The new dad switch
Becoming a father can introduce a whole new angle to a man's character
Dad's hands (Shutterstock)
Watching two guys recently, I realised there’s a Switch. It goes on the minute your baby is born. It doesn’t happen to every guy, unfortunately, but very often the ‘click’ coincides with the first time you lay eyes on your baby. We can be a bit slow, men, so despite months of watching our partners grow, we don’t fully ‘get’ it until we see our babies.

From my own experience: I loved discussing names until the wee hours (which, later on, really would become the ‘wee hours’, with nappies and somnambulating toddlers). I enjoyed picturing myself with a grown-up child, or imagining being a father.

That said, the experience of a father-to-be is less immediate than that of the expectant mom. Before I became one, the word ‘father’ wasn’t one I could relate to. I remember how the ‘I can’t believe I’m my child’s dad’ feeling only sank in after I looked in his dark, unfocused eyes in the labour ward. A helpless baby is a massive reality check!

Just recently, I had the privilege of seeing my partner’s daughters both giving birth within almost a month of each other. My partner had known both of the fathers for several years- watched them grow up, really. She wondered how these two ‘young’ guys would do as dads to her grandchildren.

We were both pleasantly surprised when, instead of choosing to hang out with their friends, immerse themselves in work, or leaving the moms to handle everything, the minute their babies were born, the Switch went on.

New tenderness

Nappies? No problem. Bathing and feeding? No problem. The new mom needs a rest? No problem. These guys embraced the whole experience. They’d added a new role to their lives, and taken it on with gusto. Instant tenderness in a way which seemed new to their characters.

The guy who is fiercely competitive when it comes to sport, or armed with enough bawdy jokes to keep a room full of people laughing all night, can be equally masculine as he gingerly cups his newborn’s head, or makes funny faces as he competes to earn that first smile. Watch out for that ‘holding the rugby ball’ position when he's first handed a newborn.

It seems obvious - dads are equally responsible for parenting, and it shouldn’t be unexpected that they embrace the role; it’s just that the contrast is sometimes astounding. The Switch adds a quality to a man which rarely exists pre-fatherhood: Whereas women often take an interest in babies before they become parents themselves, it’s less common for men to do so. Sometimes you’ll see it in uncles or ‘honorary uncles’ such as family friends.

Next time you see a father-to-be, watch how he changes once his baby arrives. Keep an eye open for the Switch. It may be subtle, but you’ll see it.

Have you noticed a new father suddenly adapting his behaviour? Tell us about the men in your lives who have ‘clicked’ the Switch.

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