming a Father are:
How am I going to be a Great Dad? Role/Expectations/Identity
What is going to happen with my marriage/relationship? Commitment/Communication/Intimacy/Sex
How am I going to juggle it all, work, money, being available and involved with my baby/child, see my friends, stay healthy, and have a life?
In order to address these concerns, it’s important for dads to have a forum of other men as support. Men often don’t consider their own needs as it can be perceived as being selfish and that if their “partner and baby/child are okay, then he’s okay.”
Rather than being selfish, men need to perceive themselves as self-full. But how do they fill themselves up?
An important way of being self-full is for men to share their stories and hear other men’s stories. This helps them to feel more “normal” and less isolated. And in doing so they can think about things differently and often get practical tips that help them manage the day to day demands. Ultimately, it helps the men to feel less alone on their journey of being the best man they can be.
Essentially Men is an ideal Forum to meet these needs and the ongoing opportunities provide a richness of experience so that men can indeed Step-Up, Show-up, and Do Their Best, whatever their stage of life and the impending challenges ahead.
Frank Hayes is a Psychologist who has been working with men, children, and families for over 25 years. Frank’s full time private practice, Frank Hayes Psychology, is based at Medplus Family Medical Centre, Hauraki Corner, Takapuna.