With all the information on pregnancy, kids, and parenting, I noticed the lack of information geared towards fathers specifically. I decided to gather a few of my co-workers who are either fathers or soon-to-be fathers, to talk about their experiences and create a comprehensive* list of the do’s, dont’s, and what’s? of fatherhood. Think of this as a father’s guide to fatherhood.
*This list is not actually comprehensive.
-Know your due date
Really, it’s pretty important. I realized that this had to be a “do” when I asked one of the guys when the baby was due and he took about 10 seconds too long to answer. Know when the baby is supposed to come, pack the hospital bag, make sure you have what you need (and nothing you don’t).
Each one of the guys said this multiple times talking about different things. Have patience with your wife, have patience with your kid, and have patience with yourself. If you have any patience left over, lend some of it to the in-laws.
-Prepare to realize some things aren’t important
You missed your TV show this week? You’re not having what you wanted for dinner? After you have kids, you realize what are the really important things in life (hint: it’s your kids). Accept that your night out with the boys may not seem so important anymore, and that’s OK.
-Create as much space as you can
Toys. Everywhere. You don’t know how much space this creature needs until you have it. Make as much space as you can and prepare to continue to clear out more as time goes on. The kid will eventually have more space than you in the house-learn to be OK with it.
-Sleep while you can, seriously.
You won’t be sleeping in, or through the night, for a few years. Enjoy snoozing on the weekend before the baby comes, and then get whatever sleep you can catch once they’ve finally arrived.
-Keep in mind that everyone is different and has their own experience
You’ll be hearing a lot of people talking about how much your life will change, because they used to do x and they don’t anymore. For your friend, that may be true, but you will have a different experience than your friends, or than anyone else in the world, because each child and family is different. It’s true that, perhaps, the guy that used to go climb mountains on the weekend won’t be able to do that, or your buddy who goes out every weekend now has to stay home with the baby…But if, for example, you’ve always been a fan of putting a movie on the TV and staying in for the night, things might not change so much.
There will, of course, be changes, but don’t take other people’s experiences as fact.
For most of the first two years of your child’s life, you will be carrying them. Babies get heavy, and sometimes that airplane maneuver you try to do can be more difficult than you expected. While you’re not carrying the child inside you, you’ll certainly be carrying it later. Prepare your body for carrying this extra weight.
–Take care of logistics
We’ll touch on this more below, but you’re in charge of logistics. Are you going away for the weekend (or even just to the store)? Make sure the carseat is in the car, make sure you have what you need: snacks, toys, baby. Find the best route to get where you’re going. Your job is to make the trip as easy as possible.
–Have some common sense
This is obvious, because it’s common sense. If someone is telling you to do something for your baby that they’re not ready for, don’t do it. For example, if people tell you to let your baby cry and you see that it’s too early, don’t listen to them. If the baby is crying and you don’t know why, go through the checklist: food, diaper, sleep, pacifier, emergency room. A young baby will never cry just because.
–Say goodbye to nice things
This goes back to patience, too. Things will fall, break, and get ruined. If you think your expensive x (picture, baseball, sentimental something) might have a chance of getting broken or ruined, put it in a safe place until you’re sure your kid won’t break it (best wait until they’re in college).
-Enjoy every second with your child from day 1
This one pull at the heart strings, but it’s true. You’ll be hearing a lot of advice, and people telling you they know better, but your job is to love your kid with your whole heart.
–Try to understand your wife, just listen to her
You don’t need to know why she insists the your kid eat his yogurt before the banana, but since it doesn’t really matter, give the kid his yogurt first. This is also the case for some things during pregnancy, like crying because she doesn’t want to eat her lunch. Listen to her, but don’t try to understand it.
–Laugh when your son calls your expectant wife the F word (fat)
This doesn’t require any explanation.
–Fight about the little things
This also goes back to the first don’t. If you were to fight with your wife about every little thing, like giving your kid a banana before the yogurt, you’ll never stop. If it’s not endangering anyone, let it slide.
–Listen when your friends try to tell you how it WILL be
This also goes back to one of the do’s, but because the guys mentioned it multiple times, I feel like I can say it twice. Everyone is different. Maybe your friend’s baby has to be held all the time and yours is happy to hang out and sleep at a BBQ.
–Let anyone take your place
Especially right after birth. There will be new grandparents around who know everything and want to help (and you really should let them help), but you are your child’s father, and don’t let anyone try to take that from you. You are as much your child’s parent as your wife. Never let another parent, teacher, or doctor keep you from important events. The guys I talked to said they get weird looks when they pick their children up from school. If that’s the case, don’t let it bother you- your kid is your #1 priority.
–Waste a single day with your children
Maybe you have a fight with your wife or your tied up at work…whatever the reason, don’t ever let it keep you from spending time with your kids. Yes, you have to work, and you might have to put in some extra time to make things work at home, but always, always take the chance to spend those extra 10 minutes with your kid. They really do grow up fast!
–Make things more difficult than it has to be: don’t buy so many things that you won’t need
Baby’s seem to require lots of stuff. The crib and the bassinet and the changing table and the bath tub and the playpen…the list goes on. Get the essentials- diapers, some plain onesies, and a bassinet. They won’t be sleeping in their own room/crib for a while, so don’t go out right away and buy everything at once. If you need that all-in-one changing table, fine, but you’ll probably end up changing your baby on the couch, floor, kitchen counter, table, etc. before walking all the way to the baby’s changing table. Think smarter, not harder.
–Pay attention to the advice that you don’t want to
“So much of the advice I didn’t ask for and was so stupid, I honestly just let it go in one ear and out the other”. This is a good idea. You’ll get some terrible advice. You can smile and say “OK” and then completely forget about it. Common sense.
If you freak out every time your toddler falls, your child will freak out every time they fall. Do your best to stay calm… how you react to these situations will directly affect how your children react to these accidents and problems in the future.
-At the end of the day, you have to trust yourself to know what’s best for your child
You and your wife are your child’s biggest advocates and ultimately know what’s best for them. Trust yourselves to do the right thing.
–Work with your partner
Yes, the job can be done alone, but if you have a partner there then work together. Be a team, help each other out, and lean on each other when it gets hard. At the end of the day, you’re going to be there together to laugh about what baby did earlier that day, or cry from exhaustion, but you’ll do it together.
–You will not understand how you could love something so much. Don’t try to understand it, just accept it and love your kid.