New dads tired of having to stay mum
By Patricia Karvelas
July 13, 2004

MEN want fathers-only childbirth classes so they can ask questions without having to face the scrutiny of their partners, a new government-funded study has found.

A report on the study said new fathers felt confused and unprepared before their baby was born because most of the available information was directed at women.

National focus group meetings found fathers wanted their own antenatal classes so they could discuss the range of feelings experienced after childbirth.

"Some fathers were reluctant to handle their newborn baby - for example, to dress, bathe or settle - because they did not feel confident in their techniques or were afraid of dropping the baby," the report says.

The meetings discovered men wanted to be able to ask questions without being concerned about showing a lack of "knowledge/courage" in front of their partner.

The report on the Parenting Information Project was prepared for the Howard Government by the Centre for Community Child Health.

Some men reported feelings of "helplessness" at being unable to feed their child, or support their partner, and thought more information would have made them feel more "empowered, if it had existed".

The report recommends more information should be produced for fathers on how to handle, bathe and dress their babies.

Men in fathers' focus groups said they wanted more information on how to be good role models for their children.

They suggested the Government consider opening "one-stop shops" for parents.

Federal Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Larry Anthony said the Government wanted to build on its contribution to support fathers in their parenting role.

"It used to be that parenting information was in fact mothering information," he said yesterday.

"I think there has been a change in our society and fathers are taking a more active role in the parenting of their children. The information available to parents has to reflect that change."

A national telephone survey conducted to gather parents' opinions found 52 per cent of parents of children aged 0-5 years found the need to balance work and family responsibilities had a "medium to high negative impact" on their ability to be a good parent.

But parents who did not work in paid employment recorded a lower rate of impact, at 37 per cent.

And 42 per cent of parents said coping with financial pressures had a medium to high negative impact on their ability to be a parent.

Parents of children aged 0-5 years were unaware information was available to assist them, the report found.

Although there was an "enormous amount of information about children available, most participants were only aware of a small amount of it".

Focus group participants said there was a need for additional support services for parents of young children, including post-birth follow-up services, services to monitor the child's development, and better testing of children's hearing and vision to pick up problems before they had too much effect on the child's development.

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