Table of Contents
One of the greatest sources of stress for Australian couples is the societal shift from a clear-cut, gender-based division of labour to an expectation that both partners should have a part in all aspects of their lives together. In short, men and women are now sharing roles that were once consigned to one sex or the other. The old ideas have been hard to overcome, but as women have sought equal rights in regards to employment and social status the transition has eased, and both men and women are shedding their old roles.
The role of the father has been dramatically changing as society continues to be more accepting of the dad’s role in the birthing process. Diamond (1992) argues that becoming a father is “not when their partner has given birth to a baby and is not the beginning of the paternal instinct; rather it is within a male in childhood just as being a mother is for young girls”. In this current climate fathers are looked down upon socially if they miss the delivery of their baby’s birth, yet often fathers still feel quite unwanted or not entirely needed during labour. Their role is often relegated to the important yet more distant job of overseeing their partner’s wellbeing and offered token jobs such as “cord cutting”. Sanderson and Thompson (2002) argue there is a change in the culture of fatherhood. Men have begun to express their desire to be seen as intimate and involved in the day to day rearing of children. Interestingly it is the older fathers who seem less tied to the stereotypical role or behaviour opting for a style considered traditionally maternal with adolescent fathers more likely to expect traditional roles in child rearing. (Parke, 2004)
With this in mind it is important to examine the role of fathers in the same way as we do the role of mothers. By looking at the three separate stages early on in a mans involvement with his child we can begin to understand the basis of a new kind of father-child relationship.
“It is the lucky man who can find constructive ways to express his fatherly ties during the time of “wait” while simultaneously protecting his partner (and child’s) health and privacy in serving as a source of strength and support.” (Herzog, 1982)
Men often felt in limbo by their inability to directly experience the physiological aspects of the pregnancy. In my experience with talking to men about how they felt during their partner’s pregnancy, many men speak of their lack of knowledge about the process, their feelings of isolation and their inability to engage in the reality of the pregnancy. Women’s passage to motherhood is a more clearly structured transition and the visual outward signs of the pregnancy mark her changing status. Men’s inability to experience pregnancy means that their biological encounters are by proxy, thus they rely on ‘second hand’ accounts of theirs partner’s experience (Draper 2002). Men frequently expressed frustrations at not being able to directly feel what their partners were feeling. The issue for most emerging fathers concerns the ways in which their instinctive ties are to the yet unborn child might be developed. Many men freely report that the process does not seem real to them until the actual birth when they can see, hear and touch their child (Herzog, 1982).
Roopnarine and Miller (1985) believe that the transition to fatherhood is not just a one off event, but rather a continuos passage. They make the distinction between the state of fatherhood, which happens once on the birth of the first born and the practice of fathering. Their transition theory suggests that fatherhood does not end at the birth of the child but is a continuous process as the new or new again father negotiates the complexities of fathering...