Very few of us know that Charles Darwin, the father of modern evolutionary science, was also the devoted father of ten children. He was a primary figure in his children’s lives, educating and encouraging them, during an era when both childbearing and child-rearing was considered a woman’s job. Today, we are inspired by devoted Dad David Beckham, who has the name of his 3 children tattooed on his back.

However, despite a century separating them, Darwin and Beckham, both legendary figures, would probably be exceptions to the unfortunate gender stereotypes that many dads (and moms) fall prey to. Generations later, we are still stuck in the archaic gender norms of “Father-breadwinner” and “Mother-caretaker”, even though in current times, it’s usually both parents who work, and many fathers share the housework and child-care equally.

So are times changing?

Since time immemorial fathers have been distant taskmasters whose primary duty was ‘setting kids straight’.  Their main roles have been leaders, authority figures and decision-makers. This is important because the family is like a small team and, like every team, needs a leader. Children need discipline and boundaries and feel secure when someone is in charge for setting rules and regulations. But seeing fathers only as team leaders could also distance children. All discipline and no play could become cause for resentment so that the traditional role of providing security and stability may actually become negative.

Fortunately, societal perceptions of what constitutes a “good dad” are changing. Fathers are initiating closer bonds with children – a paradigm shift in attitude that can only be applauded. A recent study showed that men today spend twice as much time caring for their children as compared to men in 1985. It’s true that a father’s influence in a family cannot be denied.

Anyone can be a father but it takes a special person to be a daddy

Here are some practical way to become more involved in your child’s upbringing:

Before birth

  • Accompany the mother: Active fathering starts even before birth. Accompany your wife along for checkups and scans during the pregnancy. While mom can feel the baby kicking inside, dad needs visual contact to get an idea that an actual life is developing inside the womb.
  • Establish contact: Talk to the baby, feel it move, know its patterns of wake and sleep in the womb. This makes the father feel closer to the unborn child.
  • Participate at birth: Studies show that father-child attachment develops faster when the father is present at the time of birth. Request the doctor to let you be present during delivery.

Early infancy

  • Night duty: Fathers can take turns with their wives to attend to babies at night. This has a two-fold benefit. It gives the father an opportunity to bond with the baby, and also gives the harassed mother a break.
  • Daily care: Fathers can lend a hand in almost all aspects of newborn care. They can bottle-feed the baby, change diapers, bathe and play with the baby and soothe tears.
  • Keep track: The sleep deprived mother may find it difficult to remember when the baby is due for shots, medical visits, or even feedings. The father can take on this responsibility.

Growing children

  • Manage siblings: Older siblings feel more secure if they have at least daddy around while mummy is taking care of a newborn.
  • Encourage play: Playtime with children is a proven method to establish a secure bond. Introducing the child to play including indoor games and sports can be immensely enjoyable for both father and child. The father can help the child learn positive attitudes related to team-work, winning/losing and persevering.
  • Attend events: Make it a point to attend the child’s school events. A child loves to see both parents by her side, whether performing on stage or participating in sports. Nothing helps children beat stage fright more than seeing both parents cheering them on.
  • Make holidays fun: Holidays are good occasions to bring father and child together. Bathe your toddler, bike with your tween, or ask your teenager to give you some tech tips.
  • Take to office: Taking the little one to work can be fun for both father and child. Your child will love the attention of the colleagues and will get an idea of what daddy does during the day.
  • Know their friends: When your children’s friends come over, help your child organize games to play with them. Join in for a couple of rounds to familiarize yourself with your child’s friends.
  • Educate: Children of all ages will benefit from their father’s experiences, his successes as well as his mistakes. Teaching children basic life-skills such as about managing money, social skills, appropriate internet usage, and safety outside the home will help them overcome real-world challenges.

As you can see, parenting need not be a dull chore for fathers. Doing activities that are mutually enjoyable can create a win-win situation. Today, for men, parenthood is a wonderful journey of discovery that they really do not want to miss out on.

 This article appeared as “The New-Age Dad” in the Parsi Publication JameJamshed on 21.06.2020