Must read of the week: You're going to be a Dad! The new Dad's guide to pregnancy and the first year of fatherhood
You’re Going to Be A Dad! The New Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy and the First Year of Fatherhood by DaddiLife Books is THE essential step-by-step pregnancy and parenting guide for new first-time fathers and fathers-to-be.
By Gwyneth Rees
New fathers, and fathers-to-be, let’s be clear. If you are to buy just one thing to prepare you for your new arrival then let it be this book.
And to all the new mothers, if your partner doesn’t pick up a copy then buy it for him!
You’re Going to Be A Dad! The New Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy and the First Year of Fatherhood is a refreshingly honest book targeting the specific anxieties of dads during pregnancy that also gives wonderfully clear advice on how men can best support their partners during this time.
Because of this, I would even go so far as to call it a feminist book. Today’s dads want to be the best possible parents and partners, and this book ensures they work together seamlessly as a team.
First off, let’s make it clear what this book isn’t.
Unlike many parenting guides aimed at dads, it isn’t patronising; it isn’t aimed at just the middle classes; it isn’t laddish; and it doesn’t sugar coat pregnancy in any way.
Instead, here we have perhaps the first such book that provides all the essential insight and advice any new father needs to hit the ground running.
Detailed and wholly accurate, it discusses not only what is happening in each trimester of a baby’s growth, both for mother and child, and what to expect during those first 12 dizzying months of your child’s life, but also what anxieties may crop up, and how to handle them.
In addressing men in this way, this wonderful book speaks to a new generation of dads who are stepping up to the plate in terms of fatherhood: attending scans, taking parental leave and, even before that, engaging in the most healthy and effective way of making a baby.
Speaking as a mum, it is certainly time that men had all the facts at their fingertips, and their own ‘space’ to air their concerns—and this book does this, and so much more.
Author Han-Son Lee, previously a marketing professional for global companies such as Unilever and Warner Music, became a dad in 2014 and it changed his life.
Recognising a pronounced lack in support for modern-day dads, he set up online hub DaddiLife.com a supportive parenting website and online community that provides guidance, product reviews as well as original research on what life is really like for modern-day fathers.
Clearly it tapped into something, because DaddiLife is now the leading online destination for modern-day dads with more than 150,000 members coming together to celebrate fatherhood and share advice.
This has also led Han-Son Lee to become one of the UK’s leading authorities on modern-day paternal parenting.
It is this expertise built up over the past five years, that will make You’re Going to Be A Dad! The New Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy and the First Year of Fatherhood such a success.
Chiefly, that is because this book tackles all the real issues dads face.
These include how to deal with bonding difficulties with a new baby, miscarriage, post-partum depression, and the sensitive issue of intimacy with your partner after the baby’s birth.
And it is also, perhaps, the first such guide to cover Covid-19 and the potential impact this may have on parenting in the future, such as becoming temporarily isolated from your family and having access to the important moments and milestones of the pregnancy journey.
That is a huge appeal of the book, but another factor is the diverse range of views you get, thanks to 50 new and soon-to-be dads contributing their reflections on what they wish they’d known before, during, and after pregnancy.
Many of these contributions are funny, all are honest, but most importantly they present an idea to the reader that—whatever happens to them—it is okay.
The key charm of You’re Going to Be A Dad! is that alongside its encouragement and support, it shows that mistakes and mess-ups will happen but that parents survive. No one has to be perfect.
It’s also worth pointing out that the book is not only well conceived (no pun intended), but also well-executed, being easy to follow and structured in such a way that you can quickly find exactly what you need.
There are also biological details dotted throughout to help men understand the workings of the female body.
As mentioned above, the book is broken down into the three trimesters of the baby’s development, with three chapters per trimester and each further broken down by the week.
The chapters cover what is happening in terms of the baby’s remarkable development as well as what mums and dad might be going through during time.
In trimester one, for instance, it discusses the news of becoming a father—how exciting it is, but also how nerve racking.
Here is an example of its no-fluff, hands-on advice...
The slightest inconvenience might bring her [the mother-to-be] to tears, the smallest relief might make her elated with joy.
Sometimes your partner might want to be alone, to cry it out, or have you close by for comfort. The best we can say, take it as it comes, be supportive, and try not to take some of those fluctuations especially personally. However, doing all that isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you’re finding hard to maintain enthusiasm, or act how you feel you’re supposed to…it might be a good time to reach out.
This guidance is then followed by dads’ reflections, such as this insight from ‘Kyle P.’:
I didn’t believe pregnancy hormones were a big deal at first. But then my partner, who almost never overreacts or gets overly emotional, started crying after a minor little dispute on price while shopping. I was surprised, followed her out to help—she physically couldn’t stop crying! But an hour later we were laughing about it.
I love this. Not only the comforting language used, but the fact it shows the untainted reality for so many couples.
The book also covers, during the first trimester, important topics such as genetic screening and whether to find out the sex of the baby, then, in the second trimester, a partner’s forgetfulness (‘baby brain’), what to purchase, and how a man can help their partner if her breast ducts leak.
It then moves onto paternity leave, feeling and seeing the baby kick, last-minute preparations, and what to expect and how to be your partner’s advocate during birth.
Importantly, You’re Going to Be A Dad! doesn’t just stop there but focuses on the first year of a baby’s life.
Key areas it covers are the science and psychology of what’s happening with baby and mother, and the psychology of being a new dad.
It even talks about the ‘dad bod’ and how having a baby actually changes chemicals in a man’s body.
The era of the ‘bloke’ was consigned to the social dustbin years ago, though popular culture sometimes forgets this, painting new dads as lazy or incompetent in their parenting duties.
The truth, however, is that today’s dads wants to be fully involved with their kids, and this book smashes this persistent cliché, presenting the how-to guide they’ve been crying out for.
Going further, I would say that not only does this book have a laudable goal in normalising male anxieties, but it has pulled it off with aplomb.
It is both timely and much needed, and will be of great value to men in strengthening their relationships both with their child and partner.
Also, many women will be so grateful that the book explains to men what they are going through. No doubt, they will learn something, too, about what’s happening with their partner at the same time.
You’re Going to Be A Dad! The New Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy and the First Year of Fatherhood by DaddiLife Books is out now on Amazon in Paperback and eBook formats, priced £11.99 and £8.99 respectively. Visit www.daddilife.com.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HAN-SON LEE
We speak with Han-Son Lee, the founder of DaddiLife.com and the author of new parenting guide You’re Going to Be A Dad! about the impact of becoming a father, why old stereotypes of dads no longer apply, and about the real issues new dads face, among other things.
Q. You are a father to a son, Max, aged six. What impact did becoming a father have on you?
A. A huge one, and in a much bigger way than I would have thought. My parents divorced when I was young (aged four) and I didn’t see my father after that. I always credit my mother for doing an incredible job, to the point where I never really felt I missed out on not having a father growing up, but there has always been a subconscious thought in my head about what kind of dad would I be—and I made a vow to myself aged four that I would be a much better father for my children than what I had experienced growing up.
So that anticipation of being a truly involved father has been with me for over 30 years, but becoming a father had so much more of an impact than just what sort of dad I thought I’d be.
Having Max has definitely reset my own goals, and my own sense of what really matters. Time with him has made me a lot more present, and in the moment. It’s given me even more of a sense of being and caring for someone to a level I didn’t think was possible.
In many ways it’s also had an impact in that I think about global issues and our future a lot more with the lens of what it’ll means for all children.
I’d say being a dad has also made me more sensitive to things that young people are going through as a whole, and I didn’t think I’d ever be crying as much over charity and Disney movies as I do now!
Q. Fathers are often portrayed as lazy, incompetent and very much secondary parents in a relationship. Where does this stereotype come from and what is the reality today?
A. Dads are certainly going through a generational shift when it comes to their day-to-day parenting. We’re becoming more equalised across all the different parental tasks and, fundamentally, we’re actively involved right across every aspect of our children’s lives.
This is a radical departure from an image and perception of dads which is decades, even centuries old, where dads were expected to ‘just be at work’ while mums did the vast majority of the parenting. This very traditional ‘black and white’ split of work and parenting means that images of dads coming home, expecting dinner on the table, and giving their children a pat on the head before curling up on their favourite armchair have stuck around as a stereotype for far too long.
In reality, the experience of modern-day dads is a total opposite of the perception of being a secondary parent. Dads in the DaddiLife community and beyond are active, involved and every bit as involved as their partners. Many still have the same struggles as their partners do at work, too.
Q. Why do you think there has been such a pronounced shift in fathers’ attitudes towards caring for their children since the Lad Culture days of the 1990s?
A. There are two big drivers of this shift.
Modern-day masculinity: What it means to be a man has evolved so much more over the last 10 years, away from just the ‘laddish’ personas and more towards being caring, diverse, communicative and, above all, authentic. Men have license now (and perhaps even a societal expectation) of being so much more than just a provider, protector, or any other traditional cliché of being a man.
A by-product of the past generation: I touched upon the impact (as subconscious as it was) of having no father at all growing up. And the generation that I grew up in saw much higher rates of divorce and separation than in any other decade before it. Subconsciously its created a huge amount of this new generation of parents who have come into fatherhood wanting to make up for what they think they lost out on as children. What’s interesting here is that for many, who may have had their ‘laddish’ days in the 1990s and Noughties, this subconscious fatherhood instinct is now coming more to the fore as they enter a new phase of their lives in becoming dads!
Q. How has the Covid pandemic helped shape this cultural shift?
A. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated what started a decade ago. With many families new and old being forced to reassess their own work/life routines, many new fathers have reported just how much they’ve enjoyed being able to work with their partners to establish routines that means for an even more equalised parenting role, particularly with younger children.
So whether that’s splitting up the work day, or taking on certain morning or evening ‘shifts’, more dads have had a chance to experience and own their new work/life routines with their families.
It hasn’t been perfect for many, and the challenge for parents with older children (school age upwards) of home schooling and the like has created much more tension for some families. On the whole, however, dads have got to enjoy so much more of their new family dynamic and many now want to retain some form of that structure moving forward post-lockdowns.
It’s also no coincidence that in the UK there’s now an estimated 250,000 stay-at-home dads—a huge rise of around 20% of that just in the last decade or so. Covid-19 and its long-term effects will likely accelerate that even further.
Q. Do you think there is still work to do on a societal level to allow modern-day fathers the freedom they want to become equal caregivers?
A. In short, yes. Society, or more specifically societal perception, takes a while to change, and there are two areas that still need to change to move things along even quicker.
Policies: Statutory paternity leave (of two weeks in the UK) was only introduced in 2003! And despite positive policy change like Shared Parental Leave (introduced in 2015), which allows mothers and fathers to split more of their total leave, there is so much more that needs to be done before we can get to the best examples in the world, like Sweden (which split 18 months, with a significant period that time, fully paid).
Mums: Many modern-day mums want a more equal caregiving partner, but some still do not. That isn’t a problem as every family is different, but when it comes to things like sharing leave there are a number of mums who simply don’t want to share what they consider ‘theirs’, and when it comes to dads and mums on pick up from school there’s still something of a ‘mum’s club’ that develops that, perhaps unintentionally, keeps dads out.
Q. If you could provide one key piece of guidance for a father-to-be, based on all the feedback you’ve received when writing the new book, what would it be?
A. Talk. Talk. Talk! In our interviews with over 50 new dads and dads-to-be, it’s clear that dads go through so much more under the surface than many see (and which many other dad books don’t go cover). Dads can struggle to be truly open with their feelings and what they may be going through.
As an example, many of the dads we spoke to discussed times in the pregnancy and the first year with their new babies where they struggled. Many struggled with severe anxieties and many had signs of post-partum depression, but those same dads also felt that they didn’t ‘deserve’ to feel the way they did because it was mum who’d done all the ‘hard work.’ But what was interesting was that once they opened up to their partners, they were all relieved that their partners were nothing but supportive, and it made for much stronger relationships with them too.
As another example , almost all the dads we spoke to said they’d struggled to bond with their babies initially. Far from a Disney style ‘Love at first sight’ relationship, many didn’t develop a bond for quite some time after birth, and that brought about a lot of anxiety and loneliness about their own perceived failures as a dad.
We want to bring all those diverse perspectives to life in the book so that dads know they’re not alone, and that others have experienced what they are going through, too.
Q. Why did you decide to launch DaddiLife? How has the site grown since its foundation?
A. I started DaddiLife because, when I became a dad, everywhere I went online seemed to be a mums' world. There are over a million mum blogs and yet only still a relative handful of dad ones.
DaddiLife started as a small online community of like-minded, modern-day dads. It’s since grown to be one of the largest platforms for fathers anywhere in the world. The community are active daily, and the website covers a huge range of topics and areas—all written for dads, by dads.
We have over 150,000 dads in the community and continue to work with like-minded partners to expand the dad voice.
Q. How has Covid most affected dads and dads-to-be?
A. If there’s one thing we’ve seen with the effect of Covid-19 it is that a lot of dads have missed out on important parts of the pregnancy journey. For instance, a lack of access to scans, and even pre-pregnancy classes. Something we feature in You’re Going to Be A Dad! is just how important it’s been for dads to connect with other dads, with a number of our interviews showing how creative dads have been in establishing new relationships, and just how vital they’ve been in some very important moments with their new families.
Q. Why has DaddiLife decided to move into publishing, and where will things go from here?
A. While the website is our way of creating quality content for specific dad-related news and topics, there’s so much more depth we can go to in publishing.
Though books do take much longer (You’re Going to Be A Dad!, for instance, has taken nearly a year!) it allows us to bring a huge range of advice and help for dads, to hopefully create even better solutions for modern-day fatherhood.
Q. Why should dads-to-be and new dads, as well as their partners, read You’re Going to Be A Dad!?
A. There’s a few reasons why dads and partners should be interested in this book.
Firstly, whereas many dad books are written from only one dad’s perspective, we have interviewed over 50 new dads and dads-to-be to bring a truly diverse perspective to bear on pregnancy and the first year of fatherhood.
Secondly, this is the first book for new dads that takes into account all the changes that Covid-19 has created for dads, and what that advice would mean for any long-term implications of Covid.
Thirdly, where many dad books talk about the pregnancy journey and first 12 months at a surface level, we’ve gone deep in each chapter to talk about the science of what’s happening for mum and baby, alongside some of the things that are specific to dads. A feature of our 50 dad interviews is to bring each week to life and what specific things dads will experience as well as provide a check-list of things to do while in each pregnancy week.