Fathers don’t get enough attention during pregnancy and early parenthood. Expected to be the tower of strength for their partners, new fathers are, in fact, having their own unique and challenging experience. In 1865, anthropologist, E.B. Taylor, used the term couvade to describe cross-cultural rituals that fathers enact during pregnancy. In Papua New Guinea, for example, fathers build a hut at the outskirts of the village and mimic labor pains until the baby is born. Fathers in modern times develop pregnancy symtoms: weight gain, hormonal changes, disturbed sleep, and morning nausea.
Even though fathers are having their own profound experience during pregnancy, they often get mixed messages. While their participation in pregnancy and childbirth may be encouraged, the father often feels that he’s in the way. The pregnant father can also feel marginalized by childbirth education classes that focus only on the mother’s experience and would benefit from preparation for birth and parenthood that is more father-centered.
The mother’s superior position to the newborn baby, although natural and expected, can be stressful for the father; and while he supports breastfeeding, it may make him feel left out. According to a 2012 Australian study, dads also experience postpartum depression (PPD), even at a slightly higher rate than do moms. Dads under 30 have a 40% higher chance of PPD.
All couples experience relationship imbalances during pregnancy and early parenthood, but most resources are directed at mothers. Here are some resources for dads.
Websites for fathers
Fathers.com is the website of the National Center for Fathering (NCF), a nonprofit organization created in 1990
Fatherly wants to empower men to raise great kids and lead more fulfilling adult lives. From original video series and deep dive reports to podcasts and events, Fatherly offers original reporting, expert parenting advice, and hard-won insights.
Black and Married with Kids is the largest, independent African American marriage and parenting site on the web.
The Fathers Network: For “fathers and families raising children with special health care needs and developmental disabilities.
National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute is a national effort to reinforce the positive involvement of Chicano/Latino/Native males in the lives of their families, communities, and society. Since its inception, NCN has focused its efforts on the healing, developing and reinforcing of Chicano/Latino/Native boys and men based through the development of “circulos” (extended kinship networks).
Native American Fatherhood and Families Association aims to strengthen Native American families through responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Their two signature curricula are “Fatherhood is Sacred, Motherhood is Sacred,” and “Linking Generations by Strengthening Relationships.”
Black American Dad Foundation works to enrich and develop family relationships through action, visual media, and community engagement. For both future and current fathers, the Black American Dad Foundation provides a vast range of resources with a promise of directing its efforts towards the overall advancement of African American fathers.
Solutions for Incarcerated Fathers As the nation’s leading and most experienced provider of evidence-based and evidence-informed resources and programming designed specifically for incarcerated fathers, National Fatherhood Initiative® partners with corrections systems, facilities, and organizations to integrate fatherhood programming into rehabilitation and reentry efforts.
National At-Home Dad Network: Connecting stay-at-home dads locally and nationally through advocacy, community, education and support.
National Fatherhood Initiative: “To improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.”
Always Home and Uncool: “Fatherhood isn’t just funny in Kevin’s world, it’s the most hilarious thing ever.”
GeekDad: Wired magazine’s popular blog for techno dads.
Stay at Stove Dad: “A Site for Working Fathers who Cook for their Families.”
VeganDad: “A realistic look at a vegan family in a northern Ontario city.”
Dads on Twitter
Books about fatherhood
The Baby Bonding Book for Dads: Building a Closer Connection with Your Baby, by Jennifer Margulis and James di Properzio (Willow Creek Press, 2008).
The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils, and Humiliations of Fatherhood, by Ben George (HarperPerennial, 2009).
Crash Course for New Dads: Tools, Checklists & Cheat-Sheets by Greg Bishop (Dads Adventure, 2008).
The Daddy Shift: How Stay-at-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family by Jeremy Adam Smith (Beacon Press, 2009).
Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand and Support Your Daughter, by Joe Kelly (Broadway Books, 2002).
The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads To-Be, by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash.
Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change, by Armin A. Brott (Abbeville Press, 2003).
Fathering Right from the Start: Straight Talk about Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, by Jack Heinowitz, PhD (New World Library, 2001).
Fatherlove: What We Need, What We Seek, What We Must Create, by Richard Louv (Diane Publishing Co., 1993).
Father’s Milk: Nourishment and Wisdom for the First-Time Father (Capital Ideas) by Andre Stein, PhD, with Peter Samu, MD (Capital Books, 2002).
Hit the Ground Crawling: Lessons from 150,000 New Fathers, by Greg Bishop (Dads Adventure, 2006).
Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting. by Brian Leaf (New World Library, 2014),
Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhod, by Tomas Moniz and Jeremy Adam Smith. (PM Press, 2011).
Classes for fathers
Nurturing Fathers Program is an evidence-based, 13-week training course designed to teach parenting and nurturing skills to men. Each 2 ½ hour class provides proven, effective skills for healthy family relationships and child development. NFP has been successfully implemented in Schools, Head Start, Churches, State DSS, Prisons, Halfway Houses, Prevent Child Abuse, Parenting and Counseling Centers, Military, Community Action Agencies and many others. Available in Spanish.
24/7 Dads is National Fatherhood Initiative’s flagship fatherhood curriculum used by thousands of organizations across the country to train fathers to be involved, responsible, and committed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is an evidence-based program.
Groups for dads
Dads Meetup Groups can be found in many US cities. There are currently 603 groups with nearly 100,000 members worldwide. These get-togethers are for meeting other dads to discuss the role of a father, as well as parenting, school, and other “dad” related topics.
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, Hollyhock, La Leche League, and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please sign up for my email newsletter on parenting, activism, and healthy living.