Parenthood is one of those experiences that rarely ends up the way you expected. And if you have a parenting partner, you have two sets of expectations to contend with. While it's somewhat common to assume having a baby will automatically bring you closer to your partner, that's not always the case. So, in my opinion, it's natural to have doubts about your parenting partner and wonder if he is going to be a great dad.
In this country, and many around the world, it seems like girls are in training to become moms from the time they are able to hold, feed, and change a doll. It's common for teenage girls babysit for their first part time job, and in many ways women are expected to know how to be good moms. But despite all of that prepping and cultural mind-molding and societal expectations and hands-on education, I was still clueless when I finally held my baby in my arms. Motherhood might be "natural," but it is not innate. It is learned.
Still, when my daughter was born I was shocked to learn that my now ex-husband had never held, changed, or fed a baby before. And, unfortunately, his enthusiasm didn't make up for his lack of experience. He constantly tried to get out of doing basic co-parenting tasks by claiming he didn't know what he was doing. Then, whenever he did the bare minimum, people praised him like he was the best dad on the planet. I did the bulk of the parenting day in and day out, with no acknowledgment, while he was thrown proverbial parades if he so much as changed a single diaper. I had no idea parenting with this man would be such an unequal, exhausting, frustrating experience.
Thankfully, now I'm married to a great dad. I actually had the advantage of knowing he was great before we had kids together, too, because he was already a dad when we met. What's more is that he's pretty much always been willing to actually co-parent with me, and not use his inexperience as an excuse. It's so different, you guys, and so much easier. It's clear he was destined to be a dad, and I saw so many signs that he'd kick ass as a parent early on, like the following:
He's Scared Sh*tless
All good parents get scared. It's OK for your partner to admit that he doesn't know what he's doing or that he's scared of screwing up. It's probably actually a really good sign.
He Supports You During Your Pregnancy
From running to the store in the middle of the night to fulfill my weird pregnancy cravings, to giving me foot and back massages, my husband showed me he cared bout our future baby by taking care of me when I was pregnant. My pregnancy was essentially a dumpster fire of complications and side effects, and he handled it all in stride.
He Wants To Hold The Baby
Even though he's a bit afraid, and doesn't know what he's doing, if your partner wants to hold their newborn baby and get to know them one-on-one, it's a good indication that they are going to be great at the whole parenting thing.
He Asks You What You Need
While you are recovering from childbirth, a great partner will recognize that you need some time to heal and process what went down during labor and delivery. A great dad will also ask you what you need, instead of assuming you're going to telepathically communicate to him.
He Wants To Be Involved In Parenting Choices
If your partner wants to be involved in making parenting decisions —like feeding baby, bedtime routines, and even where your child will go to school one day or what kind of things they can do together — chances are, they are going to be an awesome dad some day. A great dad isn't going to lean on gender stereotypes that essentially make him the "back up" parent. He's in the middle of it all, with you, hellbent on being an equal parenting partner every step of the way.
He Helps You Shop For Baby Things
Don't tell him, but it was adorable to see my husband get excited about buying baby gear and clothes.
He Takes A Night Shift
Sleep is so important, especially when you're recovering from something as traumatic as childbirth. Dads who are willing to take a shift at night so you can sleep, or find ways for you to get more sleep during that day, are showing you that they are on your co-parenting team.
He Doesn't Care What Other People Think
Good parents care way more about what works for their family than what anyone else — even his mother — thinks about your parenting choices.
He Is Willing To Learn
Probably the most important life skill that anyone can develop is a willingness to admit that they don't have all the answers and, as a result, are ready to learn how to get the job done. A sure sign of a great father is one who says, "I don't know how to do this, can you show me how?" or even, "Is there a video I can watch on YouTube?" rather than just muddling through poorly or giving up and handing you the baby.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.