‘We change diapers!’ Meet the hands-on fathers

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Fathers are an integral part of any child’s life. While mothers protect, father’s encourage their children to push the limits.

Studies have shown that children with involved fathers have better educational outcomes and intellectual development.

According to veteran broadcast journalist Jimmi Gathu, being a dad is probably the single most important role a man can have because it relates to every aspect of their life.

Jimmi, who is father of three daughters aged 21, 13 and 8, and a grand parent to an eight month old grand-daughter, has hosted the forum, Daddy’s Talk, at the annual Baby Banda fair for the past three years. It is here that he shares with fellow men how they can be involved in their children in simple but meaningful ways.

Being a good dad, Jimmi states, means that you will raise a responsible and wholesome individual who will mirror you as an adult.

“This individual will then become a good husband, good father, good politician, good businessman, because of the values you have imparted on them,” he emphasises.

A dad should start being involved in their child’s life at the point of the pregnancy.

“Did you know a baby straight out of its mother’s womb knows the voices of the parents? Those funny sounds you make while rubbing your wife’s tummy while she is pregnant registers in the child’s brain. I’m talking from experience,” Jimmi shares.

While most men would shy from it, diaper change is actually a great time for bonding.

“The baby looks at you, hears you when you talk and begins to register what you look like and he never forgets,” adds Jimmi, who accompanied his wife for ante-natal clinics and the birth of all their children.

“I did everything, from taking my wife to clinics and managing her cravings, some of which got me out of the house late at night. I also stayed up with her when she couldn’t sleep and helped her sleep by singing or talking to the baby and bathing her. The list is endless,” he recalls passionately.

Jimmi believes that such small ways mark the beginning of lifetime bond between a parent and the child.

“The child gets to trust you and that builds onto many things, including seeking you out when in need of advice or emotional protection,” Jimmi shares, adding that this further helps the child to develop the confidence to build friendships and relationships later in life, both professionally and socially.

COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE

For the last three years that he has hosted Daddy’s Talk, Jimmi singles out communication in marriage as one of the issues that keeps cropping up.

“It is a surprise how many men have no idea how it affects everything else including sex. I’m talking about how a simple “You look nice” can translate into so many things in a marriage, and how the lack of it can almost destroy your relationship,” he explains.

“However, many men are hungry for good advice on how to fix their relationships. They do love their wives and are tired of the ‘men ego’ nonsense that they see breaking many marriages,” Jimmi states.

He advises other dad’s that Daddy’s Talk has a lot to offer in terms of lessons learnt, and more importantly, spending time with men going through or have been through similar experiences. “I encourage men, married, or soon to be, to come and hang out with us and learn,” he says.

GETTING INVOLVED

Heglon Kitawi, 36, is a father of two sons aged seven and four . He knows too well the importance of being involved in his children right from pregnancy.

“Being involved has helped my wife to settle down and influenced how our babies respond. Their immune system is boosted and this is very important for the baby. In addition, a happy mom gives birth to a happy baby,” Heglon states passionately.

From the forum, Heglon has learnt what to expect during pregnancy and how to handle the mood swings and other challenges that come with it. “As such, I have found myself more prepared,” he shares.

He describes the first three months when they were expecting their last-born, a son, as very difficult for his wife.

“She lost weight and I was always taking her to the hospital. Certain smells were nauseating to her and I often volunteered to make her meals. We had no house-help then,” he states. He adds that this gave his wife the assurance that they were together in the pregnancy.

“This was my child and it was a big thing to be involved,” he says proudly. Even more, Heglon has been present at the delivery room.

“It was during Easter. We took a long walk early morning when her water broke. I immediately took the baby bag and drove my wife to the Mater Hospital where she was admitted at 5am. She was in labour until 4pm, and I was right next to her” Heglon explains.

Unfortunately, due to the long hours of labour, the baby was under duress and an emergency Caesarean section had to be performed.

“I signed the forms and after the process, one of the doctors allowed me to see her before she was wheeled to the ward,” he adds.

Heglon was involved in expressing breast milk, changing diapers and feeding the baby.

“I was pumping and storing the milk. Even though on most evenings, I would be tired from work,” he adds. He would also bathe the baby on some evenings and his efforts have strengthened the bond between the two of them.

“She has confidence when leaving the kids with me, even though she has to leave detailed instructions,” he says. To Heglon, being involved in his children’s early days, seeing them weaned off breast milk, diapers and join pre-school, have been a bonding opportunity with his wife. “It feels like working on a project together,” states the happy dad.

It has also helped him and his sons to develop a close relationship. They can now share in his opinions and have discussions with him. Heglon’s childhood memoirs are those of a very involved and loving father.

“On weekends, my dad would go with me to construction sites and I would hang around as he worked. I saw it in my dad, but now, it is fuelled by my Christian faith,” he explains.

His job, he adds, does not involve a lot of travelling and this gives him ample time to be with his sons.

“We usually have the evenings to ourselves. But I have also realised that mornings are very important to us. I am a morning person and so are my boys. Daily routine is that we have breakfast together then I drop them at school,” he explains happily. After picking them from school in the evenings, he supervises their homework and checks the assignments diary to find out how the boys are fairing in school.

For Gitau Mwangi, being a father of three is more than the physical roles of providing for the family.

“The non-physical, which include providing assurance, a father’s love, being present and involved in my children and wife’s life is very important to me,” Gitau notes.

Gitau, 42, says that he too was pretty much prepared at the birth of his three sons aged 11 and four years, and seven months.

“Having attended Lamaze classes, I was present in the labour ward at the birth of all the three children, and I anticipated the changes that come with pregnancy,” he states. When his wife started craving for stones, says Gitau, he would head to downtown Nairobi to buy them.

“I always made it home in the evenings with some chocolates,” he recalls. To be enlightened more, he would read from the net and consult his elder brother.

MASSAGE

And when his wife suffered swollen feet and lower back pain, Gitau would give her massage and if need be, accompany her for antenatal visits. “It was a very special moment for both of us,” he says happily.

As a pharmacist, Gitau has a busy schedule, but he always finds time to bond with his children.

“I try to do a bit of diaper changing and I assist in feeding if it’s a bottle of milk,” he says. While his wife prepares meals for the baby, he sits and assists his older sons with homework.

A big fan of the outdoors, Gitau like to take his boys out. “My boys are rally enthusiasts and have a liking for football. This provides an opportunity for bonding and adventure,” he states.

He advises other men that it pays to be engaged in their children’s life. “You get to share with the child on any subject as they grow up. This makes it easy to introduce topics such as sex, drugs and boy-girl relationships,” Gitau shares.

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