Throughout the last decades, different studies have raised the importance of protecting the mental health of the mother during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, and the short- and long-term implications of not doing so, both for herself and herself. for the baby and the rest of the family. In this sense, perinatal mental health specialists maintain that the father has a fundamental role as emotional and logistical support for the mother-baby dyad, since his ability to care and to reposition himself in the new family setting will largely determine how he will face this evolutionary crisis.

Having sons and daughters is a transformative experience. It is physical and emotional for mothers, because they are going through profound changes, and it is also for fathers, who, although they do not experience processes such as pregnancy or childbirth, do have to walk the path to parenthood. This transition from man to father is what Javier de Domingo, psychologist, paternity coordinator at the European Institute of Perinatal Mental Health and father of three children, calls parental transition. “With the arrival of a baby, a new space for self-care and in common is created that must be understood and protected. The father must understand his new position and his new role, and recognize the place of the child and his parent to become the support of both, ”says De Domingo.

This is emphasized by David Seguí, clinical psychologist and father of two daughters, who recalls that the role of men in parenting is fundamentally caring to make possible, together with the mother, a healthy and healthy development of the children. “His role is to be co-responsible for care, to create an atmosphere and a relational world where love is placed at the center and the basic protective function of attachment is made possible. For this, commitment, presence, closeness and sensitivity are needed”, explains Seguí. Gender imperatives and social expectations define patterns or behaviors that often stray away from that role of caretaker. In addition, this new role must be combined with the rest of the roles such as son, partner and professional. “Sometimes we get hooked, trapped, in conflicts or needs as children or as couples, being more in the lack or in what is lost than focused on our work as parents”, he adds.

Few parents ask for help

The birth of a baby can increase unresolved couple conflicts that already existed before maternity or paternity, or can give rise to new complications. Complications that, according to David Seguí, are usually related to wanting to keep a status quo impossible to sustain with the arrival of the new member and with not wanting to accept the new reality. “Wanting to maintain the privileges of a couple without children makes the changes to which the arrival of a baby and the demands of the new life script subject us unbearable,” explains the psychologist.

For Javier de Domingo these problems derive above all from ignorance of the needs of the baby and the new mother: “Exhaustion; the different degrees of involvement in care; the struggle for personal, social and work times and spaces; housework and logistical responsibilities; displacement of sexual life; the loss of interest in the other; the clash due to different visions of parenting and the times and energies assigned to each one’s model… are some of the conflicts that I see the most in consultation and all of them are based on ignorance of the needs of both the mother and the baby” .

Despite the discomforts that many men present in their transition to fatherhood, the reality is that few men come and demand help in this vital stage. “The deep-rooted gender patterns mean that we do not want to see, that we become scarcely aware of the problem and that, despite the appearance of symptoms on many occasions, we resist opening our Pandora’s box, our particular emotional universe, often loaded with difficulties that hinder our access to paternity”, says David Seguí.

The same points out De Domingo, who points out that many come to the consultation encouraged by their partners or due to some conflict (work, relationship, relationship, with children or physical limitation) that has gone from the private to the public and now can’t hide anymore. The psychologist recalls that it is important to integrate a perinatal perspective into this support that takes into account the knowledge of the physical, emotional and mental needs of mother and child in the first moments: “Professionals who accompany parents must focus on the needs of the baby from the point of view of the baby and not from that of the socialized adult, which is what fathers, mothers and professionals bring with the bias of each one’s culture. The baby’s manual exists, but it requires reading it with perinatal glasses”.

Beyond psychoeducation

There is often talk of educating parents to care. It’s enough? For Seguí, a psychoeducational vision, without more, is doomed to failure: “Often we find ourselves with an instructive or educational vision, as if it were a matter related to guidelines transmitted from one to another, from experts in new masculinities who talk to us about how to be a good father or how to exercise positive parenting”. For this expert, the issue is much more complex and appealing only to personal aspects, lack of skills or knowledge, is far from long-term solutions and as a society as a whole.

In this sense, Seguí believes that it is necessary at a political level to put care and reproduction at the center, giving them the value they deserve and without subordinating them to the productive-capitalist world. “We need practical and real changes in labor and economic matters, with concrete strategies and programs that allow and enable true co-responsibility in care,” he says. Likewise, he sees it as essential to take care of the messages that socialization agents convey to children, especially those that come to us from the family and educational spheres: “Creating a more just society that leads men to approach care involves ceasing to perpetuate a sexist and divisive vision of the human being. In addition, language, advertising, the media and information, children’s publishers, textbooks, the world of textiles… should transmit other types of messages, non-sexist codes and norms”.

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