So you’re going to be a new dad and have no idea what to expect, aside from many sleepless nights. Help is on the way – in the form of daddy boot camp. No, you won’t have to do nursery army crawls or diaper bag crunches. But you will learn the basic fathering survival skills – from diaper changing and swaddling to managing a work-life balance and creating a parenting partnership.
Lance Somerfeld developed one such boot camp through his organization, NYC Dads Group, and teaches new dads about fatherhood in his three-hour parenting crash course.
His key to learning is having real babies. ‘Veteran dads’ are invited to each class; these are boot camp alum, who bring their babies to class so the expectant dads - or ‘rookies’ as they are called in boot camp - can become familiar and comfortable with young children.
Boot camp can be about dispelling the fears of new dads. The biggest fear, according to Somerfeld, is ‘will I break the baby?’ Dispelling these fears is the goal of boot camp. “At the beginning of each class, participants share their biggest fear or concern about fatherhood. The goal is to have that concern addressed before they leave,” says Somerfeld.
And although classes may be filled with dirty diapers and crying babies, Somerfeld equally focuses on the mental and emotional preparation needed for fatherhood. His biggest piece of advice for new dads: beware of the gatekeeper. This is a common occurrence with new moms who may feel and behave as if she's the only one who can properly care for the baby and she pushes others away, including dad. New dads need to hold their ground and remind mom that there's more than one right way to care for the baby and both parents have something to offer.
Somerfeld, who is a stay at home dad, created NYC Dads Group and daddy boot camp in a response to the lack of support for men compared to new moms. Similar groups are popping up nationwide as the gender roles continue to shift and more dads are becoming the primary childcare provider in the household. New dads should reach out to local organizations to find support systems in their community...and get some sleep now!