Welcome to Portraits of Fatherhood: We’re telling the story of today’s dads.
There is no better place to witness the changing roles of men and women in the larger culture than through the lens of parenthood. But rather than speculate on what and how contemporary fathers do what they do, we’d like to bring you portraits of the dads themselves. In their own words. Would you like to be interviewed for this feature? See the end of the post for details.
NAME Tanel Jappinen
HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Tartu, Estonia (Europe)
ON THE WEB www.BrandNewFather.com
NUMBER OF CHILDREN One
WORK Entrepreneur with very flexible schedule
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? How have you, or you and your partner (if you’re partnered), arranged your life/schedule to provide the daily care for your kid(s)?
Ever since my wife became pregnant we decided that she would stay home with the baby. Fortunately our country has fairly generous maternity leave policy where she will get previous year’s average monthly salary for the first 18 months of staying home with the new baby.
Although, I’m back at work right now, I was fortunate to be able to take a full month off from my work once the baby was born. This was the best thing I could have wished for. Not only did I have a chance to bond with our little one and support my wife and a full-time mommy, what I appreciate the most about it is the fact that I had a chance to build my own competence in child-rearing. Now, whenever needed I am confident that I can take care of our baby – there’s literally nothing I am not able to do… and that’s a powerful feeling. Before having our baby neither of us had prior experience, so we started from the same position and were able to learn the new skills together.
Most of the daily childrearing is done by my wife. When I’m at home, we share most of the responsibilities. For one, I would like to give her some space; secondly, after a long day at work being with baby helps me feel more relaxed and content as well!
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
I’ve read that becoming a father decreases men’s testosterone levels. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I feel that I have become “softer” than before. I’m also more tolerant, patient and more observant of others.
Usually I have been fairly reserved when it comes to showing my emotions, but I’m constantly spoiling our little girl with hugs and kisses. I believe this would have been different if we had had a boy, but who knows?!
My priorities have changed a lot. Advancing in my career had been a big part of my life for 10+ years before becoming a parent. We’re only couple of months in to this parenting gig, but I wouldn’t think twice to change my career if I felt my current one would jeopardize my time and involvement with my family.
IF PARTNERED, HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP? How often do you have sex? Is it enough? How do you communicate differently (if at all)?
We’re just starting to move back to our sex life. I don’t have much experience in after-birth sex yet, but hopes are high – I’ve heard lot of women say that sex after birth is better for them.
Other than sex, my wife and I both feel that being parents has added a new dimension to our relationship. Tough and trying times have always made us closer, so it is with the sleepless nights right now. Fortunately having a baby has some positives as well – when she’s not crying, she’s absolutely fun to be around with! There are still times when we just can’t get enough of staring at her in awe.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
The funniest thing is that becoming a father has changed some of my weaknesses into my strengths. For example, a lot of times I had been impatient with people, but now I feel like patience is one of my strengths, at home and at work. Although I do feel helpless at times when the baby is crying and nothing seems to work, so far I’ve been able to remain cool and calm.
I’d also like to think that I’m caring. We both (naturally) try to provide her with the best.
One thing that I’m hoping I will grow out of is being over-protective of our baby-girl. I started to notice that these feelings when we were in the hospital after her birth and when relatives wanted to come and see the new addition to our family. I’ve been quite hesitant letting the family and friends visit us.
IF PARTNERED, WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
Since we’ve been parents for so short time, it’s hard to point out someone’s weaknesses, but she’s more impatient that I had expected her to be when it comes to dealing with our baby.
I’ve always considered myself as detail-oriented and somewhat analytical person. When it comes to her strengths though, she’s so much more into details than me. She notices things that I don’t. For example her attentiveness has abled her to prevent diaper rash amongst many things.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
From the very beginning my biggest fear was that I would hurt my baby in some way. Just recently we’ve been discussing taking our little one to the pool. There are some infant swimming classes nearby, and supposedly it’s good for them. Apparently small infants have natural ability to hold their breath under water.
So far she has enjoyed bathing and taking showers with me. The other day we were giving her a bath, and I wanted to test things out. So I carefully let her head sink below the water level. Although she was surprised a bit, she was fine after I raised her up after a moment. I was excited, and called for my wife so she can see it too. Once she was with us I repeated the same procedure, but for some reason the baby pulled some water in and when I took her on my chest she couldn’t breathe for a second or two – that scared all of us. After the first breath she started to scream quite loud and it was very heart-breaking.
Even though my intentions had been good, I had caused her discomfort or fear on purpose. Fortunately, she did calm quickly and we decided to finish the bathing session with a soothing shower.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
Having a newborn at home is challenging – physically, emotionally and mentally. The hardest thing to adapt for me has been soothing a crying baby to sleep. Our baby’s first month was very hectic – many sleepless nights and many evenings when we just couldn’t get her to fall asleep for hours, sometimes. This tested both of our patience quite a bit. I am thankful that we could be there for one another in these tough times and use some teamwork.
One of the moments I’m most proud of from that first month and a half came when our baby-girl was about 3 weeks old. My wife was exhausted from previous night and from the day, so (since we breastfeed) during the day she pumped enough milk for the baby for the upcoming night. We had agreed to try to give her a night “off” where she could catch up with some sleep. When she went to bed I took the baby to living room in a stroller and caught up with some of my work. We ended up sleeping on the couch with the baby. I fed her couple times and changed the diaper. My wife only had to wake up once that night to pump some milk, but other than that, it was well deserved rest for her.
We’re looking for a few good dads.
IF you’d like to be interviewed for this feature, please write to Lisa Duggan at: [email protected]
Please write “Portraits of Fatherhood” in the subject line.