How to be a more informed and balanced parent
Jesse Brooks, co-host of Dadsplaining: A Fatherhood Podcast, on lessons he learned from hosting a parenting podcast.
Two and a half years ago, I became a dad. Instead of joining daddy groups or buying mountains of books, I decided to start a podcast with my friend Brandon, also a first-time dad, Dadsplaining: A Fatherhood Podcast. Each week, we pick a topic that we’ve been dealing with as parents, do some research, and share what we’ve learned. We thought it would give us a chance to look up tips on diaper changes and sleep cycles. Instead, it’s changed our whole approach to parenting. Here’s what we’re doing differently, and what you can do to be more successful (and more sane) as a mom or dad.
First, it’s made me more informed
Almost every week since my kid was an infant, I’ve taken time to focus on a topic I know very little about, and collect information from various sources. It’s made me admit when I don’t know things, consume facts from experts, and think critically about the sources I consider. I’m now more knowledgeable about things like eating habits, sleep schedules, car seats and managing meltdowns. The next time you’re at a loss for why your kid isn’t touching his vegetables, don’t be afraid to Google it. The information is out there. Inform yourself with multiple sources. But don’t overdo it! Temper the advice you get online with your own parenting instinct. Remember, no one has all the answers.
It’s also made me more empathetic
Because I’ve learned more about the way a child’s mind works, I’m more patient with my son. If he won’t eat his vegetables, I know there’s a reason, and I know it will change in time — so I don’t stress. If he has a meltdown at bath time, I know he’s not doing it just to hurt me, so I don’t take it personally. And if he seems behind the curve in a certain developmental area, I understand that this can happen, that it’s no one’s fault, and that it can change. So I don’t worry quite so much. Children grow and change every day, and it’s not always a linear path. Often, they’re just as confused as you when they make decisions that don’t make sense. Imagine you’re living in a new place with a language you hardly speak and a body you barely know how to use. You might have a meltdown, too. Be patient. It will get better.
It’s given me more perspective and balance
The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. We’re also, to be fully transparent, really bad at following our own advice. But then again, aren’t we all? At the same time, I’ve learned to go easy on myself. True, I don’t know it all. But I’m learning, and doing a better job than I often give myself credit for. That’s another statement that’s true for all of us. Remember, no baby comes with an instruction manual. We’re all improvising and doing our best. And the mere fact that you’re thinking critically about your parenting and making an effort will pay off in the way your child sees you as they grow up. You’re doing better than you think.
But most importantly, it’s made me more open
As a guy, society hasn’t really encouraged me to be open about my feelings, thoughts or fears. I think dads are generally expected to just bottle up their emotions, put on a brave face, and teach their kids to do the same, which isn’t healthy. Hosting a podcast has broken me out of that shell and allowed me to talk openly about everything — what excites me about my kid, what I’m insecure about as a father, my relationships with my friends and family… the good, bad, and ugly. It’s also allowed me to connect with other dads and give them a space to do the same. Don’t be afraid to talk about parenting. Find other moms and dads you can open up to. Talk about the things you enjoy, the things you’re not sure about, and the things that frustrate you. Find coworkers, neighbors, or friends online that have kids around the same age, and start parenting conversations with them. You’ll feel less alone as a parent, and more excited about even the littlest things.
We end each episode with a dad joke. So, here’s one for you:
What’s Elmo’s favorite kind of hamburger bun?
Jesse Brooks is the co-host of Dadsplaining, a weekly parenting podcast that covers topics like sleep training, marital issues, work-life balance, and how to be a more involved father. Dadsplaining can be found on apps like Spotify, Castbox and Apple Podcasts.