How has fatherhood changed your life 1

Becoming a father - when is the right time?

A little pregnant is possible ...

Becoming a father is not difficult, Ernst Busch once wrote, but nowadays children don't just come. Expectant fathers, for whom becoming a father is primarily a headbirth, think about a lot and have questions to which they initially have no answers:

  • Is NOW the right time for me to become a father?
  • How much does a child restrict my life, my freedom?
  • Will my child be healthy and develop normally?
  • Will my partner and child get through the pregnancy and childbirth well?
  • How will my partner behave as a mother?

Surely you share your thoughts on fatherhood with your partner, but there are things that are better to talk about with other men. You can talk to men who are already fathers or, if it suits you, talk to your father about how he felt about your birth back then.

Use the waiting time - good birth preparation for fathers-to-be

And then there are the birth preparation courses, which are usually offered by midwives or in family education centers. They offer information about pregnancy and childbirth, the opportunity to get to know the birthing positions and ways of coping with pain and to practice together, and they offer valuable tips on the puerperium, breastfeeding and the first time with the child. They are also a good forum for making contact with other parents-to-be and ideally offer space for “father-related issues”.

And these "father issues" or questions about becoming a father are best dealt with when fathers-to-be are among themselves and this phase is also looked after by an experienced husband and father:

  • What wishes and fears do I have for the birth?
  • Do I want to be present at the birth? What do I want to see, what do I not?
  • What is important to me for the first time at home?
  • How will the child change our couple relationship?
  • How has sexuality with my partner changed since the beginning of pregnancy? How do I deal with it? How can it develop after giving birth?
  • As a father, what do I want to give my child?
  • Will I be able to face the financial challenges (alone)? How much parental leave can / do we want to afford?

As a couple, what expectations do you have of becoming parents?

In addition to the birth preparation course, it is important that you prepare for being a father and mother together with your partner and that you share expectations, ideas and life concepts together. Sit down in a quiet hour and look at your children's photos. How did you experience your father back then? What do you like to remember, what do you like less? Imagine you are the father in the picture, how would you like to be as a father? What will your child want from you? Exchange with your partner about the thoughts and ideas that came into your head while looking at the photo albums.

There from the beginning - fathers giving birth in the delivery room

The best start to family life is a joint one. While 40 years ago a man had no place in the birth of a child, today more than 90% of fathers-to-be are there and stand or sit by their partner. This has positive effects for everyone involved. The way in which fathers are involved before, during and after birth is the most important impetus for the man on the path to fathering. It reduces the father's risk of postnatal depression. It helps the mother psychologically, because she has less of the feeling of being alone and “at the mercy” of what is happening. Involving fathers affects the course of labor and helps reduce potential complications.

How is that to become a father?

Get to know your own limits - what worries do you have before the birth?

  • What is it that scares you about childbirth?
  • What do you want to see, what do you not?
  • Even if you are afraid, go to the birth and take time off if necessary
  • Talk to your partner about your fears

The results of father research show that fathers who are present at the birth spend more time with their children. They swaddle their children more often, wear them more on their bodies and take them out in the fresh air more often. You are more confident in dealing with the child and have more fun spending time together. The partnership also benefits from this! Because from the mother's point of view, the father's commitment is a decisive factor for the quality of the partnership. And that in turn - in an Excel table would now be "circular reference", is for men the decisive driver for their involvement in the family.

Become a father, stay a father - acknowledgment of paternity and what to do in the event of a separation

At this point it is important to know that in Germany the man who is married to an expectant mother is automatically the father, even if he is not at all in the biological sense. In the case of unmarried couples, the biological father must recognize his paternity. He can have this certified before or after the birth at the registry office, youth welfare office, district court or notary. Then, with the consent of the mother, he can apply to the responsible youth welfare office for joint custody. If the mother does not agree, the father has a right to file a lawsuit.

The termination of a marriage is also connected with a lawsuit. More than 30 percent of marriages, almost half in large cities, are divorced. In the seventh month after the birth of the first child, there is a so-called “divorce peak”. If you want to remain present as a father in the event of a separation, live and love divorce compatible. Maintain as much contact with your children as you would like from the start. The divorce judge won't give you a minute with the children you haven't lived with before. So build your own relationship with the children from day one and share the economic responsibility for the family in partnership with your wife.

What it means to become a father!

We become a family: 1 + 1 = 3 become parents, remain partners

For the beginning of life with a third person, three crucial questions arise that are best answered together at an early stage, when both of you are (still) working:

  • Who does what? Who ensures the finances and who does the work in the family (care work)?
  • How do we divide the parental leave, who looks after the children and when?
  • To what extent is the employed work carried out by whom? Full-time, almost full-time working hours or marginal work?

The decisions that are made here influence the quality of life and partnership over the next few years and set the course for you as a father as to the extent to which you can spend time and unpaid work with the children or whether you take on the traditional role of family breadwinner.

Even if it will probably turn out differently than originally planned: it is always easier to come up with a new plan when expectations and wishes have already been expressed. Especially since the first time after the birth brings with it difficult conditions, which are expressed, for example, in nights spent and too little time for the partnership.

Speaking of time, let friends and relatives give you time for birth, time for two in the form of vouchers for babysitting. So that you and your partner can enjoy these and other times with a clear conscience, I have 5 tips for you:

  1. get your child used to other caregivers at an early age who will replace you from time to time
  2. Get in touch with parents with children of about the same age nearby and take turns looking after your children
  3. set up a fixed couple evening during the week that is free from housework
  4. occasionally use a delivery service and invest the time in your relationship
  5. set up a room that will be declared a baby-free zone

And if the start of being a father has worked out, you are also well prepared for the other situations that will change your life as a father and a man.

To the network

The LAG Father Work started in 2016 to pave the way for fathers to join the family and to enable them to have a good relationship with their children and successful and equal partnerships. Fatherhood is an enrichment in life and the 25 organizations and associations represented in the LAG are committed to ensuring that all genders are equally in the focus of political and social development.

About the author Hans-Georg Nelles

Father of three adult children, social scientist, adult educator and systemic organizational consultant.

Since 1998 he has been professionally involved in the field of 'compatibility of work and family'. His focus is on returning to work after parental leave and father-conscious personnel policies. Since 2008 he has been working as a freelance organizational consultant and author with 'Fathers & Careers' and from July 2018 also as a father expert for the SKM Bundesverband e.V. and as the managing chairman of the LAG Väterarbeit in North Rhine-Westphalia. He is also deputy chairman of the 'Bundesforum Männer' and author of the Vaeter.Blog


Fisher, Duncan (2010) Baby’s here! Who does what? How to split the work without splitting up

Richter, Robert; Schäfer, Eberhard (2020) Das Papa Handbuch, Everything you need to know about pregnancy, childbirth and the first year with a baby

Schäfer, Eberhard; Abou-Dakn, Michael; Wöckel, Achim (2008) Isn't it difficult to become a father? On the new role of the father around childbirth

Schopp, Johannes (2019) Strengthening Parents, The Dialogic Attitude in Seminars and Counseling

* Prof. Dr. Michael Abou-Dakn, long-time chief physician at the Clinic for Gynecology and Obstetrics, now Medical Director of the St. Joseph Hospital in Berlin on page 80 of the Papa Handbook by Dr. Robert Richter | Eberhard Schäfer

1 Prof. Dr. Michael Abou-Dakn, long-time chief physician at the Clinic for Gynecology and Obstetrics, currently
Medical Director of the St. Joseph Hospital in Berlin | P.80 of the Papa Handbook by Dr. Robert Richter |
Eberhard Schäfer

2 The research on fathers provides important findings and deals with the influence of fathers on the
child development and, in the last 20 years, also with the view of fathers on their role in family and work
and society. In Germany, it was W. Fthenakis in particular, who first started in the mid-1980s
evaluated the international state of research and then carried out research for 30 years.

3 Ftheakis, Minse; 2020; The role of the father in the family,