Engrossment: Nature’s Gift to the Nurturing Father

I couldn’t help noticing the confident stride the young father walked into the train with his baby wrapped round his chest in a carrier. The mother followed alongside him with the stroller and all the usual peripherals in it. They sat down and enthusiastically chatted unconscious that they were actually poised in a picture-perfect ideal family snap if someone would care to take note.

Significantly, this is getting to be a common sight in the malls and trains and more importantly, I observed what scientists have noted: that fathers of babies often display an aura of “engrossment”.  It is the man’s version of his paternal instinct. This engrossment like the maternal instinct, is nature’s way to draw the father into caring and nurturing his baby.

This is a very important fact that counters a prevailing myth that men are not nurturers.  The truth is that men are often discouraged from tapping into their natural emotions for fear of being ridiculed as un-masculine, that we (as men) cut ourselves off our nurturing instincts.

Reflection pointers for fathers to consider…

  • Don’t curb your enthusiasm. Studies also show that if this engrossment is not expressed and engaged, it will die off and the father will find it so much harder to connect and bond with his child. It is therefore critical that couples should make every effort to help fathers, especially first-timers to actively engage in their “engrossment” with their newborn babies.  It makes bonding ties so much easier and natural.

Action pointers for fathers to connect…

  • Relax and trust your instincts to care, to hold, to play and to connect with your children in a nurturing way by simply allowing your feelings of engrossment, which often expresses itself as enthusiasm, to surface.
  • Place a photo of your baby/children in your office table or shelf; share your baby/children stories with colleagues and friends. The important thing is to talk about your baby to others, especially to men friends.

I believe that as more and more fathers today give themselves permission to care and nurture their babies and children at home and in public, we will strengthen our families by giving our children the two parent-nurturers they need.

By Wong Suen Kwong, Centre for Fathering