Are you a dad to be or do you know a dad to be? If so this post may help by providing advice on what to expect when the little one finally arrives. Of course every experience is unique, though some things are universal.
On the 22nd of February 2012 my little girl will be one year old. It is amazing how fast that time has gone. Thinking back to this time last year, I was trying to understand what my life would be like when I became a father. I wasn’t so much scared about her arrival, just anxious. I liked my pre-baby life. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to be a dad, I was just anxious because I didn’t know what to expect.
There are countless books and websites dedicated to mothers to be. Mothers surround pregnant women and provide advice, reassurance and tips. Hell with baby showers there is even social occasions designed specifically for the purpose of readying women for motherhood.
Leaving aside ante-natal courses (two full days of lessons) men are largely thrown into fatherhood without much guidance. Not to say this isn’t our own fault. We could read the same books our partners do. We could talk to other fathers or start our own online fathers’ forums. And in some cases men do, but on the whole we don’t. As such I thought I would do my bit and write down a few words on what to expect when you become a father. Read them with a grain of salt. My experience may not be the same as your own, but hopefully some of it will be helpful.
Eight things to expect when you become a father and some advice
You will get a hell of a lot less sleep when you become a father – sorry. The first three months will likely involve a crying baby waking for feeds every two to three hours. Their small stomach and the lack of food it can hold is the reason. It gets slightly better after three months, but at 12 months my partner and I typically find ourselves waking at least once a night ahead of a six o’clock start to the day.
At times this lack of sleep will be hard. It may impact your concentration at work and severely impacts your ability to be hungover. If you are working and you partner isn’t, it might make sense to try and use ear plugs or other sleep supports to help you sleep through the constant wake ups. I’m not suggesting that a waking child is not your problem, but there is no point you both always being awake every two hours, especially if you’re expected to function normally at work in the morning.
During daylight hours try to sleep when your baby does to catch up, but on the whole be prepared to get less sleep. The good news is your body does seem to adapt to less shut eye.
No “unplanned” spontaneity…
When planning needs to take into account sleep times, meal times and the packing of nappy bags, planning on the fly, sadly is not an option. At the six month point my mates realised that calling me at 5.30pm on a Saturday afternoon for an impromptu surf was usually a lost cause. If it isn’t booked in a week in advance or part of the planned schedule it is not likely to happen.
That isn’t to say time with your mates or doing the things you love should cease completely. You will just have to be more regimented about planning it in and accept you may be doing less of it.
Having a baby can be very expensive. Prams (buggies), nappies, doctors’ bills and day-care quickly eats into your pay packet. Can you believe that some prams can cost $2,000 (needless to say we resisted these ones)! On the flip side, you won’t be spending as much on big nights out or dinner at fancy restaurants.
A lot of this you just have to cop, there is simply no way around it. My only advice is to think carefully about what your child really needs. A six month old won’t notice if it isn’t dressed in the latest designer wear, or has this season’s pram (yes there are this season’s prams).
When considering big purchases, check some of the baby forums with your partner. There are always tips and suggestions on cheaper options and also advice when spending the big bucks is worthwhile. Second hand is also worth considering. There are so many things available that have hardly been used and in many cases are just as good as brand new items that cost many times more.
Some toys can be beneficial for your child’s development. Having said that, having 50 toys does not mean they develop 50 times faster.
The more garish its colour scheme, gargantuan its size and repetitive its American accented singing does not guarantee it being more useful or even a hit with your baby.
That being said, a house filled with toys will be normal. In my experience toys, especially stuffed toys, seem to multiply of their own accord. Don’t go crazy buying too many toys for your baby. Others will do that for you. Also don’t feel like Fisher Price is the only people that can make toys. A lanyard from a trade conference, a Berocca tube filled with uncooked pasta and an old wooden spoon are some of my little girl’s favourite toys. They are also some of the most popular toys with her little friends at her weekly mother’s group sessions.
Your relationship with your baby:
The reality is that in the first 12 months your baby will need your partner much more than it does you. The time spent in her womb; the fact most mothers take maternity leave; and the feeding process are powerful bonding experiences. It can be hard not to envy the closeness between mother and child.
So as to create special times for me and my girl, my partner and I decided that I would be responsible for giving her a bath. Through the first 12 months there have only been a handful of times when I haven’t been the one to bathe our baby. I have made a special effort to ensure I am always available and relish the time we spend together.
However you do it, I highly recommend finding something that you and your baby can share exclusively. It might be bathing like me, a long walk on Saturday morning or the reading of a book before bed. Be regimented about it and you will be surprised how much you both enjoy it.
There exists a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. After the birth of your baby you are likely to spend a lot more time with your parents. This may or may not be a good thing depending on your relationship.
For me it has been amazing. My parents and parents in law have been invaluable when it comes to baby-sitting, advice and being on hand to help when things get too much. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help. They will likely relish the time with their grandchild and are only too happy to help out.
Relationship with your partner:
You will no longer be the most important person in your partner’s life and your needs and desires will come after those of your baby. This combined with sleep deprivation and the stress of new parenthood can drastically alter your relationship.
Take advantage of those grandparents, close friends, or even a paid baby-sitter every now and then and spend some quality time together child free. A healthy relationship with your partner will have a positive impact on your child.
Your take on it generally:
There is not a father I have met that would trade his pre-baby life for his post baby one. Sure your life will change immeasurably, but you won’t regret it. Your new life will challenge you, it will frustrate you and it will exhaust you, but it will also introduce you to a love for your child that is unfathomable to your pre-baby self.
What do you think of my observations? Is there anything you disagree with or add to mine?