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Reluctant Father

by Armin Brott
6 Comments


Reluctant Father

Dear Mr. Dad:
I just found out I'm pregnant and my husband is not looking forward to being a dad. The pregnancy was unplanned and he doesn't see any positive sides to the situation. How do I get him to be more involved in the pregnancy and beyond?

For some odd reason, people assume that as soon as the news of the pregnancy is announced, we instantly and happily snap into "mommy" and "daddy" mode. But it's rarely that simple in real life. Changing from couple to parents isn't an easy or natural transition for everyone. Some of us morph into perfect parents overnight, while for others, getting comfortable with being a parent takes a long, long time.

Although it's possible that your husband really isn't interested in becoming a father, I think it's more likely that he's just nervous about impeding fatherhood and has no idea what's really expected of him. After all, his life—like yours—is about to change drastically and forever. (Think back to all the unexpected and unplanned events that have ever occurred in your life. Did you always embrace those changes immediately and eagerly, or did you have doubts, second thoughts, and fears about the unknown and the unpredictable aspects of the situation?)

Given that your pregnancy was unplanned, it's likely that your husband has conflicting, confusing, and ambivalent feelings about becoming a father, especially if he's very young, financially insecure, or just getting started in his career. He probably needs time to accept the changes, adjust to them, and then refocus his life's goals to fit with the new reality.

Even those who look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of a baby often have many fears and concerns about the new responsibilities. We may be asking ourselves: "How is the child going to change my life?" "Am I up to the task?" "How do I make sure I am a good parent?" "Can we afford this?" "Are we out of our minds?"

Chances are your husband is asking some of the same questions. That's why it's very important that the two of you sit down and talk about any and all unresolved issues. Discuss your mutual concerns and try to find workable solutions whenever possible. Breaking big worries into little ones, tackling each one separately, and coming up with concrete and tangible ways to handle the difficulties ahead may alleviate some of his fears (and yours as well).

Of course, you probably won't have all the answers, but at least you'll be strategizing, planning, and facing the challenges together. Open communication and common vision are the cornerstones of good parenting.

How can you spark your husband's interest in the impending fatherhood? There is no foolproof solution, but letting him know that you need his support and encouraging him to participate in baby-related activities is a good start. Ask him to go with you for all your OB check-ups; get his advice about decorating the nursery; discuss names; buy parenting books and magazines and read them together. Even if he doesn't willingly participate, be sure to relate the details to him anyway, and keep him up to date on your and the baby's progress.

If he still doesn't seem ready to get involved, don't despair. Some men just can't relate to pregnancy and/or childbirth. But in most cases, those late bloomers turn out to be excellent fathers once they have a chance to hold their baby in their arms.

Armin Brott bestselling books include the recent release of "Fathering Your School Age Child have helped millions of men around the world become the fathers they want to be—and their children need them to be. His most recent is Fathering Your School-Age Child. Armin has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows, writes a nationally syndicated column, "Ask Mr. Dad," and hosts a weekly radio show. He and his family live in Oakland, California. For more information visit MrDad.com.

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Guest Feb 13, 2014 02:03:44 PM ET

I did not bond with my daughter for a year. until then, she was a nuisance to me. someone told me this lack of bonding is common and is, at least partly, the result of father being barred from the delivery room. fathers not being allowed in the delivery room was the medical protocol in the 60's, when my wife was pregnant. once we bonded she was a welcome part of my world.

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Sade1978 Mar 20, 2013 08:45:52 AM ET

I told my husband last night that i was pregnant. to say that he took it badly is to put it mildly. he believes his life is over and he believes that i bullied him into it because when we were first married he said he would have children then after a couple of years (we have been married for 10 years) he said he did not. we went to counseling and he said he would but no fertility. so we tried to have a baby for about 4 years no luck. it put a big strain on our marriage and we separated but got back together. when we got back together he said he would do the baby thing. but now that it has happened he is really angry, hurt, disappointed about the whole thing. i really hope that one day he comes around but i am really doubtful.

Malcolm Jun 20, 2013 06:49:35 PM ET

Hi, i have a 4 months baby now, and i felt exactly as your husband before. i'm still trying to cope. birth was a traumatic experience that has left me quite scarred. the only reason my marriage is still intact is because i adore my wife, but the baby thing has been particularly difficult because i really didn't want a baby, although so she could go through motherhood i agreed to have one. most of days i still regret my decision, but little by little i'm starting to bond with my son in a way i couldn't even imagine before. so, i guess what i want to say is, be very careful because you might be forcing him to do something he really doesn't want to do, and that's a reason as good as any for a divorce down the road. if i were you i would either make sure he's ready, or i would find someone else. otherwise you might end up having a child with an absentee father, or worse even, with divorced parents.

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Tony May 18, 2012 08:12:30 AM ET

My wife and i found out last week that our ivf program has worked. all though i sort of agreed that we would have children when we met eight years ago, i never really felt it would happen and now feel that i've been pushed into this. i am going through a difficult time in my career and if sarah stops work, then i don't like the idea of being broke for ever. also i know that her domineering , rude mother will be over more times than i think i can cope with. in my minimal experience with kids i have found that i don't like them. frankly the whole thing fills me with terror, and i want to be supportive and do the "right "thing , and say the "right " things, but i find that it sounds faked and forced.

Malcolm Jun 20, 2013 06:54:42 PM ET

Same thing here! gone through the paces since my wife got pregnant till my son was born 4 months ago, till now. i still struggle every single day. i'm bonding with the little guy, but beyond that, my life's gone. somehow, some people think i'm a sort of a monster because i never wanted this. still with 0 social life and with lots of issues at work. life is basically hell most days. if you get a tough child, which thanks zeus or thor i didn't, then you're really up for a crazy ride.

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James Briggs Sep 21, 2009 06:05:06 AM ET

When my wife fell pregnant for the first time, i found that the only way i could deal with my fears was to write them all down! the medical profession and the rest of the 'baby industry' is so oriented towards looking after the mother-to-be, we men are often left looking helplessly on the sidelines. now i have three beautiful boys and once they were born, i had no choice but to get on with the job once they were born. anyway, if anyone feels they might benefit from reading about my experiences, the book is called 'the baby' by james briggs, published by beautiful books in the uk. i wish all you first-time fathers the best of luck!

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