Invest in comfortable shoes … and other top tips from fellow dads.
I have a lot of friends expecting their first child this year (or, they have just had them), so I decided to crowdsource some advice for them from fellow dads I know.
Here’s what I’ve found out. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
There are plenty of books on parenting. Some of them teach you what your baby will need. Or, more accurately, what to do with them once you take them home. Some of them will tell you what the mother of your child needs. Some of them are crap and some of them you’ll read over and over, come back to and even come to rely on like an extension of the family. (Thank you, Michel!)
All of this is valuable in a way. But as my friend James said, ‘Read the books but don’t treat it as gospel — all babies work differently.’
And I also found that most of the time dads get patronised, which is really frustrating. We are treated like we will inevitably be useless (file under ‘dummies guides’) or we’ll be spending your time dealing with the inconvenience of being a dad (file under ‘survival guides’). And we are repeatedly reminded at every turn not to try and have sex with the mother of our children while they are still recovering from giving birth (ok, we get it!).
Bottom line, most dads I’ve talked to think that having kids is great. But, because parenting can be joyful and ridiculous and hard and many more things along the way, we should be better at sharing advice with each other. And whatever happens, they all throw tantrums, turn around and think we are #assholeparents sometimes.
Invest in some comfortable shoes. And, put them on once your partner goes into labour. Your job is to stand there, do as you’re told and be helpful. You’ll need them later too as you hit the streets with the stroller, pick them up, put them down and bounce. Get ready to bounce. A lot.
Birth plan — it’s just that, a plan, and you know what they say about best laid plans. Whatever happens you will have a story to tell. And if things get tough, modern medicine has advanced for a reason, you will take the best, safest, option. There’s more than 6 billion of us, no one cares how you came out.
It’s all new. And it’s surprising what comes naturally and what you find to be hard. Changing a baby? No Problem! Picking a big fat bogey from its tiny nose? Disgusting. Giving them them a bath while they are tiny? Terrifying. It might turn out that you are a swaddling ninja, it might not, but you will get the hang of things and you shouldn’t be scared to take on the (daily) challenges of taking care of the baby.
Be confident. Babies are little people. You’re building a relationship with them. Most of parenting is about following your intuition and knowing your kid. It’s not about doing things the right way, it’s about doing them your way and their way. Go with it and let them figure out things for themselves a little too.
You are in this together, make a plan on how you will now split things, everything has changed, so new set of rules from home chores, shopping, washing, etc. Talk about it and adjust to suit after the first 8wks. And then, adjust again as things get less stressful and emotional.
Home sweet home
“Oh fuck who left us in charge of a baby?!?!? Where are all the nurses” … when you come back from the hospital and you are on your own in the house with a small baby, be ready for that feeling. It does calm down pretty quickly though!
Be prepared to make decisions. The mother of your child now has to make hundreds of little decisions, all day (and night) about a thing that depends wholly on her for survival. The least you could do is take care of what’s for dinner or which park to take a walk to. [This one comes from complaints I’ve heard from the mother’s in my life too!]
Help her out! Do the nights when you can, do the washing, take bambino out for a spin in the buggy and give your other half some decent time out.
Babies have only a few cries you need to learn them as they are different
a. I am hungry. Feed me.
b. I just filled my pants and it’s now bothering me. Change me.
c. I have something not right, wind, colic, I hurt myself or distressed about some human or animal or position you put me in facing sun, bitten etc. Comfort me.
d. I just want your attention as I have worked out that crying means attention and I will learn to milk this if my parents are weak or my grandparents just deliberately showed me how self-indulgent I can be and you should follow suit. Good luck.
Always be burping. When they need burping, get into the habit of constantly rubbing their back when you’re holding them, just makes life a whole lot easier as there’s less trapped wind to deal with.
Swaddling is key to your baby sleeping well. Learn a strong swaddle or get a blanket/wrap/sleepsuit/whatever … kids are strong and they can Houdini their way out of anything. And sleep is the key to happiness. For everyone.
If you have a boy, point his penis down into the diaper. Otherwise take up karate or yoga.
Embrace singing. You’ll be singing out loud a lot more than you thought possible. Learn some songs or at least some memorable, hummable tunes, that way you can insert lyrics. You may not be Ludacris but your kid will love you for trying. Plus, they don’t have any musical taste anyway yet so you might as well control what they listen to while you can!
Pick books for your baby that you enjoy. Everything is about routine which means repetition. Pick some books that you won’t mind knowing by heart because you will be reading Every. Single. Day. Meet my new best friends — Gerald, Bruce and the pout pout fish.
Look out for number one (and it’s no longer you)
While everyone is honed in on the baby, make sure to let your significant other know just how proud of them you are. When the kiddo does make his or her first appearance in the world and your wife’s grueling nine month journey finally comes to an end, revel in her strength and accomplishment — it’s the most humbling and inspiring thing I have ever, and will ever, witness my wife doing.
Ask her how she is feeling once a day for the first week at least. Then every other day, and once a week at least after the first month. Everyone gets distracted by the new toy in the room and forgets the mother and the pain of recovery.
Make a massive deal of her first Mother’s Day. Goes without saying, but in all seriousness make it count it’s her first and only one so do something nice for her.
Never compare the difficulty of your work day to her day (if she’s at home on maternity with new born). Day to day life doesn’t change for you in the same way as it has for her. As a guy when you leave that front door for work, sport or fun with lads, everything changes for your partner.
Take on the night shift at weekends. Do this at least in the first few months, she’ll be exhausted and stepping up on the feed front over the weekend will give you massive bonus points. So offer, before she asks!
Prioritise your relationship
The founding relationship is yours and your partners. No one comes between that relationship, you are best friends, you made this kid, and together will take on the world. All other relationships should always come second, no one not even your kids will or should come between that relationship that founded everything.
Give your kids space to be who they are. Your job as parents is guidance, support and watching them work out problems themselves under your knowledge transfer. It’s amazing to see them grow up, learn things you haven’t taught them and become fun little people to hang out with. They will also fall, get frustrated or upset and you will be there for them.
Make sure you have your time together no matter how draining parenting is. Get away, surprise her with a simple takeaway and some moments together without the new addition in the same room; that’s what monitors and babysitters are for.
Present self, looking after future self
Get in shape. Stretch. Your baby is going to make you work harder than Mr. Motivator. You will also be bouncing that baby until they are too big to carry which means you should get used to saying ‘ooooohhhhffff’ when you stand up as your knees will take a hammering. On the plus side, you’ll get good value out of those comfy shoes you bought for the labor!
Find time to go for pint. Or, exercise. Or, something that gives you time to unwind too. Just not every day.
Be present. Mindfulness is a powerful tool when it comes the fledgling family. Presence allows you to see how your child is evolving so you can know when they are tired/hungry/hurting/bored/etc. Presence allows you to see how your significant other is growing as a mother and how her priorities are changing. Presence allows you to realize when you need to take a short break from it all and go for a run or grab a quick pint by yourself to slow the world down a bit. This is no easy task for anyone — hell, most of us are terrible at it without being sleep deprived. But at the end of the day, being present even for just a moment in a long day will give you reprieve from and give you appreciation for the life you are creating for yourself and your family.
P.s. your sleep is probably going to be a bit permanently fucked. Oh well.
Kids are full of germs
Colds. Runny noses. All the time. The first ones can seem like the end of the world as hacking cough wakes baby up or they manage to make themselves sick by swallowing loads of snot (lovely). And then when they are toddlers they seem to have a never-ending runny nose. Apparently it’s normal. It’s still annoying especially as you too will get everything they get.
Rashes happen. It’s wet and shitty down in that nappy. They’ll come and go. Change them often, get the cream on there and they’ll be alright.
Welcome to the google wormhole. You’ll inevitably end up searching symptoms and cures and you’ll find yourself deep in the world of family chat rooms — these are the just the worst. Invest in a good thermometer to check their temperature. If you’re worried, call or go to the doctor, they’ll tell you what to do. They’re professionals.
You’ll probably go to a&e a few times before they’re 9–12 months old. Don’t worry about it. Basically every family I know has.
And things only get more interesting when you have more …
“Who do you love most?”
“This is a question that will get asked by your children and if you’re like me… and still in love with your wife and children then you will have to diplomatic and very careful with your words.
“I love you all equally” or “I love you all in different ways” both don’t properly answer the question.
My solution is this. Find a single part of each person, a foot, an ear, even a knee. Focus your love on this and say when asked “actually i’m not that bothered with you… however your right foot….”
If you constantly remind them about the knee, ear, smile then they will keep fighting for your full affection and stop asking difficult questions.”
- My grandmother taught me this. She loved my right elbow. My brother had golden red hair and my sister a cheeky smile.
Jay Jay, father of the best middle left toe and belly button… on a 6 and 8 year old.