Bonding with Fathers

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am_reubIt is interesting to see how parenting roles have changed in the last 50 years. I remember the time when I was a child; it is mother who was responsible for providing the basic care for us. Fathers were the disciplinarian and the children were scared of their fathers because mothers’ favourite words whenever we did anything wrong was “wait till your father comes home”. We used to dread the moment that father enters the door in the evening and we were afraid to even talk with our father.

The children knew that our parents loved and cared for us, although they never expressed their love with hugs and kisses. This is a typical scenario in most families. The father’s primary role was to provide financial support and beam with pride whenever someone congratulated them on their children’s behaviour or performance in school. Although some fathers were involved with the children’s upbringing but for the majority, childcare was the premise of mothers.

So what is bonding?

bondingBonding is a word that came into fashion in the eighties. Suddenly we were told that we have to bond with our baby, like we have never done that before. Whether our children are our own or adopted, we will bond with them if we let them know that we love them, by giving them our undivided attention when they need it and through lots of play, kisses and cuddles.

Mothers have an advantage in the bonding game because our babies are literally attached to us from the moment of conception. Breast feeding helps with the bonding process because of the time mother and baby spend together. Initially, fathers are left out, but nowadays they are getting more involved with the physical care of the babies so much so that the babies are more ‘attached’ to them.

When I first started conducting antenatal classes in England during the early seventies, all the participants were women. Once in a while, a couple of guys will turn up and pretend to look very bored even though they were hanging on to every word that was uttered by the midwife. Somehow, over the years the number of men who took an active role in the babies’ birth slowly increased with more and more fathers wanting to be present and taking an active role in the baby’s birth. In fact, research has shown that babies bond better with their fathers if they were present at the delivery.

Imagine my surprise when I started conducting antenatal classes in Malaysia in 1989. The participants were all couples! Somehow, I had always thought that Asian men were the same as our forefathers in that they would not get involved in childbirth and the physical care for their children. You guys have proved me wrong and over the last few years I am still amazed by how good some of you are at looking after children. Nowadays, 90 % of fathers are actually very good at providing basic baby care such as bathing, changing diapers and feeding the babies.

Dear papas don’t despair if your little one won’t let you carry her during the first 6-8 months. At this age, baby’s main interest is food and it is often mummy who provides it especially if she is breast fed. Once they discover the fun of play, daddies will be the one they run to and now it is mummy’s turn to feel ‘jealous’. It is interesting watching the babies at my center. When the parents come to pick them up, the babies will look for the mummies during the first 6 months. After that they will ignore the mums and crawl or run to the daddies. Do you also notice that most babies’ first word is dada and not mama?

Think of the link with the alphabets that we use for parents:

M = Mother = Maid
M = Mother = Maid
F = Father = Fun
F = Father = Fun

So, if any of you daddies worry about whether your baby will bond with you, the answer is ‘yes’ if you are willing to spend time with him/her.

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