Daddy Duty

Workshop reaches out to befuddled fathers.



The doorbell is ringing, baby's diaper is dirty, and Mommy's not feeling so good. Aside from having a total meltdown, what's a new pop to do?

Some are getting guidance from the Dynamic Dads workshop, led by "coach" Eric Boyland, a husband, father, teacher, and youth minister. "We try to help these first-time dads feel less frightened," he says. "They don't know the first thing about taking care of a child -- making formula, changing a diaper -- so I coach them how to do this."

The free, three-hour workshop is sponsored by Families Matter, an outreach program under the umbrella of Christ Community Health Services on Broad Street, and held in partnership with Baptist Memorial Health Care. It's offered every other month at Baptist Women's Hospital and attracts about five new fathers each session. Sometimes "veteran" dads, or those who have attended the workshop, come with their babies and let the students practice such skills as feeding, burping, and diaper-changing,

But Boyland, also a graduate of the workshop, doesn't stop at such basics. He stresses safety factors, such as not leaving the child alone in a vehicle for any length of time. "Seconds count," he says. "You think you're just gonna run in the corner store and get something and you'll be right back out. But you can't take that chance." To help a harried father remember that his child is in the back seat, he suggests placing something near the baby's car seat that he'll need when they reach their destination. "Maybe a pair of gym shoes or cell phone or briefcase" -- anything to avert a tragedy by leaving the baby in the car, he says.

He also emphasizes being a "gatekeeper" for the mother. "When the baby's born, everybody wants to come over," says Boyland. "I tell the dad to post a list of chores on the door. The visitors may sign up for washing clothes or shopping for groceries. Or they may turn around and leave. The idea is to give the mother some rest."

The workshop addresses such serious issues as postpartum depression. "The dad will say his wife won't talk to him and ignores the child," says Boyland. "I urge him to tell her doctor so she'll get help, and we reassure the dads that this happens to some mothers." He also discusses shaken baby syndrome and suggests ways for fathers to control their anger.

On occasion, Boyland has to shatter some myths -- among them, that giving babies beer is good for them. "I tell them no, please don't do that," he says. "Another father said his grandfather told him that sitting on top of a washing machine while it's spinning would help a baby with colic," Boyland laughs. "I'd never heard that one before."

For more information on Dynamic Dads, call 260-8520 or visit their Web site at midsouthmarriages.com

 

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