12 things dads should know about the first year of fatherhood
Gentlemen, welcome aboard Flight 232 to Dadtown. We’re expecting some turbulence, so please fasten your seatbelts and listen carefully to our pre-fatherhood announcements…
When a couple is expecting a baby, it’s ALL about the mom-to-be. People ask her how she’s feeling, what baby gear she needs, which names she’s considering, where she wants to have her baby shower, and the list goes on.
The dad-to-be might get the odd “congrats”, but nobody’s really concerned about him. So, it’s no wonder that the first year of fatherhood comes as a full-body shock to most men.
Guys, it doesn’t need to be that way. If you arm yourself with some advice and knowledge from the other side, you’ll be just fine. Here are 12 things you need to know…
You should take as much time off as you can get
You love your job, you’re an essential member of your team, and you can’t help but wonder how they’ll survive without you for three to five days when the baby comes. RED ALERT! Work will seem utterly insignificant once you’re holding a tiny human that looks exactly like you (but smells a lot better) in your arms. Take ALL the paternity leave, vacation and sick days you can muster. You only become a father once. Cuddle that kid and then cuddle it some more.
Your partner’s body will do all sorts of weird stuff
Milk will spontaneously leak from her boobs, she’ll wear diaper-sized pads for weeks, and she’ll probably look like she still has a baby in her belly for a while. She won’t feel very attractive and that might bring her down. Or she could be too sleep-deprived to care. Either way, try to give her as many hugs and compliments as you can because she needs them.
Her emotions will be wacky too
Try not to panic if she starts to sob when her freshly buttered toast lands face-down on the floor. Don’t be surprised if she gives you a death stare when you wake up refreshed after seven solid hours of sleep. The woman is exhausted, hormonal and in a mild state of shock. Make her a cup of tea and pretend it didn’t happen.
You won’t have much sex for a while
Most doctors recommend that women wait at least six weeks after childbirth before having sex to give their bodies time to heal. But don’t be surprised if you’re partner isn’t raring to go the minute she gets home from her six-week postpartum check-up. Some parts of her body might still feel tender and sore, or she might not feel emotionally ready yet. Becoming a mom is a life-altering experience and many women need time to adjust. Heck, you might not be at your randiest either. Be honest with each other about how you’re feeling, and opt for other forms of intimacy such as hugging and kissing until you’re both ready to get back in the game.
Your relationship will need more work than ever
Despite the fact that you’re too exhausted to read the takeout menu, you should still prioritize date nights (at home). Keep it simple – a nice bottle of wine and a movie, or a candlelit bubble bath. All that matters is that you spend quality time with your partner so you don’t wake up in a year wondering why there’s a wedge the size of the Grand Canyon between you.
Bonding with your kid might take a while
You’d always pictured bonding with your kid over a game of catch or the Super Bowl, but this milk-guzzling, sleep-hating little being can’t even hold its head up! Plus, it’s hard to figure out where you fit into the feed-change-play-sleep-repeat cycle, especially because the play part only lasts two minutes before the overtired protesting starts.
Try to find small moments to connect with your baby – go for a stroller walk while mama naps or play peek-a-boo while you change a dirty diaper. Don’t worry, Daddy-o, it’ll happen eventually and it’ll be awesome.
You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty
Your life will be a maelstrom of poopy diapers, pee-soaked sheets, vom-covered burp cloths and questionable stains on your clothes. You’ll have to get real comfortable with bodily fluids and nauseating smells. Oh also, you must know how to install the car seat, fold the stroller, wrap the baby carrier, and work every other piece of baby equipment like a BOSS.
Accepting help is essential
You might think you can do it all on your own, but you can’t. Accept all the help offered to you – even if it means putting up with your mother-in-law way more often than you’d like. If you can afford it, hire help. Think cleaning person, au pair, nanny, meal delivery service – every penny is worth it.
You can never say you’re tired
Because no matter how tired you are, your partner is 10,000,000 times more tired. And she might punch you in your sleep if you mention that you’re a little worn out after your Netflix marathon last night.
You can kiss your social life goodbye (at first)
Goodbye, poker night. See ya, running club. Even plans with other families constantly get cancelled. But after those first few months, you’ll need to slowly get back into your hobbies and social activities if you want to maintain a modicum of sanity. And make your partner get out too (without your baby!).
You’ll live by two new mantras
The first is “This too shall pass”. Because everything feels sooo hard when you’ve slept three broken hours and you need a reminder that things will get easier. Also because newborns go through SO many phases so quickly. You’ll soon learn not to sweat the small stuff like diaper rashes and growth spurts because they’ll be over before you know it.
The second is “Carpe diem”. You’ll start to live in the moment and appreciate small things like the beauty of a leaf blowing in the wind because your little one thinks it’s the most amazing thing they’ve ever seen.
You’ll feel a love you’ve never known
If the 11 previous points terrified the living daylights out of you, I’m glad you stuck it out till the end. Because point 12 erases all the sleepless nights, the ‘poonamis’, the tears and the arguments.
The love you will feel for your child is like no other. It’s a soul-shaking, gut-wrenching, life-altering kind of love. You would throw yourself in front of a bus for this squishy little being you’ve known for 11 seconds.
This love is pure and unconditional. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever known before and it’s the glue that holds your family together.
It’s worth it. I promise.