Recent research confirms that:
Dads who feel that their partner encourages their involvement with the baby, also felt more positive about their relationship with their partner
Dads who are encouraged by their partner, feel better about their own parenting skills and feel they are working as a genuine team
When he is inside the maternal gate, dads who are asked by their partner to care for the baby, do not experience this as nagging but as something they feel good about
A dad who feels a strong bond with his baby does not undermine the child’s attachment to their mum. Instead, a mum who’s partner is on-board with baby care helps her avoid getting exhausted by the baby. Even short amounts of baby-free time can refresh a new mum. An open maternal gate can have great benefits for the baby.
“He’s not as good at it as I am, but he’s getting better. And they both seem to enjoy it. You should see them together, it’s hilarious! – a mum
Helping him to be an involved dad
Because the mum occupies such a central position with the baby, she may be able to assist her partner to be the dad that his child needs him to be. A good step towards this is to encourage him to be active and competent in caring for his baby. Part of this is simply arranging the dad and baby to have time by themselves together.
A dad who cares for his baby will experience changes in himself. Caring for his baby enhances his love for his child. It can create a bond that lasts their lifetime which means he is highly unlikely to abandon his child whatever may happen in the future. See section 5.5 in this review.
What an open maternal gate looks like
While mum is the gatekeeper, she can swing the gate open. An open maternal gate might mean the mum:
Letting her partner be with the baby without hovering
Talking through decisions about the baby with her partner and valuing his ideas
Reserving activities – maybe bath time, putting to bed, going for walks – as dad and baby time
Taking turns with the “chores” like changing nappies, doing the laundry, getting up in the night
Can go out without leaving a list of detailed instructions
Acknowledges the effort he makes
When he takes the toddler outside, not showing upset if they come back untidy or dirty, and letting him take responsibility for cleaning up
The downside of a closed maternal gate
A closed maternal gate affects the couple’s relationship. Dads who feel discouraged by their partner from caring for their baby, commonly feel distanced from their partner, too. A maternal gate that is not open enough, it can leads to a decline in the couple satisfaction with their relationship. Why Dads Leave is a study of how couples can fall apart if the mum re-directs all of herself to her children and forgets to pay attention to their relationship with their partner.
Fostering the nurturer in dads
All mums focus intently on their baby, it’s natural. It’s what keeps the baby safe. The intimacy between a mum and her baby is special and can be very satisfying.
Dads who are actively caring for their baby will also experience the satisfaction of that intimate relationship. A mum opening the maternal gate may result in discovering nurturing behaviour in her partner that she had never seen before.