Globe Syndicate

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

for release July 21, 2000

Involved Fathers, Fortunate Kids

In the space of one week, I received promotions for two items for expectant fathers: a book called The Joy of Fatherhood, which is filled with information for fathers-to-be, and a new magazine called "First Time Dad," with a similar focus.

To say times change is a clich?, but it is only in looking back that we appreciate how far we've come. When my husband and I had our children going on 20 years ago now, LaMaze classes for expectant parents were fairly routine. But that was probably the extent of most fathers' preparation for parenthood. Fathers participating in the delivery room was allowed by then, but the father of one of my co-workers was the doctor who led the fight in our local hospital to win that right. (Fight? Right? That probably sounds foreign to today's generation in reference to fathers in the delivery room.)

Kids who have fathers who are involved in their lives-from the moment of conception on-are very fortunate children.

"First Time Dad" lists 10 ways (by Penny Simkin) to be involved in those exciting early days of fathering, an important time for developing attachment. Even if as a couple you've chosen to breastfeed, dads can be involved as follows:
1. Help prop up a mom with pillows for nursing in bed, or on the sofa.
2. Help hold the baby's head in place; sometimes it takes more than two hands to manage it all in the first days of nursing when mother and baby are both getting used to the process.
3. Bathe the baby. This can be a very special bonding time for Dad and baby.
4. Be emotionally supportive during challenges of breastfeeding. Express love, affection and understanding.
5. Offer to change the diapers (you'll get more bonding time).
6. Bring your baby to mom at night. (At least occasionally!)
7. Take care of routine household chores (laundry, meal preparation, dishes). How does that help baby bonding? Your wife will love you even more and make the three of you feel like a strongly connected unit.
8. Help her be discreet while nursing in public.
9. Bring her lots to drink. (Breastfeeding takes a lot of liquid.)
10. Soothe and comfort your baby with words and touch. Your baby already knows the sound of your voice and feels safe in the arms of a confident father.

I part company, however, with the writers of these publications when it comes to stressing formulas which tell you how much you as a father (and mother) need to start saving each month in order for your new little one to go to college. Perhaps the publishers do that because they think money/finances are one area in which many men feel more comfortable. There may be a temptation to think, as long as I am earning all I can for my family, I am doing my job.

Unless you are at a very comfortable place, I think there are other things more important to worry about than setting aside $200 a month for a newborn's college. While it might be nice to be able to do this, it makes me think that perhaps I would then feel overly invested in my child's future.

Like, my child has to be a success, has to go to college, there is no room for alternate paths if I am putting back $200 each and every month for 18 years. Especially if being able to save that much means working an extra job for either parent while the children are very young. It would be much better, in my opinion, to spend that extra time with the child, nurturing, educating and loving him or her, than being off at an extra job to save money for college.

It doesn't hurt children to help pay for their own college: either by hard work in school to earn scholarships and grants, or by their own employment. It does hurt children when fathers and mothers are so busy salting away a college fund that they have no energy and focus for the child right now.

What do you think? Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 690 words; end material = 105 words

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