I recently approached a collective of other Dads online with a poignant question on an area usually targeted towards Mums. My question was short and simple yet thought-provoking…’What is your best tip for a new Dad?’
The amount, quality and diversity of responses I received from around the world were amazing with numerous Dads more than happy to share their wisdom. The knowledge base ranged from personal experience to professional responses from those with a parenting, relationships or family counselling background.
Reflecting back to when I was a new parent, I really just wanted to know that I was going to be a good, understanding, caring dad, who didn’t need to ask 1000 questions constantly about parenting. I felt that I would be able to do it all but when I found that I needed help I felt it was ok to ask.
When my daughter was born, I was shit-scared to put it bluntly, and, as a first time Dad, I guess I just needed to know that I was going to be ok. That everything was going to be ok.
Two years down the track, and plenty of trial and error later, I’m pleased to say I certainly haven’t broken my child which is always a bonus. I think it was a mixture of sincere ignorance and constantly educating myself on a daily basis that kept me busy and focused enough to stop wondering how I was doing.
I know these tips would’ve been music to my ears around that time too so in no particular order, here are 18 tips to keep you on the ball as a first time Dad:
1. Enjoy the process:
There will be times when you will lose yourself in the moment with your little one – cherish it. Enjoy every minute and you will learn as you go.
2. You ARE going to be ok:
There may be times you feel totally clueless, overwhelmed and that you are completely in over your head. Stop what you are doing and take a breath, everything will be ok.
3. Look after and focus on yourself, your wife or partner and your baby:
There will be a lot going on once the baby arrives. You will be tired and trying to adjust to new routines and a new lifestyle. It will be really important to take a moment to focus on what means most in your life now. Remember to hug and kiss your wife or partner and remind her why you love her. Show her through words, touch or simply helping her with the baby or around the house. It will be important that you both remain in tune with each other and keep those love tanks full. This will then have an indirect positive affect on your baby.
4. Don’t forget to put yourself in the picture:
With so much emphasis on the new baby in your life, don’t forget to take time out to recharge your own batteries. This may be as simple as taking a little time out of your day to focus on who you are and how you now contribute and inspire your small family.
5. It is ok to be shit-scared:
When a new baby arrives on the scene, it will be a sudden, yet brand new experience for you and your wife or partner. There is no real guide book for your individual child and no matter how much good advice you receive from others, you may still feel the need to escape. The new change and those new feelings you are experiencing are normal. You do not have prior knowledge or experience being a parent so being shit-scared and uneducated in this area is natural.
6. It will be hard to let go and ask for assistance:
Remember, you do not have to be superman and try to manage everything. You will be strapped for time to look after your household, attend work and care for baby on your own. Allow others, such as relatives and close friends to help when they offer or ask for help if you are not coping. Friends and family have no issues helping out with bringing food or cooking dinner, cleaning the clothes or dishes or playing with your child whilst you shower. You will find a routine, yet those first few weeks will be too much to manage on your own.
7. Take time off work and hobbies to get to know your baby:
You’ve probably heard it before but babies turn into children then adults far too quickly. So even if only for a short time, if you can, take leave from work and suspend your other activities. Use that time to get to know your baby and ultimately better understand your role as a parent.
8. As much as you don’t want to, roll your sleeves up, grab a peg for the nose if you need to, and change that nappy (or diaper for my northern hemisphere friends):
It will be a shitty task (pun intended), but you will be the man of the house and earn super brownie points for changing a nappy full of poo. It will be especially hard when you just get home from work when all you want to do is slip your shoes off and just relax. But when you walk in the door and your wife hands you a baby and says “Change nappy please”, remember the brownie points.
9. Be patient:
Everything a baby does and how they respond is as much learning for them as it will be learning for you. Being a parent, you are learning new skills with every new event that happens in your child’s development. Babies have fairly basic needs and simple ways they interact with the world. They only know “I’m tired”, “I’m hungry”, “I am not feeling well”, “I’m thirsty” and most often express this through crying. You don’t immediately know all the signs for your baby’s needs and at times can feel frustrated. Give yourself time and count to 10 when these upset or frustrated feelings surface. Use a process of elimination starting with the basics – food, sleep or nappy as usually it will be one of these 3. You will manage and you will be ok.
10. Smile lots:
Natural happiness is a mood changer for people of all ages. So smile. **your smiling reading this sentence aren’t you**
11. Kiss your wife!:
Kiss her now. There doesn’t need to be a reason.
12. When your baby is being born, do EVERYTHING, your wife says:
The baby’s birth is a difficult and awkward time for us men. There will be obstetricians, midwives and, quite possibly, family members attending. Despite the crowd, you may feel like you’re separated from all the chaos. Do not take it personally. They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do for your wife and she needs to be in the best state, physically and mentally, to bring your child into the world. Ensure she knows that she’s safe and secure with you being there even if she may seem demanding. This is her way of asking for her immediate needs to be fulfilled. The more positive feelings your wife has, the more positive the birth.
13. Everyone will want to hold your baby:
Be the bouncer for your child. After the birth, it will be an exciting time for everyone including your family and friends. This is also a time when literally everyone may want to hold your baby. Just know that it is ok to say “No, another time maybe”. You may be feeling a little overwhelmed and just trying to soak it all in or perhaps you simply do not want everyone to hold your baby. You can suggest that the baby needs to get used to mum and dad or that it is sleep time. This will give you the time you need to bond with your new family. Perhaps ask the person if they can come back to hold your child later or at another time.
14. Encourage your wife get some sleep:
You’ll earn brownie points again for this tip. Your wife has gone through a strenuous yet amazing experience and she needs to recover. You will learn that sleep helps your baby to grow and likewise sleep will help your wife with her recovery. It is suggested that parents should sleep when the baby sleeps.
15. When help is available, take a nap:
Regular sleep will be a thing if the past and you need to recharge your batteries. So when you notice your patience running thin or you’re not coping, ask someone you trust to look after your baby even for a couple of hours so you can catch a quick nap. You will need it.
16. Ask your wife what she needs, and provide that for her. She will love you for it:
There will be so much going on in a very short period of time and your wife or partner will be experiencing all you are and then some. She will be battling fatigue, sleeplessness, coping with being a new mum and trying to remain a loving partner. So, until the new routine is established, time is super precious. By you asking and helping to fulfil her needs so that she can have a bath, a nap, or just have some time out to relax, you will be so much more appreciated.
17. Take lots of pictures, but don’t forget to be in the moment:
Having a new born around is a really exciting time and you will want every moment captured on camera. The best way is to have the camera at the ready. Saying that, be sure to experience the moment in ‘real time’ and not behind the lens of the camera all the time. Know when to shoot and when to just enjoy and capture it in your memory bank.
18. Don’t be hard on yourself:
This is probably the hardest aspect of being a new father. You will feel like you need to be everything to everyone. However, you may find you feel resentful, hurt and not appreciated if you decide to take it all on board yourself. None of us are super dads, despite what you might think. Enjoy the moments, cherish the times with your new family and be happy to hand over the reins on occasion. A burden is lightened by a burden shared by everyone.
Do you have a first time dad tip to share? Let us know in the comments below.