My Advice for New Dads
It won’t be long now before the girls are fairly self-dependent and I’ll forget all about the dos and donts that got me through the initial stages of daddy-hood. Some of these were short-lived given how quickly we’d “graduated” to the next life stage. Some are techniques or should I say mantras that I hold as part of my core values and what (I hope) makes me a decent parent and more importantly an alright life partner.
As a new parent it’s important to know and accept that you likely don’t know what you are doing. I sure as hell didn’t and even though I may not have embodied the example of Buddha-like calmness in the moment, I did at times remind myself to be patient with those around me as well as with myself. When something wasn’t going well, in the wee hours of the morning with lots of interrupted sleep, I took a deep breath and thought “just gotta get through this moment”. And it’s true, the period won’t last forever, and soon you’ll get to move on and experience the next chapter in the novel of ridiculousness that is parenthood.
Tip: Take a deep breath during tough moments and support your spouse’s choices - you’re in this together!
Favor your strengths
For me specifically, my strength (at that time) was my ability to stay up late or perform on little rest. This meant I volunteered to take the 6-hour or so period after dinner to listen for crying and help with any bath or diaper-changing duties. Chances were that something was gonna happen during this “shift” and I figured I’d might as well let mommy sleep. Being new to babies, I was awful at changing diapers and never really got good at it. So we found that my ineptitude actually lead to baby getting frustrated and woken up more whenever I changed a diaper. Thus, I volunteered to change the diaper in the middle of the night to help wake baby up more and in doing so lead to a better feeding session.
Tip: Be creative on how best to make use of your strengths. One parent may be a boss at burping baby while the other a swaddling master
Although I know this is way easier said than done, knowing that you’ll need to be flexible and adapt to changes is the best way to anticipate and build on this trait. There will be tons upon tons of moments that are less-than-ideal, and to be able to navigate these and come out the other end a sane human being, it’s important to roll with the punches. Remember that the current situation won’t last forever, so neither should any of the anxieties or anger you may be feeling linger too.
Tip: Practice reflection so that you can identify moments that didn’t go so well and dissect what lead to the debacle. In turn allowing you to have a contingency plan for the next time (there will be others!)
Obey the golden rule
Simply put, treat others as you’d like to be treated. As a new parent, I often thought: “lord I could not do this on my own”. And so I was very thankful to have Adrienne as my partner. I figured what better way to show my appreciation (and thus be appreciated in return) than by anticipating her needs and contributing to the job of parenting in any way I could. Whether it was being the first to get up out of bed the moment the baby cries so as to preserve the current sleep period mom was having, or finding ways to keep the kids entertained so as to give mom peace and quiet for as long as humanly possible.
Tip: Give your partner, who’s been home all day, 10 minutes the moment you get home from work. This helps provide a much-needed reset and is very much appreciated whenever roles are reversed
Cherish the moments
I never had trouble implementing this; however, I have no doubts it may be harder for others to do in the craziness of parenting. The love you’ll have for your kids is hard to explain. Somehow these little beings now command a large chunk of your time, money, and patience and yet you can’t help but feel overwhelming love for them. Take a split second to realize how quickly they’ll grow up and picture what it’ll be like for them to be parents You’ll want to cherish the sweet moments and appreciate them that much more given their relative brevity in the scale of your lifetime.
Tip: Take the last feeding of the day. Both baby and mom could use a change if only for a couple of minutes, and those minutes are now yours with baby (aka soon-to-be toddler)