Monday, October 19, 2009

Dads vs partners

As childbirth educators, we all strive to use inclusive language. So for most of us, "partners" "labor support team" have replaced "dads". Every once in a while however I hear comments that fathers/dads feel their role is different than a partner. They are changing their role and becoming a father. They feel their role in the baby's life is different than someone who will not be involved in parenting this child for the next 18+ years.

How do you address this in your childbirth classes?

Thought this was a cute t-shirt:daddyscrubs


  1. The first night of class I explain that there are lots of different ways to refer to mom's primary support person: partner, dad, husband, boyfriend, significant other, labor support person, etc. etc. and that if I were to choose just one to use in class, then I would certainly upset someone who prefers the other. So I tell them I will be mixing it up in class and using a lot of them. I ask them to please be forgiving when I use any they don't like.
    And then I do mix it up and use all of them at different times.
    I find that being up front about it really diffuses the issue.
    It seems to work.

  2. I use "dads" and "birth partners" interchangeably if I have a class full of moms and dads. That is the case 90% of the time, that women are attending with their husband or boyfriend. Each dad is her birth partner.

    If I occasionally have a class with a lesbian couple, or with a grandparent attending with the mom, I'll say either "dads and partners," or "dads and grandmas," for example. Or I'll refer to them as "support people" who are learning to be good birth partners.

  3. I almost always say partner whether I am teaching a prenatal yoga class or childbirth education class. I have actually received feedback from students that were offended when we said dad or husband. I teach in NYC, so maybe there is a higher percentage of alternative lifestyles here. We have had a fair amount of single moms and lesbian couples that attend classes, so I try to be sensitive to not exclude them. I have never received feedback from a partner that wanted to be referred to as "dad".

  4. I almost exclusively teach private classes, so it is not really andissue for me (because there is only one a couple and I know whether it is husband or boyfriend or partner), but I tend to use "partner" or "birth partner" even then. I've gotten into the habit and it feels comfortable to me.

    I DO however, specifically address the transition- to-father, the role-change for men, and the role of men in the birthroom, as well as the differences in how men approach birth support compared to how women approach birth support. I feel like this is an important subject to address in my classes.

    Obviously, if I had a same-sex couple in a private class, I would leave the "journey into fatherhood" material out and would just address general role-transition and relationship changes.


  5. I teach private classes and part of my registration process is to try and define the relationship between mom and her support person. When that is clear I use dad, grandma, etc.

    As an aside, what kind of message does it send to give dads "medical" scrubs for an event that when left alone isn't a medical one? Does the promotion of cute outfits such as the daddy scrubs just reinforce that birth is a medical event, fraught with danger and best left up to the professionals who are "trained" to deal with it?

  6. Great discussion and points made!

  7. We say partners - but we are teaching in Madison, where there are lots of same-sex couples. Seems as though folks take no offense and assume the term "partner" refers to a life-partner, ie a spouse.

    Thanks for such a thought provoking post!!