June 2014

First Time Dads

Author: Becca Edwards

Jeff Thompson is the area director for Hilton Head and Bluffton Young Life, a Christian ministry to high school students. Yet, if you asked him what his chief responsibility is, he would say, “I am the bath environment coordinator, burp master, and diaper changer”—(when he is home) for his infant daughter Sullivan. “My favorite thing is bath time,” Thompson said. “We give her a bath almost daily, and I’ve done about 95 percent of them. I tell my wife Maddie that I create an environment in the bathroom by turning on a heater and keeping the bath the perfect temperature, and I definitely have a strategy that Sullivan appreciates and is used to.”

Lawrence Powell is a bartender at Jump and Phil’s Bar and Grill, but you might say he runs defense better than Jadeveon Clowney. “My wife Lauren makes jewelry, which can be time-consuming and hard to just put down in the middle of a project. Lauren breastfeeds, and when our daughter Lola is hungry, my specialty is recognizing it early and buying Lauren that extra five minutes before the crying baby meltdown.”

Alex Magowitz and his wife Kristin are expecting their first child in the fall. Though he works as a general manager for a specialty retail store, he’s a domestic yogi with good intentions. “Whenever I get a little anxiety about the baby coming, I tell myself a little joke that helps me balance everything,” Magowitz said. “I say to myself, ‘I’m pretty much awesome at everything I attempt, so we’ll be okay.’ Then I laugh at myself and take a deep breath and go on with my day, knowing that this little girl is about to rock my world.”

Guys like Thompson, Powell and Magowitz are living proof that dads today are not duds. Wiping away old stereotypes and pacifying not only babies, but sleepless moms who just want to take a shower in peace, these men are taking an active role in creating a happy home. Reporting on a Pew Research Center study which the Today show published online, “In an average week, modern dads are spending nearly triple the time on direct child care and more than double the time on housework than their fathers or grandfathers did in the 1960s.

For expectant dads, this begins as soon as they get the big news. “My wife had mentioned that she was late, so I thought it was a possibility,” Thompson said. “But I was sitting in a work meeting when I got a picture text message of a digital pregnancy test that read, ‘Pregnant’ along with the message, ‘I’m making an appointment.’ I almost fell out of my chair. Initially, I was more nervous or anxious than anything because it was such a surprise, but it didn’t take long for that to turn into excitement about the joy a baby would bring.” The Thompsons started planning for parenthood almost immediately, deciding on a birth doula and a prenatal game plan.

New dads nationwide are expressing more opinions about baby names, prenatal care, birthing options, and—thanks to companies like Tactical Baby Gear (that sell diaper bags like the Heavy “Doodie”)—how to tote their tots around and other baby paraphernalia. Modern dads are also not going to let the moms have all the fun. In the Huffington Post article, “Dadchelor Parties Celebrate First Time Fathers,” contributor Katherine Bindley describes dads-to-be celebrating with “diaper kegs,” where men bring diapers in exchange for beer or even enjoy a last hurrah getaway weekend. Men are also helping to plan gender reveal parties; and more couples are having his and her baby showers.

Why this new breed of fathers? According to Shawn Bean, father and executive editor of Babytalk magazine, “A number of factors, like a growing population of women in the workforce, an unsteady economy and stale cultural stereotypes are forcing modern parents to redefine gender roles and change the very definition of father and mother.” Citing Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), Bean wrote, “Historically, dads have had a good understanding of needing to be a provider. Today’s dad understands that’s not enough. You must provide, but also nurture and guide. That heart-to-heart connection is critical.”

This connection is also strengthening the bond between the father and mother. “It is amazing what is going on there,” Magowitz said. “I really had no way of knowing what to expect. My mind is constantly blown.”

Thompson and Powell are on board with Magowitz. “I absolutely have a new respect for moms,” Thompson said. “Maddie went through that whole process like a champ—not only the hours of labor and birth with no meds, but months of carrying around a bowling ball strapped to her chest. We always look at each other and say we can’t believe that we made this! When two people love something so much, it can’t help but draw you in to love each other more.”

As for advice for Magowitz and expectant first-timers like him, both Thompson and Powell say the biggest change is scheduling. “I definitely have a lot less free time, and it has cut down my rounds of golf significantly!” Thompson joked. “But seriously, I feel like it has given me a much better perspective of how much God loves me. You always hear that He loves you unconditionally, but now I really feel like I understand that.”

These proud papas also say that the moment their child was born, their world shifted—for the better. “The first time I saw and held Lola, I knew things would never be the same,” Powell said. “She seemed to look right at me, and I felt an immediate sense of responsibility and protection for this little life. It was a little overwhelming at first, but as we grow, I just love her more and more.”

“This sounds cliché, but I love everything about being a dad. I’ve always looked forward to having kids and have never really been scared or nervous about having kids,” Thompson said. “Sullivan brings so much joy to my life, and I love her so stinking much; I really think my capacity to love expanded the second she was born.”

As for Magowitz, he has a deep respect and appreciation for his father and hopes to emulate some of his parenting skills, as well as incorporate some of his own. “I love my father. I hope that I can be even half the father he has been to me. Yes, there are things I will do differently, but his only motivation for doing everything he did was to provide for his family. I hope to do the same.”

On Father’s Day we celebrate dads like Thompson, Powell and Magowitz—and dads like you who may be reading this. We honor the hugs and kisses, memories and milestones, and those giggles and smiles that Powell says “melt his heart every time.” 

Becca Edwards is a birth doula, holistic health coach, yoga and Barre instructor, writer/blogger, and owner of b.e.well and b.e.creative (bewellandcreative.com).

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