Men and babies

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I know that we are More than a Mum, but at the end of last week, I chatted with two men who challenged my preconceptions and made me re-evaluate what it is to be a Mum and what it is to be a Dad.

The first challenge came on Thursday night, when I chatted with Dean from @DaddyNatal. I was really interested in his idea of Daddy Natal, which offers “practical, memorable and enjoyable antenatal education for men, by men.”

At first I was a little sceptical, wondering if there really was this gap in the market. Do men want this sort of personalised Daddy-class? Is it all a bit too girly for them? Surely couples antenatal isn’t sexist…I didn’t notice. But then I mentioned it to my husband and his first comment was, “much-needed.” I asked him why he felt that and he said that sometimes it seems that parenthood has a ‘mummy club’ where women are told all the secrets of parenting and that men are strictly forbidden. He called it the ‘Mummy Masons’! (Though if you read BabyRambles you’ll know it’s not just Dads who feel like they’re out of the loop!)

Hubby said, that whilst he’d found the antenatal classes that we did useful, he felt they were feminised and geared towards the girls. I am ashamed to say I hadn’t even realised he’d felt like that. He’s very lucky with the Dads we met through the group and they do all meet for beers, but as they’re all working fulltime, they don’t do it anywhere near as often as us girls and I’m not sure that even with beer the men discuss parenting in quite the same way we do. So it seems that there is a need for a Daddy-centric approach to antenatal classes.

I was also interested to see that on the website, Daddy Natal also offers new Dad’s classes for Daddy and baby – no Mum’s allowed. Sounds like the tables are turning!

The second meeting that made me reassess my opinions was in my role as a breastfeeding peer supporter. I run a drop in group at the local Sure Start Children’s centre and the Health Visitors do checks in the room next door. On Friday I was introduced to a new trainee Health Visitor, Mike.  Mike, as you may have guessed, is a man.

After I had met him, I wondered how I would have felt if a man had turned up at our door in the first few days to check on us and our baby. I wondered if I’d have been comfortable; and then I checked myself and thought OUR door, US, OUR baby. I wonder if my husband would have felt more at ease with a male Health Visitor? More included? Mike will, after all, have exactly the same qualifications as any female Health Visitor.

R

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23 thoughts on “Men and babies

    Curly Mum said:
    October 24, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I’ve never met a male health visitor before, but perhaps it would be a good idea to have more of them! I’m sure it would help dads to feel more included. And I assume, much like doctors, if a woman didn’t feel comfortable with man, she could request that a female visit her instead. I think I might actually feel a bit more at ease with a man. I tend to get on with men more easily.
    I think more stuff geared to men is a great idea. I don’t think my OH would have done anything like that, but I think there are a lot of guys out there who would really love this and find it useful.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for your comment – it is interesting how we don’t bat an eyelid at a male Doctor, but a male HV seems odd.

    SAHDandproud said:
    October 24, 2011 at 11:51 am

    A great post. Lots of food for thought.
    The tables aren’t turning as such, but times are changing. Some Dads do want to feel more included and classes like this can only be a good thing.
    I wonder how popular Mike is as a HV? Do new mums feel that they need a woman, or do people feel that an equally qualified man is coolio? How populat are HV’s nowadays anyway? I know a lot of parents who don’t regard the advice from their HV as helpful, but more judgemental.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      A very good point about HVs. As Helen says below, perhaps a male HV might even feel less judgemental…

    impeus said:
    October 24, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    We saw a documentary which featured some dads’ parenting classes – my partner was not impressed, and felt they were geared towards stupid thug men who needed to be advised not to shake the baby as if it was something they were likely to do. He felt patronised, and hadn’t even attended.

      DaddyNatal said:
      October 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      The DaddyNatal classes, are focused on the mans role, we focus on things like their role during labour, how they can affect the birth. Also talk about becoming a new parent and what they can expect. They certainly not aimed at “thug men” they are for all expectant fathers.

      We have no agendas or specific axes to grind. They are there to give them information specific to them which up to now hasnt be readily available.

      We certainly do not patronise, and the feedback we get from the dads and their partners is great.

        morethanamummy responded:
        October 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

        Thanks, for posting on here, DaddyNatal. I do think that the men’s role in labour is one that it is really helpful to go into so that they don’t feel like a spare part and so that they know how best to help. I also think that remembering that men are affected by the birth too in very important. There is a lot of information about ‘baby-blues’ and PND aimed at women (although even that can be patchy) but very little to acknowledge the massive upheaval for men.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Impeus, I can only assume that the best TV is made by the men making the biggest turn around and perhaps that is why they featured ‘thug Dads’? Not all men will feel the need to attend ante-natal and parenting classes, just as not all women wish to, but I think the fact that they are on offer if you want them can be nothing but a good thing.

    Helen said:
    October 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Very thought provoking! We too did the NCT classes and the friendships made have been cherished but like u say the guys got on well during the classes but don’t get much time to meet up for beers.
    I have to say I’d welcome a male health visitor. I totally fell apart after my baby girl was born & ended up going for CBT & I specially chose a male therapist as I felt he’d be less judgemental & view situations from a totally different perspective. As u say Mike will have the same qualifications.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      An interesting perspective that a male HV may feel less judgemental for women.

    Clare said:
    October 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    I teach NCT classes and always make a great effort to include the Dads in my classes, but I think it does depend entirely on the teacher as to how much the dads feel included, and also to some extent the group too, if you have a dad who is not ready to embrace parenthood, this can affect the way others in the group feel and behave. Just as Dean at DaddyNatal does, we hold the Diploma in Childbirth Education, which we have spent a lot of time at University studying for, and much of our course focuses on including the men and exploring ways that we can include them in our classes. I take a lot of care to include the men in all of my sessions and also provide space for them as Dads to talk about the journey through birth and the transition to parenthood that they are making to. I also encourage them to think about ways that they can bond with their babies and spend time with them in a single sex group to ensure that their needs are being met. I also encourage them to start going for a drink or a curry together regularly so that they can build up a friendship group just as the women do. After the birth, I offer them a chance to debrief if they want to, or advise them to debrief to someone else if not me. I think ultimately, unless the man is a SAHD, the woman will always form a closer bond and have more “mummy secrets” as women are genetically programmed to raise and nurture their children and they have the advantage of all of the hormones kicking around after birth to help them, However, generally if they are closely involved in the pregnancy and birth, men’s testosterone levels actually lower to help them become more nurturing and so I think that if antenatal educators and health professionals could tap into this and take some time to consider how life for Dads changes just as much as Mum’s then perhaps we would see less of a rise in Postpartum depression in Men, which is very prevalant but often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. I also think that Men should have a 6-12 week postnatal check by the HV to give them a chance to air any worries or concerns.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

      Thank you very much for your very informed post. I am sure that it does depend on the teacher and group dynamics, how the men feel about classes.

      Very interesting information about men’s testosterone levels too…I never knew that!

      Thanks, Clare.

    Alex said:
    October 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    The majority of ante natal care is aimed at women, and I suppose that is right and proper, they are the ones who have the enormous physical challenge of pregnancy and childbirth to bear and although men do get post natal depression, it is obviously far more common in women. But that isn’t to say there isn’t a need for things like Daddy Natal.

    Chatting to Dean at the Gurgle awards (after chatting at length online), I understand his passion and from personal experience I understand the need for it. When I was asked to write about going back to work after paternity leave by The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/04/fathers-view-genuinely-devastated) I was initially pleased to get a Dad’s view across and then shocked at being called all sorts of names, (“Yes it’s difficult but try to be a man about it.”, “For pity’s sake, you’re supposed to be a provider. Get on with it and stop moaning”,”Word of advice- your ‘partner’ will find you more attractive if you go away and start being confident about your gender.”), just because I’d formed an emotional bond with my child and didn’t want to leave my family after ten days.

    I think as long as these bizarre emotionally crippled responses to men’s issues surrounding ante natal care continue, there is a definite need for the provision of education targeted at men.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you very much for your views. How fascinating (and disturbing) that you got so many negative responses to your piece, which was so honest. Gender sterotyping runs deep in the country, on all sides.

    Paul said:
    October 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Being a Dad is an odd experience and one that seems to require men to find a way in to the role as the natural bond of mother and baby of course is not there. It is hard not to feel like a spare part, especially at birth and in the early days where mum and baby (rightly I suppose) are totally wrapped up in each other.

    It’s a role that is often looked down upon especially by many women, being out alone with your child can be a horrid experience, not because ‘little scamp’ is playing up, but because the Mummy mafia can make you feel like an outsider and thrust you aside with utter disdain.

    It sometimes feels that the world dictates two contradictory ideas, that women should be liberated and able to be working mums, stay at home mums or something in between (their choice – and quite right) but that men cannot make this choice, have such choices open to them or even support women in that choice and therefore childcare is the preserve of mum in the end – none of our business. It’s a contradiction that I find hard to navigate.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      Thanks for that view, Paul. I do hope I’ve never thrust aside any men with “utter disdain”. I hope that in spite of these difficulties, you still manage to enjoy the role of father.

    Neil B (@Living_with_LC) said:
    October 26, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Great Post.

    the times are changing and so is the definition – that used to be so clear cut – between mum and dad’s roles in caring for their children. In times gone by, the father was solely the provider and had no place in raising the children other than to ensure they knew the ways of the world when they were a little older. This is changing more and more though and dads want to be involved from pregancy by supporting their partners through to childcare itself. We are seeing ever increasing numbers of stay at home dad’s and why not?! Why shouldn’t men have that option too?

    I’m a firm believer in what DaddyNatal stands for and had the benefit of attending half of the course myself (LC was born on the day the second half was due to take place!). The information and guidance I received in the first session was invaluable and made a huge difference to my experience of birth and hopefully also helped my wife as I was able to stay calm and in control of things.

    Dad Power! 🙂

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 26, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      What a positive Daddy! Well done you! I hope you keep on enjoying fatherhood. 🙂

    DadsNursery said:
    October 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    We were very fortunate that when my wife was pregnant with our first child we found a very good NCT group, 90% of us have kept in touch and we still meet up on a regular basis. The classes were well structured too, very much geared towards each couple rather than being biased towards the mum’s side of things.
    Where I did feel a little left out was at the midwife appointments both when my wife was pregnant and after my daughter was born. I would usually sit there being ignored whilst they talked to my wife. In the end I made a point of having a few questions ready to ask and once they realised dad was interested I’d be included in the conversation!

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 26, 2011 at 8:44 pm

      Perhaps having someone like, Mike as your HV would be a positive for the father’s involvement in the medical side of things. I am glad that you found your NCT group useful and supportive as well.

    older mum said:
    October 31, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I definitely think there is a gap in the market. My OH would have appreciated an all dads group. I think most dads are interested as they want to do their best for their children.

      morethanamummy responded:
      October 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm

      That sounds like what DaddyNatal has tapped into. He has obviously found a good niche!

    Emily O said:
    November 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I’ve never come across a male health visitor before or breastfeeding counsellor and I think I wouldn’t know what to say if I did. It’s because it’s so unusual. But very positive too, I think the idea of child rearing as being the woman’s domain is out-dated and unhelpful. The more men who get involved the more positive it is for families and society, Sounds like you’ve had some good experiences here and an overdue thanks for the link!

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