'Becoming a Dad'
By Belinda Elliott
For many men there is no greater or more thrilling adventure
than becoming a father. But for a new or expecting parent, the
journey may seem rather scary at first.
Family counselors Stephen James and David Thomas discovered this
when they learned they were to become fathers and they felt unprepared
for the role. Stephen said he decided to get ready by arming himself
with knowledge from people who had traveled the road to fatherhood
before him. He hurried off to his local bookstore, but he was
“I bought every book they had on their shelves for fathers,”
Stephen said. “I read them, and some of them were somewhat
helpful. Some of them were really funny, but none of them really
addressed the heart of the man and the idea that God has created
us to be fathers.”
Stephen said he was looking for a book that addressed the role
of fathers from a Christian perspective. Practical information
such as choosing the right car seat, furnishing a nursery, and
stocking up on baby clothes and diapers was beneficial, but he
wanted something that addressed the feelings that he was experiencing
as he looked forward to raising a child.
It was after this experience that he and David Thomas, also a
family counselor, decided to write a book on the topic because
David, too, had trouble finding books and information that approached
fatherhood from a Christian worldview. It wasn’t long before
their book, Becoming a Dad, was born.
The book includes helpful tips about the practical aspects of
parenting, such as which items to purchase and how to prepare
before the baby’s arrival. However, the majority of the
book is dedicated to addressing many of the issues that new or
expecting fathers encounter, including their pre-baby jitters
and the twinge of guilt many men feel because they are not as
excited about the pregnancy as their wives are.
“One of the things we wanted to accomplish in this book
is giving men permission for that to be okay,” David said.
“The idea that if you aren’t as excited -- or if you
are not excited in the same way or in the same timing as your
wife is -- that is not only okay, but it is pretty normal. In
the early stages, you can’t see a baby. You can’t
even see your wife pregnant. The only thing you can see a lot
of times is her being nauseated. It’s normal that a man
wouldn’t be excited about that because he can’t see
anything except his wife feeling sick and miserable.”
Many times, David said, men tend to be more excited during the
birth of their child or later in the child’s development
when the baby can laugh or make eye contact.
Even when men do share their wives’ level of excitement
about a new baby, many of them still find themselves fearful about
stepping into the role of “Dad”. They realize that
their wives have motherly instincts that allow her to connect
with the child growing inside her in a way they are unable to
do, so they feel unprepared.
“Men are doers and fixers,” David said. “So
the idea of stepping into something that we don’t necessarily
have instincts about, and a process that we feel on the outside
of, brings about a lot of fear.”
“And I would add,” Stephen said, “I think instinctively
we know that it’s a big deal. Being a father is really important
because we’ve all had fathers, or not had fathers, and we
know what that has done and been for us.”
So what advice do they have for expecting fathers who want to
be prepared for their new role? The authors suggest that men begin
with prayer and submit their anxiety to God, asking Him to guide
them through the process. Secondly, they suggest the men keep
the lines of communication with their wives open and share their
feelings with them.
It is also important, the authors say, for men to realize that
they need to be prepared not only for changes in their daily routines
and sleeping patterns, but for some changes within their hearts
“We get to engage our own stories,” Stephen said.
“We get to remember and reflect on what it was like for
us to be children and for us to be parented. There is a lot of
change that can take place. There is a lot of room for God to
move in those moments.”
Part of this process, David said, can involve remembering hurtful
memories of your own childhood and working through them. Although
it may be painful, the author suggests that it is necessary to
“I think it is important because I think all of us, despite
our best intentions, tend to parent out of our experiences of
being parented,” David said. “So it is important not
to do the exact same things that you remember and didn’t
want to do to your children.”
It is also important for new fathers to realize that at some
point along the way they will unintentionally hurt their child.
“We have to realize that we all fall short of the glory
of God,” Stephen said, “which means as parents we
are going to screw up. We are going to harm our kids sometimes,
but that is not an excuse to not parent them or love them well.
Loving them well is not an absence of sinning against them.”
The authors suggest that it is this idea of not always being
able to do things correctly that often keeps men from being actively
engaged in parenting, especially in the first few months. To help
them, they encourage women to give their husbands extra time to
adjust as well as the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from
“One of the most important things is just allowing your
husband, the father of your child, to be clumsy and awkward in
this process,” David said. “The baby’s bath
is a good example. If the objective is just that the baby gets
clean, even if it is water poured all over the place, and the
baby is crying through the process, still he had a chance to connect
“The best thing a guy can do is be willing to screw up,”
Stephen said. “He may not know how to do something, but
he should just try anyway. I mean, I’ve put diapers on backwards
before, and they still go on. They still fit. You may not exactly
how to give the baby a bath, but if the baby is dirty, give it
a bath. If the diaper is dirty, change the diaper.”
The authors also suggest that once the baby arrives, it make
take more work to maintain a healthy and growing marriage. They
include suggestions for husbands to continue to date their wives
and spend time with them. They also encourage men not to view
this time as a battle in which they are competing with their children
for their wife’s affection.
“As men, we need to understand that this season is not
about us,” Stephen said. “You need to ask how you
can still engage your wife and love your children. The way to
a man’s heart is through his stomach. The way to woman’s
heart is through her children. If you want your wife to love you
well, then be a great father.”
Most of all, the authors say, men should take time to examine
what is taking place in their hearts as they become a father and
allow the Lord to work in their lives during this new journey.
“I would say that I believe the process of being a father
will make you a better man than you are before you start it,”
Stephen agreed. “Buckle up tight and hold on, and 18 years
from now you will have some great stories to tell.”
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