While it is impossible to completely understand this experience ahead of time, going to seminars and workshops and receiving advice can help you prepare for a future with your children.
Medical Advisor: Luz Amparo Salazar. Psychologist
Let’s be honest: nobody is ready to be a father. There are no manuals, there is no perfect age when a man is completely ready to take on the responsibility, and there is no form of required preparation. Having a child is like playing an extreme sport: you only know what you need to know, and when it is time for you to go, you have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go.
Literature on this topic abounds. A few years ago, the literary work of Karl Ove Knausgard became very famous in Norway. The series was given the well-earned titled, My Struggle, and consists of six parts including A Death in the Family (Archipelago Books, 2012) and A Man in Love (Harvill Secker, 2013). The first book talks profusely about the strange relationship he had with his father, a very cold man, who he never really managed to completely understand. In the second book, it is his turn to tell the story and we witness the contradiction he has between the enormous amount of love he has for his family and the dilemmas that are put on him by them every day. His writing projects seem to take a backseat to the futile needs of his children: dressing them, feeding them, taking them to daycare and doing this while minding the responsibilities he has with his partner.
Knausgard discovers that there is no way to prepare to be a father, you just become one; and you can only understand the true dimensions of this responsibility once you are immersed in the role. And it is true, there are situations that you will never be completely ready for, although experts argue that it is possible to be close to having an idea of what it is like, or at least to having a somewhat significant perspective of it.
According to psychologist Luz Amparo Salazar, modern day parents have distanced themselves greatly from traditional parents, who saw themselves as having a purely financial role, “They were parents that had children and felt that the only thing that they had to do was provide for them and discipline them because families worked differently back then. Mothers stayed at home raising their offspring and fathers went out to search for ways to financially support them.”
The role of modern day parents requires greater commitment: it is not just about financially supporting the home, a role that is now shared with the mother, you also have to be involved in other aspects that used to just be the responsibility of women: raising, loving, feeding, changing and bathing them, and staying up late and getting bottles ready. “Fathers are already doing this very willingly because something has already changed in the mentality of the modern Colombian man. He’s less macho and he understands that having a child is a shared effort, not just a financial responsibility,” the expert explains.
For men that want to be fathers, yet do not know how to approach the challenge, Salazar recommends that it can be a good experience to start by meeting up with friends that already have children, talking about shared experiences and sometimes even taking care of a brother’s or an uncle’s children. “Healthcare institutions now offer seminars designed specifically for couples that explain what they can expect as future parents and teach them things that are essential for the first weeks of the child’s life. It’s good for partners to go with mothers to these types of events, as fathers can also learn a lot.”
While the best way to learn is to get hands-on experience, it never hurts to go to a talk or a workshop for couples. But what is most important, is to want that future and once you are in it, to feel the intensity of it, just like how intense it feel to hold a baby in your arms.
It is important to lead an active fatherhood, which means trying to get as close as possible to the baby and engaging fully in caring for it. This will help you get to know it better and will create a strong bond with the child and vice versa.
Dilemmas you will have to face
One of the many challenges is finding a balance between work and family.
Many fathers feel guilty for “not being there” for a crucial moment in their child’s lives, which is why it is important to plan how you will handle your many responsibilities. For example, in a medical emergency you may find that answering the following questions with your partner or as a family can be helpful: What is the main priority? Who will be in charge of taking care of the incident? Who will ask to take time off from work? How will you stay up to date with school activities?