5 Easy Empowerment Tips for Fathers

Dr. Momma discusses the importance of father empowerment to encourage early and frequent involvement in the care of children

Empowerment for fathers is important. Most of the conversations in society focus on women’s rights, and I am a HUGE proponent of women’s empowerment on many, many levels.  However, the purpose of this post is to share the need for empowerment of fathers when it comes to our children.

Mothers tend to be the dominant caretaker in the home. This tends to be true whether we are a stay at home mom, work at home mom or work outside of the home mom. Our maternal instincts often require us to immediately take the lead when it comes to our children’s needs.

Mothers tend to make household decisions which include choosing the daycare or nanny, cloth vs. standard diapering, clothing types, activities like piano, dance and art, and homeschool vs. traditional school. Fathers are included in the conversation, but to be frank, we are mostly explaining why a decision is being made and allowing them the chance to give input.

Kids do not come with manuals. Many times, mothers learn about our children the hard way…trial and error. We eventually learn who our children are, what soothes them, what aggravates them and how to bring joy into their lives. We are proud as our mothering skills blossom.

 

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Fathers often stand on the sidelines and smile with pride watching their families grow, and they participate when invited. Yes, when invited. I believe fathers need the empowerment to participate earlier and more frequently with infants and toddlers to share in the amazing journey of trial and error parenting!

Why am I writing this post? I have lived this exact journey as a mom who had NO idea what to do with a newborn. In fact, I still laugh at my first diaper change at the hospital shortly after meeting my  precious baby. Because I am a pediatric doctor, certain assumptions were made….wrong assumptions. The nurse was timid as she announced: “Dr. Burton, the diaper is on backwards”. Oops.

I have always worked full time and knew that after 3 months, my child’s care would need to be managed jointly with others. Perhaps this influenced me to make my choices. My husband had on-the-job training alongside of me during every step of my kids’ lives. Oh yes, I was still the dominant decision maker. No doubt about that, but he was comfortable with all the care the kids needed.

This post may be controversial since I have read blogs by mothers who feel it is their job to care for the kids. That may be true, but that does not mean fathers cannot participate. Not in a huge day-today way, but in a frequent enough way that they are empowered to be proud of how well they can do tasks.

I have previously discussed what to expect from a specialist doctor visit, but continue to experienced many fathers who should have been empowered to care for their children. They show up with a list of questions from mom. That’s great, and I appreciate knowing the concerns. However, if I go off script and ask any other questions, the look of panic of the dad’s face is clear.

These dads often become agitated, some become embarrassed and others become angry. They slowly realize they do not know many things about their children. They have a list of medications but have never given a medication, not even Tylenol. I ask about the rash on the chest, and they don’t know it is there. The type of cough at night….they have not heard it.

These are not trivial matters. When working moms cannot get time off for doctor visits, they often feel more comfortable sending Grandma than sending dad. Grandma does not live with the child, so why is she better prepared to answer my questions?

Parenting is a difficult job and having the benefit of two parents is a blessing. I highly encourage the empowerment of fathers to participate in many of the jobs that mothers immediately do. The long term confidence these empowerment tips instill in fathers is priceless.

5 Easy Empowerment Tips for Fathers

1. Change diapers

Need I remind you that failed miserably when I first started this task. But countless men admit they did not change a diaper until the baby was much bigger “because they are not gentle enough”. Who told them that? Is that a fact?

Newborns should have diapers changed by dad periodically so they are comfortable with their skills when needed. They should not look for their wives in a panic as if they are unqualified for the job.

2. Help care for sick babies

Fathers should learn to take an infant’s temperature, measure Tylenol and give the dose. Learning the techniques for giving medication to children who spit it back out is a valuable skill!

Medication giving is an art, and fathers should be empowered to do it before there is a crisis.

3. Dress the child once per month

Dressing a child can be like holding a greased watermelon while in a swimming pool. This task should be done randomly so that dad is not overwhelmed the first time he is required to do this due to an emergency.

Furthermore, fathers should be empowered to PICK OUT THE OUTFIT that they will put on the child! I can hear the gasps of moms everywhere. Men certainly dress kids differently than women. But on days when the family is home, why does it matter? Women need let go of the clothing reigns from time to time.

I still recall the struggle to keep my composure when I saw some outfits my husband placed on our kids. Goodness. But we survived.

4. Give the child a bath

I loved bath time, but dads need to learn this skill. If mom goes away for a  girls weekend, dad should know how to provide basic care for the kids.

Empowering fathers to do tasks while mothers are present to supervise allows them to feel confident when the need suddenly arises for him to participate.

5. Rock, soothe and comfort the screaming infant

When  women hear a screaming child, it is almost a reflex to grab the child and cuddle, rock and soothe them. Men seem to automatically step back and look for the woman to come to rescue.

There need to be times you pass the irritable infant to dad and then walk away. He will figure it out.

Fathers are excellent caregivers but often lack the empowerment to learn daily tasks until the kids are older. Has your children’s father participated in these tasks and have the ability to do them with confidence if you are away?

Dr. Momma discusses the importance of father empowerment to encourage early and frequent involvement in the care of children

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