Many modern-day fathers would like – and are often expected – to spend more time with their kids. Parenting courses for fathers are on the rise, according to German family counsellor Mathias Voelchert.
Over several years working with young families, he’s learned a thing or two about the things that drive new dads crazy. Here are five items from his Top 10. The second part of this story (items 6 to 10) will be published on July 10.
1) Night terrors
The days, weeks and months right after the child’s birth can be the worst for new fathers. “It leaves them ragged,” says Voelchert. One reason is the baby’s constant squalling day and – far worse – night. This, Voelchert says, takes a lot out of many fathers, not to mention mothers, of course.
“Peering bleary-eyed into the future, the dads think, ‘If this keeps up, I’ll be dead in two months’.” A beginner’s mistake.
2) No time for sport
It’s normal for guys to watch a match with their buddies or spontaneously get together with them to kick a ball about – until the baby comes, that is.
A lot of young fathers want to see their kids grow up and to help out around the house. But when Saturday rolls around, they will yearn for their old leisure activities – and probably just when the baby’s mama is craving a few hours for herself, too. So they’ve got to negotiate.
3) Under eagle eyes
“Everything’s fine when I’m alone with the child, but it’s another story when my wife’s around.” This, says Voelchert, is the impression that many young fathers have.
“A lot of mums don’t think the dads are capable of caring for a child,” he adds.
For example, Dad is lying with the child on the sofa in front of the TV set. The child has fallen asleep. “Why doesn’t he put the child to bed?” the mother thinks. Or the father might cook something in a different way, or hold the baby differently from how the mother does.
The mother-child bond is especially strong. Does that mean the mother does everything best? No, says Voelchert – but it can take babies time to get used to things being done differently. “Sometimes the baby starts to wail like a banshee when papa does something that mama doesn’t,” he notes.
4) Stupid remarks
German blogger Andreas Lorenz says some fathers are still the target of disparaging remarks by their co-workers, especially if they take parental leave. “I managed the childcare thing without taking a paid holiday,” for example.
Or: “What? You change nappies and do the laundry?”
The frequent implication of such remarks is that the leave-taker is a wimp and under his wife’s thumb.
5) The car as cargo carrier
The couple’s car(s) used to be roomy. Now, whenever they want to drive somewhere with their little one, the vehicle has to be crammed full of nappies, baby bottles, toys and the pram. Only then can the family set off on holiday – or to pay a visit to Daddy’s in-laws. – dpa/Sophie Rohrmeier