When I became a dad over 10 years ago, parental advice was very much coming from the mums and published experts. Dads didn’t really share advice, even though we were taking on more and more of the childcare responsibilities. It’s still much the same today, even though Stay-At-Home Dads and dad blogging is growing in popularity. Mum based advice is good, but dads need their own perspective (and it’s usually jokey), so here is my advice to brand new dads, from an older one who isn’t an expert but has been there and made the mistakes so you don’t have to.
1 – Take EVERYTHING an “expert” says with a dose of scepticism. Sure they may have some nuggets of wisdom, but all “experts” are selling themselves and an agenda. Plus, they’re not you and they’re not your family. Every child is different, as is every family situation. Trust yourself, you’re the dad. You are already better than you think (but don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it).
2 – As a Dad in health care/maternity/baby clinic settings, you WILL be patronised and ignored. It’s ok. Unfortunately, attitudes to men being the irresponsible junior partner still exist. I was once told in an official class for expectant dads that when your partner gets home she will be a bit tired as she’s just given birth and the best thing is to make her a cup of tea and not to expect sex for a few days. REALLY!! Another time a health visitor asked us if we had any questions? My wife being nervous kept forgetting questions that she wanted to ask so I would ask them. That health visitor refused to acknowledge any questions until my wife asked them and then eventually looked up, glared at me and told my wife that her bloods came back as free from any STD’s. As tempting as it is to either retreat or get angry, my advice to you would be not to rise to these patronising and outdated attitudes. Always remember that YOU are the advocate for both your wife and your child. Be firm, and if it’s important to you all, don’t back down but remain polite and courteous always.
3 – Never wing it when leaving the house. Plan, pack, check, and then do it again. Gone are the days when you can just get in a car and go. Now you need food, bottles, nappies, changes of clothing (not just for the baby but for you also – in case of “accidents”), extra spare clothing, spit clothes, chairs, care seats, buggies, and a million other things. Your car will be full to bursting of stuff for just one kid – for one little trip (don’t even get me started on going anywhere with more than one kid). You’ll always get to your destination before realising that you forgot the most vital thing (hopefully not the child). So…
4 – MAKE LISTS. You need checklists and instructional lists for everything now, especially in the first year. I bet you never realised you needed a list to make mac’n’cheese? Well you do now. You’re gonna be REALLY TIRED the first year. It’s not just mother’s that get brain fog. You will too. You’ll forget everything. It’s normal. Write it all down.
5 – Accept help. If people want to help and you need help. LET THEM!! Let grandma sit with the kid for a few hours so that you can collapse into bed and catch up on sleep.
6 – Don’t be afraid to say NO. While it’s smart to accept help, don’t be afraid to say no to visitors, trips out, or to too much advice either. You’ve got a new family. Sometimes you just need to do what’s right for you, and that could be chilling out on your own, bonding, sleeping, or crying.
7 – Look after yourself (and your partner) as well as your child. Self-care isn’t a dirty word and if you’re a wreck, your kid will pick up on it.
8 – If anyone makes comments on your house being messy or the dishes in the sink, show them the door!! Your house will not be tidy in the next decade. Learn to love the clutter. On a side note: wipes and those rechargeable hand-held vacuums are your friends. You will be constantly cleaning up.
9 – Have regular cook ups and freeze portions for later. There will be many times you are too tired or don’t have time to cook for yourself. Having portions of food that you can defrost and heat up in the microwave is a godsend. It’s tastier, cheaper, and better for you than take out (or starving).
10 – Spend as much time with your children as possible. They grow FAST.