Kids Don’t Want ‘Perfect’ Dads — They Want This

Too many new fathers think if they're not excellent at child rearing, they're terrible overall ...

by Meg Meeker, MD | Updated 17 May 2017 at 7:58 AM

I’m excited to announce that my new book, “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need,” has been released and is now available. The topic of father-child relationships is one that I’ve always championed, and this book is a real labor of love for me. Whether you’re a brand new dad or several years in, I created this book to inspire, encourage and challenge you as a parent.

You have an amazing role as a father — and you may not even realize how much influence you have in your child’s life.

Related: Why Dads Are Called to Be Heroes

What follows is an excerpt from my new book about one of the biggest realizations you need to have as a dad.

Many fathers are intimidated by their responsibilities. They fear, if they have daughters, that they know nothing about how to raise girls; with sons, they might feel handicapped if they themselves didn’t have a good father as a role model. Many fathers are perfectionists. They feel that if they’re not excellent, they’re terrible. And if they think they’re terrible, they tend to withdraw from the family.

Fathers have confided in me that when they first held their babies they felt terrified, as well as incapable, inadequate, ill-equipped, and even stupid. Rather than ask for help, they relegate baby care to their wives, because they don’t want to risk failing as a father. Don’t do this, dads. Here’s why.

If you’re afraid and feeling inadequate, welcome to the parents’ club. Most of us feel that way — even pediatricians.

Most mothers feel the same way. I was in medical school when our first child was born. My pediatrician told me that since I wanted to go into pediatrics, there was nothing he needed to tell me about child care. I almost burst into tears. Becoming a mother is an overwhelming experience, full of emotion and full of fear. If you feel the heavy weight of responsibility as a dad, so does mom.

What if I couldn’t feed my daughter? I had never breastfed before. What if I dropped her, didn’t hear her cry at night, forgot about her in the back seat of the car and she suffocated? What if she choked, stopped breathing, or got a high fever? I was almost a physician, and I believed deep down that I really didn’t have what it took to be a good mom. And my husband didn’t feel any better. He was working all the time and worried about not bonding with her.

So if you are afraid and feeling inadequate, welcome to the parents’ club. Most of us feel that way — even pediatricians.

Related: Dads Make Kids Glad and Successful

The key thing is not to give up or feel like you’re not needed. No, you don’t have to learn to breastfeed. You might understandably feel that your wife is more adept at changing diapers, and dressing, and bathing, and caring for the baby. Mothers naturally tend to take over — and can be very particular about how things are done, what clothes are put on, and how the car seat is situated. But your wife still needs you, needs your help, even if in the early days you often feel like you’re taking orders.

Babies need to bond with their fathers as much as with their mothers. Hold your infant as often as you can. And believe me — you, your wife, and your child will be the happier, in the end, the more involved you are.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book, “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing, May 15, 2017), as well as a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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