In preparing for fatherhood it’s likely that you’ll attend lots of NCT and other pre-natal classes about the practical things you’ll need to learn about parenthood. For example, you’ll be taught how to change a nappy, some basic first aid, the different feeding options and of course how to get through and survive the actual birth.
This is all well and good, everything you learn at these classes is essential to getting through the first few months but, and this is a big BUT;
no one prepares you for how you are going to feel, how to adjust to your new family setup or how to work with your partner in raising your baby.
My wife and I were very fortunate that our Church Vicar, who’s also a good friend of ours, took some time out to sit down with us and help us think through how we were going to work together to raise our Daughter. He and his wife got us to think about the expectations we had of each other and what the vision for our family looked like. We did a similar thing before our wedding which focused on the actual marriage and not just the big wedding day which can easily consume all of your time. In a marriage the real important stuff is the life you live together after the wedding, and it’s the same with having a baby; the real important stuff is the months and years after the birth.
So with that being said, I’ve reflected on 5 things that I think would really help new fathers to consider before becoming a daddy. I hope this helps in preparation for your new arrival!
1. The partnership between yourself and your partner is THE most important thing
Communication, compassion and unselfishness are all key. Having a conversation, pre-baby, about what you expect from each other; things like length of maternity/paternity leave, who’s doing the night feeds, who is doing the house work and how are you generally going to support each other through the first few months is really helpful. These are conversations that will have to be had at one point or another and it’s best to have them when you have both slept throughout the whole night! Whatever you decide is likely to change but the fact that you’ve spoken about it before hand gives you a good foundation to adapt with minimal arguments and a good understanding of where you are both coming from. In addition to this, talking about the vision for your family is also very important. When I say vision this includes things like where are you going to live, how many children will you have, what will be your parenting style as a couple and how you will split parenting duties between each other. This is the longer term vision that will help you focus your efforts towards a common goal. Look at parenting as a business, your family vision is your long-term business mission and strategy!
2. Everyone has a different experience
So don’t listen too much to people when they tell you how you are going to feel and how everything is going to happen. I wrote about the common scare mongering, usually by more experienced parents, in my previous post: Parenting, Why The Negativity
. Everyone will have a different experience; some people get really tired, some deal with sleep deprivation a lot better. Some find it hard to adapt and some take it in their stride. The most important things are preparation, like I spoke about in the first point above and a willingness to adapt. Be flexible and take what comes, don’t be stuck to a concrete way of how things are going to/supposed to happen.
3. You’ll get lots of conflicting advice on how to parent your baby
Do co-sleep, don’t co-sleep. Mix breast milk with formula, breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Give the baby water from 3 months, don’t give the baby water until 6 months. The list goes on and on and on. Conflicting advice will come from medical professionals, grandparents and friends. People will often tell you what the medical advice for the current time is, which co-incidently changes every decade or so! Also, people are likely to tell you to do what worked for them. The thing is, your baby and situation is likely to be very different to their baby and situation (even if their baby was actually you!). In our experience the best thing you can do is do what’s best for you and your family. This will involve some research, some instinct and some conversation between you and your partner. I’m not saying to not at least listen to what people have to say, often they have very valid arguments that are coming from a genuine place but it’s important to decide what YOU want to do for YOUR baby and YOUR family. At the end of the day, you are going to be the one living with the consequences of any decisions you make so you’ll want those decisions to be ones you actually made yourself.
4. You’ll re-prioritise your whole life
Well at least for the first few months! Things that were important before all of a sudden stop becoming so important. For example, getting that new upgrade on your mobile phone, getting your fortnightly trim or buying that new shirt for work. Hobbies are also likely to be put on the back burner while you adapt to your new life. The first few months for a new parent are quite a shock and you’ll need time to figure out exactly what’s going on why you run off ecstasy and adrenaline looking after your new family. I’m a big believer in finding the balance between being a parent and still being an individual so I do think it’s possible to still do a lot of the things you used to do pre-baby, it’s just finding a system which allows you to do it. For more on this, checkout my previous article: Can Fathers Have It All?
5. You’ll have a greater appreciation for women
Seeing the birthing process is a humbling experience. For all the things we go through as Men, I don’t think anything can quite compare to actually birthing another human being! All through the pregnancy journey it’s quite amazing seeing the pictures of this tiny baby growing inside your partners belly. You see if form from a fetus to something that actual resembles a human being. This is while your partners body adapts until it is eventually ready to bring a new life into the world. There were times when I’d think about the whole thing and try to understand it and it really baffled my mind. It’s one of those things you just have to accept as a miracle and be grateful. Seeing what women go through to birth a baby is really amazing and you start to understand the special bond between mother and baby starts from way before the baby is born. The experience definitely brings a new appreciation and respect for women and what they go through for their children!