The Worries Of A First-time Dad

Katie Young
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Wednesday - June 13, 2007

Rose Ku‘ulei and Rick Sword
Rose Ku‘ulei and Rick Sword

My father is the greatest dad. He was right there alongside my mom, learning Lamaze and attending prenatal classes when she got pregnant. He admits that he didn’t read as many books as Mom did in preparation for my arrival, but he feels he was equally as invested and excited about the pregnancy itself.

When I was born, my dad was there in the delivery room and, being the ultimate documentarian that he is, captured my birth for posterity with his Super8 film camera.

Pregnancy is experienced in a very different way for fathers, I imagine. Men don’t have the hormonal changes or physical body changes women do. They can’t feel the baby moving around inside them like women do.

But this doesn’t mean that they don’t have their own set of worries about becoming a first-time dad as well. Last month for Mother’s Day, The Young View took a look at what pregnant mothers might be feeling about having a new baby.

In celebration of Father’s Day on Sunday, Rick Sword, a clinical psychologist and member of the Hawaii Psychological Association, and his wife, Rose Ku’ulei Sword, a former school principal and psychology technician, help us look at things from the male perspective.

Here are the top five concerns that first-time fathers face:

1) Will my baby be normal? This is the same No. 1 concern that pregnant women have. But for a man, says Rick, worries focus around how they would deal with an unhealthy child financially, who might require medical treatments or care.

2) How will I deal with the childbirth itself?

Again, this is the same No. 2 concern for women, but men experience childbirth on a completely different level. According to Rick, men worry if the baby will be OK and if the mother be OK.

“They wonder, ‘How will I deal with the delivery room?’” says Rick. “It’s a challenging place for fathers. It’s so frightening because your wife is screaming and crying. It’s really hard for the father to see the woman in so much pain. It’s hard to witness because there’s not much you can do. It’s so scary because there’s so much on the table and things could really go either way.”

3) Will I be an adequate father?

For Rick, he wondered if he would be as good a father to his child as his father was to him. “Will I pass on proper values and traditions?” recalls Rick. “Will I be a good example for the baby? Can I handle the long-term commitment of raising the child and sending them off to college? These are things that men worry about.”

4) Can I handle the financial responsibility?

Usually, most young couples are struggling to make ends meet, says Rick. “And then you have a child so you wonder how are you going to handle it all.”

5) What does the future hold for my baby in these uncertain times?

These days it seems as though the whole world is in turmoil. There’s the war, terrorism and global warming. Men can easily brood over all the things that are going wrong in the world and how these things are going to affect the child as they grow.

The ways that men can cope with these concerns are the same ways that women can get through their own concerns: Educate yourself by talking to as many parents about their experience as you can, accept that your responses are normal, and find a way to manage the stress and learn to relax.

The Swords explain that while the worries themselves might be similar between men and women, the way in which the two genders think about these issues can be quite different.

“Women think about things on more on a micro level, while men think about things on more of a macro level,” explains Rose.

“For example, I worry about the tax debt we’re heaping on these kids ...” says Rick.

“And I wouldn’t even think of that,” says Rose. “Women are more concerned with the child and the family unit. If you have a father and a mother and they’re both doing what we’re talking about, then you’ve got a perfect balance. The mom is doing all the inner-working things and the dad is worried about the world.”

Rose says this balance is a great strength because, between the two parents, you have everything covered and you have each other’s backs.

“I believe the mother is basically the primary parent the first 10 to 20 years, and then after that the father becomes the primary parent on giving advice,” says Rick.

“There’s a natural shift that occurs around the age of 9 when the child starts pulling away from the mother and they start to really look at the world, and that’s where the dad’s frame-of-mind is,” adds Rose.

If you’re first-time parents in a marriage or committed relationship, it’s probably most important to remember that you are going through different feelings at the same time. Try to be understanding of your partner and find proactive solutions to the normal worries you both are facing.

My dad told me that no one ever warned them about how much they’d worry once I actually arrived. But my parents survived by keeping a rational perspective on things and supporting one another.

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