Being the best father you can be

atrick is a parent counsellor who enjoys helping expectant and current fathers through the challenges of being a dad. Author of the successful ‘Fathers-To-Be Handbook’ and co-founder of Fathers-To-Be, he runs workshops for fathers throughout the UK. Patrick recognises that dads today face new challenges, as a father’s role has evolved to include more caretaking and nurturing for his children, as well as for his partner during pregnancy and birth.
As a seasoned professional, a father and a grandfather, Patrick offers valuable advice during the transition to parenthood and beyond. For individual advice you can contact Patrick direct at:
Speak to me on 0906 194 9644
£1.53/min from a BT landline; calls from mobiles and other networks may vary

Becoming a father for the first time can be quite daunting. Follow this advice to be the best dad you can be, even before your baby is born.

I’m terrified about being left alone with my baby for the first time. I’ve never even held a baby – how will I cope?

Most new dads will recognise fears they have about various aspects of fathering. Being left alone with their baby is typically at the top of the list. This is normal and with support, time and practice you will gain confidence. Caring for your baby will become the most natural thing in the world.
Research shows that fathers are equally as good as mothers at caring for children. However, a parent’s degree of confidence has a significant time quotient inherent in it. During the early time, mothers may be doing more direct caretaking of a baby. Fathers are often involved in other household ‘duties’ and may be returning to work, so can take longer to develop confidence.
How a father is with a baby is dissimilar to how a mother is and this distinction is important for a baby. You will hold her differently, speak to her differently and even change her nappy differently. She will enjoy and appreciate this difference. It is all part of your unique relationship and is essential for her development.
Can you recall a time when you held a dozen long-stem roses? You probably didn’t grip them but rather cradled them carefully. We could make a comparison between holding long-stem roses and holding a baby. Although your baby doesn’t have thorns she can seem as delicate. In reality she is quite resilient and will relax into you and trust your embrace.
Dad, you are going to do a great job. Your baby is completely safe with you. And, oh yes, remember the long-stem roses for that special mother in your life. Red is good.
My wife is pregnant and I feel like she is doing all the hard work – how can I help?

The question dads most frequently ask me is, “She is having a baby, what am I supposed to be doing?” The possibilities for what a father can ‘do’ range from the invisible to the very physical and practical.
It is often the little things you say and do that make a big difference. A loving touch, kind and supportive words, massage, fixing her favourite meal, a special date or weekend away all say volumes about how much you care for her and that you are grateful for the gift she is giving you. For the majority of mothers a significant factor for her successful pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding is the quality of care she receives from the father.
Inform and prepare yourself, this will support both of you. Read books on pregnancy, birth and fatherhood. Attend birth preparation and fathers-to-be classes. Watch enlivening birth videos together, which represent birth as normal and natural. New visual images are important talismans for expectant parents. Know that birth is safe and trust in her ability to give birth. 
During labour your calm presence is what is most supportive and there is a direct correlation between preparation and your ability to feel safe and calm. By utilising these tips you will be better prepared to make a useful contribution to her pregnancy and labour.  
What makes a good dad?

Being a dad can be the pinnacle of a successful life for a man. Career, money, possessions and social accomplishments may all pale in comparison. According to Theodore Hesburgh, “The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”  While in practice being a good dad goes far beyond this, it is a valuable component.
It has been said, “Fathers who change nappies, change the world”.  I believe this refers to more than just baby hygiene. It pertains to a father’s involvement and his commitment to fully engaging with his children. Reading stories, playing games (even if you feel silly), investing time (even if you think you are wasting time) and attending school functions all communicate to your child that you care and that they are important to you. You hold very high status in your child’s eyes and have a powerful influence beyond what you can even imagine. 
Research shows that a father who reflects on how he was parented, when he is about to become a parent, produces happier children. This illuminates the impact of our own upbringing and how it can affect the next generation. Awareness is the first step to self-improvement.
A father’s contribution to his children is invaluable. You are uniquely qualified to father your children. No one else is as well equipped for the task as you are. Above all else, remember to enjoy the journey.