Family Relationships Quarterly No. 18

AFRC Newsletter No. 18 – March 2011

Call me Dad! Book review

Lancaster, S., Mooij, E., & Korn, S. (2009). Call me Dad! A manual for new fathers: From pre-birth to 12 months. Auckland, N.Z.: New Holland.

Reviewed by Mark Sipthorp

The transition from couple to family can be a difficult one. While there are many sources of information for new parents, particularly mothers, there are few resources aimed directly at smoothing the way for new dads. The following review, written by someone who has recently embraced fatherhood, assesses a recently published book for new fathers and finds it to be accessible, informative, and practical. Practitioners working with couples who are, or soon will be, new parents may find this book a useful resource for new dads and dads-to-be.

A lot of books have been written about pregnancy and giving birth and, to their credit, some of them even look at it from a father's point of view. But what happens next? In my search for information I found little that was written specifically for new dads about what to do and expect in the 12 months after the birth of my child. Call me Dad! is an excellent book. As well as practical advice on such things as the pregnancy experience (changes in your partner, antenatal classes, medical appointments and birth plans), the logistics of preparing for the arrival (deciding what to buy, where the baby will sleep, and who's going to look after the baby) and the birth experience, the book offers guidance for life after birth. Tips on ways to survive the first few mad days and weeks as a novice parent, on how to be a good support for your partner and on establishing routines for feeding, sleeping and hygiene can support dads in the sleep-deprived haze of new parenthood. The idea of preparing and freezing some meals before baby arrives would have been really useful to know before our lives were turned on their heads!

Before the birth, there are a lot of emotional things happening - as a soon-to-be dad you need to prepare yourself for this. Your pregnant partner may have mood swings and the book advises not to take it personally. After the birth, you need to understand that you are not the most important person in the house and that your role is to provide as much support and help as you can. Emotionally and physically things will be happening to you as well - you will get tired, feel overwhelmed at times and may feel you need time for yourself. As new fathers you should never feel too embarrassed to ask for help.

This book also has really helpful "Dad tips" throughout, including advice ranging from the need to keep your finger nails trimmed so you don't hurt the baby, to the usefulness of starting a baby journal (how long the baby sleeps and when, what time the baby was fed or had their nappy changed).

There is such a steep learning curve to face once you find out that your partner is pregnant. My wife and I brought a little girl into this world a year ago. Reading this book felt like I was reading about my own experience of being a new dad. It's probably true that most first time fathers-to-be don't know much about what lies ahead, except that soon there will be a little person around. The book works on a number of different levels. It gives a comprehensive look at what you are likely to experience, provides information on things you should know about, and is a good reference guide at moments of uncertainty. It is also fun and easy to read.

My wife goes to a mothers group meeting every week. For her it's a great help because she can check out any concerns about our child's progress with other mothers of children the same age. Getting their advice and hearing about their experiences makes her feel at ease. Things are different for dads. Many fathers work, especially when the child is young, and while we still want to be there and contribute as much as we can, sometimes the support that mothers seem to easily access is not available to new dads. Reading this book helped me feel more at ease about being a new dad. It includes the experiences of other new dads and how they faced their challenges, and their descriptions of what being a dad is like for them.

I would recommend this book to any new father or even fathers with small children as it provides useful information about children of varying ages from a father's point of view.

Call me Dad! is part of the AIFS library collection. Loans and photocopies of material from the Institute's Library are available via interlibrary loan. For information on how to access the AIFS collection, go to: <www.aifs.gov.au/institute/info/ficservices.html>.

Mark Sipthorp is a new dad, and also Data Manager on the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.