Being the last kid picked for a game of cricket in the playground at lunchtime really sucks. You probably won’t get to bowl, you’ll be the last one to have a bat, and your designated fielding position on the off-side boundary (no one plays a cut shot in primary school) only increases your feelings of isolation and being the least valuable member of the team. You’re really never given the chance to contribute.
That’s what it feels like to be a father sometimes. I remember sitting in the examination room with my partner at her first antenatal appointment, when a midwife walked in and introduced herself — to my partner but not me.
Over the next few months, I was continually overlooked or ignored. I can’t remember anyone who cared for my partner and our newborn baby who used my name. I was “dad”; some generic bloke whose presence was to be tolerated, not valued or welcomed.
The way you treat someone affects the way they behave — I know this is true for fathers. If they are encouraged to participate in caring for their partners and children they will, and there are lots of benefits when they do.
Researchers have shown how easy it is to make men feel included during their partners’ pregnancies, and how this motivates them to be better fathers.