Dads go pro
This is no place for moms.
At the “Training Day for Dads” class at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, it’s all about the dads.
No questions are off limits. Any topic goes.
“It’s a place where they can be themselves, where guys can be guys,” said Amy Molzer of McHenry, a certified childbirth educator at Good Shepherd who created the class about five years ago.
“We try to empower them. It’s the toughest job, but it’s also the best job in the world,” she said.
After teaching classes for women for years, she realized the need for a class geared specifically toward new and expectant dads. The dads-to-be eat pizza and talk about parenthood in terms of “Pre-Season,” “Game Day” and “Post-Season.”
They learn everything from how to hold a newborn and changing diapers to becoming an involved dad. Most of all, they’re encouraged.
Dads have their days like today when they’re given their Father’s Day dues.
But dads-to-be often are overlooked in the midst of perinatal education, even though their roles aren’t any less important.
Amy knew from the start she needed dads themselves to teach the class.
“I don’t think it would be the same if it was just me,” she said.
So she approached her husband, Mark. The two have four children, 12-year-old Alex, 9-year-old Ali Grace, 4-year-old Anna and 1-year-old Elliott.
Amy wanted a dad who would serve as a good example.
“You’re going to do it, right?” she asked Mark.
He was happy to oblige and has been volunteering to teach the class ever since. Participants like it so much that they often come back as experienced dads to advise those about to enter fatherhood.
“The class works well because I’m just a dad,” he said, Elliott sitting on his lap snacking on Cheerios. “Amy’s got all the letters after her name.”
Mark said he remembered the nerves he felt when he first learned he’d be a father.
“The world tells you your life is going to change,” he said.
The sleep-deprivation, the lack of freedom, the end of your own hobbies.
Life does change, Mark tells the dads-to-be, but it’s not as bad as it might seem. You might be sleep-deprived, he said, but you look at it differently when you’re holding your baby.
“We just want to bring assurance that they’re going to be OK,” Mark said.
Many of the dads-to-be might never have even held a baby before. They were never baby-sitters.
And with the Internet and all the numerous parenting books out there, along with the well-meaning advice from family and friends, it can be overwhelming, Mark said.
It’s important to find your own way as a dad, as parents, to take time as a family, he said. Dad can be the “air traffic controller” after the baby is born, the one steering family away when need be, but also the one who’s willing to ask for help when needed.
“Enjoy the moment,” Mark tells the dads-to-be.
The couple also advises participants to remember their relationships, to go on date nights, to take time for themselves.
Sometimes, Amy and Mark’s outing to the class every several months is their date night, they said with a laugh.
Through the class, participants feel more comfortable to ask questions and voice concerns without their wives or partners present. The Molzers try to make the class as relaxed as possible. And Amy will leave the room for certain topics if needed or to make the participants feel more comfortable.
“There are a lot of questions unanswered,” Mark said. “As guys, we never ask for directions. This is just an open forum.”
“They ask for directions in this class,” Amy added.
The two talk about the role of today’s father, which has changed drastically over the years. Dads are more hands-on, equal parents.
Mark works in sales. He and Amy arrange their schedules so one of them is able to care for the kids while the other works.
Having the dad involved like that is so important, Amy said, and studies have proven it. Dads interact differently, bring something to parenting even the best moms can’t, she said. Moms might look over their shoulder, tell them that’s not the way they do it. But she tells dads-to-be they might need to respond with, “Do you want me to help or not?”
Just be involved, the Molzers advise.
“There’s always more you can do at work, but the time with these kids is so precious,” Amy said. “The rewards are huge.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a son or daughter, they need their dad.”
Being a dad has taught Mark to be more patient and understanding. There are days when he and his wife simply pass in the driveway, challenging days, but he said as tears welled in his eyes, “I wouldn’t change my life for anything.”