"You need that time in the very beginning to understand what's happening, to help in the transition," he continues. The period he took off from work encouraged "a tremendous bond with Elizabeth and eliminated the need for the grandmothers to come and help out during the early weeks." An engineer, Jones exhorts his colleagues to take an active role with their infants as well. "I just told a guy at work, 'Take the two weeks and spend it with your family.' "
Jones and his wife, Mary Ann, both commute to New York City daily but maintain different schedules, something which works in Dad's favor. He arrives home at 6pm, an hour earlier than she, giving him and Elizabeth a nice block of time together. "We'll prepare dinner -- she likes to do the Shake and Bake -- or do some arts and crafts." A commitment like his is the cornerstone of a healthy father-child relationship, which helps to develop an emotionally stable adult.
The most involved dads view themselves as equals in parenting and feel Their wives give them space to develop their own parenting styles right from the start. Chris Jones certainly fits that bill. "Mary Ann and I are both learning together. I never felt she was more competent (as a parent)."
"Try to make whatever you do a partnership. That will lead to the most success," agrees Blumenthal, a TV/video producer living in Norwalk, Conn. "Desiree (his wife) and I are both doing our thing together." Probably the biggest deterrent for fathers who are less involved with their children is the sense that their partners are in charge of child rearing, an attitude that's clearly a holdover from earlier times. Because they feel superfluous or even ill-equipped to parent, these dads play a passive role in their children's development, to the detriment of the family.
So what if you find yourself sitting on the sidelines? Look for ways to get involved, says Mergler. If your partner is breastfeeding, says Jones, perhaps you can carry the baby to her for feedings or take over bathing and diapering. Mergler, whose children are now five and eight, recalls cuddling skin to skin with his infants to foster the bonding process. These days, he and his children cook together, play games and simply hang out. "Kids just want to spend time with their fathers," he maintains. "They're happy going to the gas station and washing the car windows or walking the dog with you."