Welcome to the scary and exciting new world of parenthood! As a new dad, you most likely have some concerns about your roles and responsibilities for this weird little life form you’ve welcomed into the world. In times of doubt, look for advice from those who have gone before you. Here are a few standard tips for the first time dad.
Be Knowledgeable and Ready . . .
In times of fear and doubt, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by everything you feel you don’t know. And while it may seem like a monumental task, the best way to get yourself prepared for the road ahead is to know what to expect. Knowledge is one of the best tools against feeling a loss of control in any situation. Here are a few things to read up on that might help you feel a sense of understanding and as a result, a sense of calm:
- Know what changes your wife should expect in her body. Throughout her pregnancy, her body will be producing hormones at different quantities, and the strain on her body and mind can be overwhelming. While a month of morning sickness or four months of grumpiness may seem like a lot, it’s just a blip in the grand scheme of your relationship. Understand what she’s going through to help her through it and to help you find some sense of understanding.
- Know what’s going on at every stage of the process. Read up on the different markers of pregnancy and the first months after birth so you and your wife can share in the excitement of the first time the baby kicks and other significant milestones.
- Do some reading on the experiences of other couples. Pregnancy and parenthood can take a big toll on your relationship as things change and shift with your new found shared responsibility. Learn how others handled the stress of change, and talk with those you trust about your fears in this regard.
- Know about the possible complications that can occur, but keep your cool by recognizing how infrequent most of these complications are. Have a plan of attack in the event of an emergency, and talk with your partner about all of your options before you have to make any big decisions.
. . . But Cut Yourself Some Slack
Everyone knows that it’s hard being a first time parent, so don’t beat yourself up when you goof. No one expects you to get it exactly right the first time, so while you may feel like you’ve made a huge mistake at times, remind yourself that the human species has persisted through many such generations of first-time parents making first-time parent mistakes.
Be a Partner and a Father
Especially if you were raised in the kind of family where Mom was parent number one and Dad was a backup parent, it can be easy to fall into that same kind of pattern. Don’t let yourself be that kind of parent or that kind of husband. Nothing puts as much strain on a marriage as the feeling that one person is doing all of the work. Support the mother of your child and make a plan in advance for how you will share responsibilities. Give her comfort by showing her, before the baby arrives, that you have her back by talking with her about your plans for delivery, your emergency plans, and your vision of how you will handle the first few months together. Go to the store to buy diapers, take over some house cleaning while she and the baby nap, and cook her a nice dinner if you can find the time.
Once the baby has arrived, you will both be focusing all of your energy on him or her. But if you’ve shared responsibilities in an effective way, you will hopefully leave yourself enough time to also focus on your relationship. Give her little reminders that you love her as a person and now, even more, as a mother by giving her little surprises like love notes around the house and chocolate covered strawberries to indulge her sweet tooth.
As a father, you’re not experiencing any of the mood-controlling pregnancy hormones, which may mean that you won’t have that immediate sense of bonding that the mother will experience with childbirth. However, for most dads, all of those feelings of fear and doubt wash away as soon as you see your baby for the first time. In this time of confusion, remember that endless numbers of new dads have done it before you; some of them were probably even more clueless than you were. Parenting is all about trial and error – in times of doubt, go with your gut and learn from your mistakes and experiences.