My husband doesn’t want to be a dad

Dear Mr. Dad: I just found out I’m pregnant and my husband is not looking forward to being a dad. The pregnancy was unplanned and he doesn’t see any positive sides to the situation. How do I get him to be more involved in the pregnancy and beyond?

A: For some odd reason, people assume that as soon as the news of the pregnancy is announced, we instantly and happily snap into “mommy” and “daddy” mode. But it’s rarely that simple in real life. Changing from couple to parents isn’t an easy or natural transition for everyone. Some of us morph into perfect parents overnight, while for others, getting comfortable with being a parent takes a long, long time.

Although it’s possible that your husband really isn’t interested in becoming a father, I think it’s more likely that he’s just nervous about impeding fatherhood and has no idea what’s really expected of him. After all, his life—like yours—is about to change drastically and forever. (Think back to all the unexpected and unplanned events that have ever occurred in your life. Did you always embrace those changes immediately and eagerly, or did you have doubts, second thoughts, and fears about the unknown and the unpredictable aspects of the situation?)

Given that your pregnancy was unplanned, it’s likely that your husband has conflicting, confusing, and ambivalent feelings about becoming a father, especially if he’s very young, financially insecure, or just getting started in his career. He probably needs time to accept the changes, adjust to them, and then refocus his life’s goals to fit with the new reality.

Even those who look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of a baby often have many fears and concerns about the new responsibilities. We may be asking ourselves: “How is the child going to change my life?” “Am I up to the task?” “How do I make sure I am a good parent?” “Can we afford this?” “Are we out of our minds?”

Chances are your husband is asking some of the same questions. That’s why it’s very important that the two of you sit down and talk about any and all unresolved issues. Discuss your mutual concerns and try to find workable solutions whenever possible. Breaking big worries into little ones, tackling each one separately, and coming up with concrete and tangible ways to handle difficulties ahead may alleviate some of his fears (and yours as well). Of course, you probably won’t have all the answers, but at least you’ll be strategizing, planning, and facing the challenges together. Open communication and common vision are the cornerstones of good parenting.

How can you spark your husband’s interest in the impending fatherhood? There is no foolproof solution, but letting him know that you need his support and encouraging him to participate in baby-related activities is a good start. Ask him to go with you for all your OB check-ups; get his advice about decorating the nursery; discuss names; buy parenting books and magazines and read them together (my book, “The Expectant Father,” should be at the top of your list). Even if he doesn’t willingly participate, be sure to relate the details to him anyway, and keep him up to date on your and the baby’s progress.

If he still doesn’t seem ready to get involved, don’t despair. Some men just can’t relate to pregnancy and/or childbirth. But in most cases, those late bloomers turn out to be excellent fathers once they have a chance to hold their baby in their arms.