Hair Cuts and Helicopters

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Data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies suggests that the more involved Dads are in hands-on child care, the more satisfied they are in their relationships with their kids.

Biology dictates that the female sex bears the work of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. The balance of labour in early infancy is tipped towards the birth parent, while the non-birth parent's primary role is to support the mother-baby unit.

As that baby grows, it is easy to continue with that pattern of mum as baby expert and her partner playing second fiddle.

In a stage of life where she feels she has already given up control over many things (her own schedule, career progression, body, finances, sleep), it can be difficult to relinquish "control" of the littler person she loves and is getting to know intimately. Yet avoiding "gate-keeping" is essential in allowing his parenting confidence and dad-child relationship to grow, and to give space for other talents and parts of her identity to blossom.

An example:

Mums may feel they need to prepare everything for excursions to "make life easier". If this task is always hers, Dad won't know what goes in the nappy bag, or where to find it if the baby needs a change.

He may start changing the baby but then be unable to find what he needs. He asks "where are the wipes?", you answer "in the bag, like always" and before you can blink baby is not only crying but has now wee-ed over all their clothes.

Mum takes over as she is more practiced ("quicker" or "better") at undressing, nappying and redressing the baby.

How does this scenario go for building his parenting confidence, or mums confidence in his abiities to take the child out of the home alone?

So he withdraws, she gets resentful he doesn't offer to help, and feels trapped by motherhood.

This hair cut represents my efforts to reduce "helicoptering" - hovering over tasks of child raising that are not biologically determined. Her Dad really wanted to do the hair cut. I actually laughed before I realised he was serious.

We set up: food on highchair tray, football on the TV, scissors. Then the internal wrestle commenced. Every part of me was tense while watching. I had to work hard not to criticise (I still did a bit if I'm being honest) and eventually walked away.

His verdict "Hmmm it looked better in the low light". There were still some mullety bits to cut the next day. But the primary task of "stop fringe irritating eyes" was achieved.

If you see a toddler with a haircut looking like a cross between a shorn sheep and Bam Bam from the Flintstones, that's us.

It's not pretty, but it will grow - her hair, his sense of parenting satisfaction, my enjoyment watching the dad-child duo interact without the pull to police it.

If you want to get prepared for baby's early days and the path of active parenting, you might like to join me and a host of guests for the 6 week "Prepared, Together" online course.

The course is open and beneficial to you whether you're hoping to fall pregnant, due with your first, or expecting baby number five.

6 weeks starting August 3rd, $247 AUD per couple.

Register here.


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