Men go through fears about their new role as a father. Not many people talk about what they expect of each other as parents until the situation arises. This may be the first time that a couple discovers they have very different attitudes to childrearing. Questions like ‘Who will get up at night if the baby is crying?’, “Who will wash the nappies?’ and ‘Who will take time off work if the children are sick?’ are unlikely to be topics of conversation at the engagement party. Yet perhaps that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. If these things were sorted out in advance, they wouldn’t be such a source of conflict later on when partners fall short of each other’s expectations.
Starting a family is bound to be a time of mixed emotions which can be incredibly confusing. Apart from grieving for their former lifestyle and its freedoms, the level of intimacy between a mother and baby can be threatening to a man who previously enjoyed her undivided attention. It’s even been said that some women treat their new babies as a sort of surrogate sexual partner, acknowledging the sensual pleasure they derive from the experience of breastfeeding, and become totally absorbed in the baby’s every move and sound. Little wonder then that their partner may feel jealous. One of the problems for men is that there are very few places they can turn to for support in this. As a society we don’t give a man permission to feel this jealousy of his own child. Few men would feel free to drop into the pub for a beer and confide in a friend that he feels alienated and rejected by his partner’s attention to the new baby. It is a difficult thing to admit, because we have grown up with this belief that we should instantly bond to this product of love, and because it is our own ‘flesh and blood’, no sacrifice is too great.