At the time of this writing, my son is almost 2 years old. When you’re expecting your first child, you get all sorts of advice from reading material and other parents. The stuff geared towards fathers is either really obvious or dumbed-down and borderline insulting. I tried to think back to what I wish I had known or was better prepared to face. So, here you go.
1. Don’t worry, be excited, you’re going to enjoy this! Don’t listen to people who complain about how tough it is to have a baby and make negative comments like “your life is over” or “you never get to do anything for yourself.” While it definitely changes your life and limits you in ways, it is also is a great blessing and honestly a lot of fun. Spending time playing and laughing with your baby will make up for whatever baby-free activity you’ll miss. I also personally found it made me happier; able to let loose and be silly with my son and enjoy life rather than be so serious all the time.
2. Take advantage of your time before the baby arrives to do all child-proofing and any projects around the house you want to get done in the next year or so. Seriously, don’t put them off. You will likely not get to do them after baby is born. Re-decorating a room, landscaping, spring cleaning, etc. It’s not only because you’ll have less time and the baby makes it difficult to get things done, but you’ll also want to enjoy time getting to know your newborn and not stress about unfinished projects.
3. Child-proof your house. No, really child-proof it. You’ll do all the things you’re supposed to but be surprised at what your baby or toddler will get into. Your baby will explore his world and touch EVERYTHING. Don’t underestimate your baby. She will be stronger, smarter and more resourceful than you expect!
4. What to read. There are obviously a LOT of books, blogs and websites with loads of information. Yet many of them seem vague or general. My wife and I gravitated toward the blogs that were more straightforward and practical…and funny. We preferred things that sounded like a real person with experience, not a text book vibe. Read whatever grabs your interest, but in my opinion the best is Baby 411.
Baby 411 (also Toddler 411) is practical and each section is short and to the point. When you are exhausted and want to refresh your memory on feeding or sleeping tips (what is sleep again?) this will be an easy reference. A friend gave it to us for a present and we plan on doing the same for anyone we know about to have their first.
5. Listen to other parents…whose babies are only a little older than yours. Some of the best advice will come from other parents. But keep in mind that parents of older kids are onto their own challenges and won’t remember specific details about the first year. Each month you are facing something new to you. If you ask a parent of a 10 year old how many millimeters of formula to feed a 6 week old, they won’t remember. Feeding, sleep patterns, teething…all these things are generic ideas for older parents. So it’s even a more distant memory for people in the generation above you. Speaking of…
6. Generational differences. There are new laws, new health studies, etc. that your parents generation never dealt with. And their experience may have included a dad that wasn’t as involved as you plan to be.
These days fathers are more involved than ever, and there are more and more stay-at-home dads. Even among younger generations, people might have expectations based on how things were in their house growing up. Don’t let people shove you aside or ignore you. You need to learn what to do as well as bond with your baby. Family may be visiting, friends will drop by with prepared meals and visit for an hour…but soon after it will just be you and your wife dealing with this baby. You’re the father, and that is just as important as the mother.
7. Sleep will become a drug. A newborn will wake about every 3 hours to sleep. You’ll hear about this elusive “sleeping through the night…” don’t worry, it WILL happen. There were times my wife and I thought our child would never sleep more than 6 hours but soon (around month 5/6 if I remember) he will start increasing to 8, then 10 and before you know it 12 hours will be normal. Then you can actually get some sleep as well. In the meantime, take turns waking up to feed and change the baby so you both can get some decent chunks of sleep.
8. Most importantly, enjoy every moment you can. You always hear parents say their kids grow up so fast and they wish they could go back to those early years of cuddling and cuteness. This is going to be lots of fun and your baby is going to laugh, smile, play, joke around with you, wonder at the new world she is experiencing and every day is entertaining and fun. Yes, it has challenges and stressful times. But all it takes is a smile or laugh from baby and all is right in the world.