During December, we were reminded many times of Jesus’ birth. Although we often focus on Mary and the baby Jesus, I think the unsung hero of the story is Joseph. He was a good and righteous man. He was in tune enough with God that he believed the dreams he had were God’s word to him. He was willing to accept Mary as his wife, though she was pregnant. (Her pregnancy was an act of God, but many people would have doubted that.) After Jesus was born, he uprooted his family twice in obedience to God-given dreams: first to preserve his wife and her child from death by going to Egypt, and then to return to raise his family in Galilee. Joseph worked hard as a carpenter.
And as a good Jewish father, he trained Jesus as a carpenter too. How many admirable qualities do you see in Joseph? Have you ever stopped to consider just what a fine man he was? He had his flaws, no doubt, but the flaws did not cancel out the many characteristics that made him a good man.
I’d like to focus this month on the role of the father. As soon as the woman is aware she is pregnant, changes begin in the home. When, and how, does she tell her husband that he is a father? How will he react? The baby isn’t even born, yet attitudes about this new little human are already forming. It’s such an important time.
If the news of her pregnancy is accompanied by distress and conflict, dad may withdraw from mom. He may resent the baby’s intrusion on their relationship. He may feel he has so many additional responsibilities that he spends more and more time at work. Also, concerns about the additional responsibilities and necessary finances can make these early days of pregnancy challenging.
There are physical stresses now as well. Mom’s hormones are changing dramatically and these affect her mood, energy, and sex drive. It’s a roller coaster ride. The new changes in roles, values, and identity can cause both parents to emotionally withdraw from each other, just when they need each other the most.
We may have brought some attitudes or beliefs into our marriage that make dad fulfilling his most important roles in the family difficult or impossible. Here are some stumbling blocks:
- One or the other parent believes that it is the woman’s role to raise the children and the man’s role to be the breadwinner. This puts more stress on mom and means dad misses the joy of a warm relationship with his child.
- Mom may believe that she is the only one who knows how to take care of a baby. She may be afraid for dad to handle the baby and make him feel even more incompetent to be dad. Or dad may get nauseous at the thought of wiping up after baby spews from mouth or bottom. He then disqualifies himself from doing anything with the baby.
These don’t have to be fatal to the relationship. How can you overcome these stumbling blocks? Ask for help. Be willing to help. Share your dreams. Share your fears (most new parents have some.) Pray for your baby before he or she is born. Pray for each other. And appreciate each other.
Good news! With good relationship skills before the pregnancy and practicing good conflict resolution during pregnancy and during baby’s first year, the marriage can be even stronger, and baby can have a solid family to develop in.
For now, here is one key thought: both mom and dad need to be involved in the baby’s care and development, and that starts before the baby is born. Each has specific roles to fill. Together, both parents have a wonderful, God-given potential to nurture our babies, teach them about trust and love, and model how to relate to others.
We will continue in the next few months to provide you with tools to help you communicate well with each other and continue to build your friendship and love so you can be the best mom and dad for your child.
I have written other articles for YourChildsJourney.com on How Important is Dad? and Bonding and Brain Chemicals. Do take a few minutes to read these articles as they add other aspects of Dad’s role and how to fulfill it.