Congrats! You’re a Dad. Now What?
My Perspective On Being A New Dad
The first time you lay eyes on your new son or daughter, you will feel excited, overwhelming love, pride (you helped make this little miracle) and TERRIFIED all at the same time. This is the moment when a new dad gets hit with a jolt of reality – yup, this is really happening. For whatever reason, perhaps because there was a job to do, all of the time spent leading up to this moment, whether it was setting up the nursery, assembling a crib or trying to install a car seat – it didn’t prepare you for this moment. Relax, this is completely normal.
However, the “normal” you were used to is nothing like the new normal you are about to experience. No matter how many books or articles you read, or how many parenting videos you watch on YouTube, being a parent for the first time is on-the-job training.
To my friends who are planners and live their life by a calendar and time schedules this will take some adjustment. Baby is in charge and each day is unique. You need to learn to roll with the punches.
Things rarely go according to plan – because you can’t predict how your baby will behave. Some are great sleepers, falling into a routine right away. Some are still waking up every night when they are three years old! Some babies start breast-feeding right away; others may struggle latching on. All of this is okay and perfectly normal. The key piece of advice is to be flexible and do what you can to parent your baby and support your partner.
Dads Are More Involved Than Ever (Willingly)
Seeing dads pushing strollers and walking around with diaper bags has become commonplace. Dads are no longer solely the breadwinners and financial providers for the family. Dads change diapers, make bottles, and shop for baby clothes, too. And, guess what? You do it willingly because being a father is awesome.
Many dads stay at home so mom can work. Dads work from home to help out with the baby, and many others take paternity leave. Parenting is a partnership, and today’s dads are breaking out of traditional gender roles, stepping up and focusing on being great parents.
Being a dad has become somewhat of a badge of honor. Dads are also banding together and taking an active role in parenting issues, changing the way society views dads. There is an increasing number of dad support groups popping up, designed to provide support for dads who have questions, need advice, or are looking for assistance. And believe us, there will be countless situations where you will be searching for advice.
For example, a local group in London, Ontario, Dad Club London, is fighting for the right to get change tables installed in men’s washrooms.
Dads Are Not Babysitters – They Are Parents!
A word of advice. Dads – when watching your baby, expect others to ask if you are babysitting while mom is out. Take a deep breath, most people mean no harm by the comment. They will ask if you will be okay being alone with the baby. This can be frustrating! You are just as much of a parent as mom, but the stigma of dad not knowing how to take care of the baby still exists. People still assume that all hell will break loose once dad is in charge – even though it will sometimes. But, keep this to yourself.
The New Reality
You will have to make adjustments to your lifestyle, but you probably already knew this.
No, your social life doesn’t have to disappear (even though everyone will tell you this), you don’t have to give up your friends, and you can still do the things you enjoy. You will just have to knock these things down a few notches on your list of priorities. BBQs become more family focused and the menu may switch from steak to hot dogs to accommodate the kids. But everyone will still have a great time.
The late nights, early mornings, and lack of sleep is real. Trying to operate on less sleep than you are used to requires some time to adjust. But you will adjust. Coffee helps! Lots of it.
You will question what to do and how to care for your child. This is natural. There will be poop explosions, toys everywhere, and laundry galore; you are going to be faced with all kinds of situations you have never dealt with.
You thought you took a lot of photos before? You will take so many photos and videos. Thank God for smartphones. You’ll want to capture every “first.” Your social media pages will become a shrine and never-ending gallery of baby pictures. Invest in some memory cards or cloud storage. You’ll need it.
On a serious note – you need to work on your relationship with your partner. You need some “us” time. Take people up on their offers to babysit (even if they don’t really mean it and are just saying it to be nice). Even though the focus is on the baby, you can’t lose sight of your relationship. In addition to being a father, you are still a husband and partner. You will need to wear many hats to make it all work.
Perhaps the best change is that you will look forward to family time more than ever. Whether it’s going for walks in the park, story time before bed, bath time, and just sitting back and watching your new baby grow and take developmental leaps, you will find new joy everyday. Your baby will do things that will make you smile and laugh all the time. They will also do things that will make you cringe, but it’s part of the gig.
Snuggling with your little one is one of the best feelings in the world. Do it as much as you can. They grow up fast!
A Final Word of Advice
The good news is that being a father will get easier. Even if you struggle to bond with the baby initially or feel as though you are not a “natural,” caring for your child will become second nature. You will become more confident as a parent, you will get used to the new schedule, and you will develop a routine that works for your family.
Being a dad is a lot of work, and there will be challenging times, but seeing your child grow in front of your eyes is more than worth the effort.