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5 New-Father Fears: How to Ease Them (Take 1)

“It’s natural for a dad to be scared stiff about money and his ability to be a good parent — and about the new competition for his wife’s attention,” says Bruce Linton, Ph.D., a family therapist in Berkeley, California, and the founder of Fathers’ Forum, which provides moral support to new and expectant dads. “The key is to cope with these fears, not be consumed by them.” Here are five of the biggest anxieties first-time fathers face — and how to ease them.

How can we afford our new baby?

“Feeling uneasy about the added cost of raising an infant isn’t neurotic — it’s an economic necessity,” says Kyle Pruett, M.D., a adviser and author of Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. Money pressures can loom even larger when a dad becomes the sole wage-earner. That’s what Ned Tobey, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, experienced after his wife, Allison, left her advertising job to take care of their baby boy, Lance. “It was nerve-racking,” Ned says. “Suddenly, what little disposable income we had went straight to disposable diapers.”

How to Deal: Don’t let financial challenges blunt the pleasures of parenthood. If the numbers aren’t adding up, do what the Tobeys did: Plot out every household expense, and set a family budget that is within your means. “We had to cut down on toys for ourselves, like a new car and a new TV, and we couldn’t travel as much,” Ned explains. “But it was a lifestyle change we really didn’t mind making.”

Will I be a good father?

New dads — who often are clueless about feeding, bathing, changing, burping, and caring for a baby until their own arrives — tend to be less confident about their ability to meet an infant’s needs than new moms. Eric Brockett panicked silently when his son, Thomas, was born. “It’s a totally new experience,” says the Upton, Massachusetts, father. “You don’t get any practice, so you have no idea how you’re going to react to all the demands of being a dad.”

How to Deal: Understand that you don’t become an expert overnight. Eric met his fear head-on, offering his wife, Rosario, long breaks on weekends so he could do some solo caregiving. The more time he spent with his infant son, the more comfortable, playful, and excited he became about parenthood. “After being together one-on-one for a while, that whole fear of the unknown went away,” he says.