Unsolicited Advice For New Fathers
Expectant dad? Outstanding!
It’s exciting waiting for your kid to arrive. I fondly remember talking about “Baby Jack” with my wife. I remember the anticipation as a young-ish man, waiting for my child to get here.
Two of my friends are expecting kids to pop soon. And so, I figured I’d write “the advice I wish I had,” when I was a younger man. Five ideas.
The Early Days Are Hard (And Temporary)
The first 9–10 months are brutal for dads. The relationship becomes way more about the baby. There was no baby before.
There is vastly less sex. There was at least SOME sex because that’s why the baby was here.
The baby may not like you that much, especially if your wife is breastfeeding.
Sleep can be rough. (It was for one of ours, and not for the other).
All of that is temporary. All of that comes back. Realize that it’s a season and not a life sentence. It feels like a life sentence when you’re in it. But when you’re on the other side of it…you’ll wish you’d done it better.
Boredom is (a big) Part of This Gig. Embrace it.
A lot of parenting is easy. It’s feeding and changing. It’s holding. It’s keeping an infant content as best as you can. It’s repetitive.
Change one diaper, you change 1,000. Each task is easy. But the accumulated mental strain wears you out.
A child isn’t nearly as stimulating as a movie, or a happy hour, or your phone.
Embrace the boredom. Use it as a type of meditation, a way to get out of your own head.
Be Kind To Your Partner. On purpose. Even When She…
Listen, your wife is going to be…well…different… then she was. You gotta be kind. Right now. Even when it’s harder. Even if she doesn’t make it as easy as she used to.
I’m not talking about being permanently whipped.
I’m talking about investing 10 months per kid into a good partnership that will last your whole lifetime.
My wife is great. Kind. Sweet. Sexy. All of those things. But she was…less of all of that when she had her first kid. Fluid was leaking out of more places than normal. She was always being touched. She took less time to get mad because I’m a better target than a kid.
Her baseline stress was up.
So…I didn’t handle any of this well. Because I didn’t want this to be the new “normal” for me. So I’d push back when it would have cost me next to nothing to be kinder.
Realize that the “new” parenting part of the experience is a pretty brief season. After about 6 months, it gets markedly better every month. So any kindness that you can invest during this time will be well rewarded.
Relieve Your Partner Without Expectation of Reward
Get proactive about this one. She’s gonna need a break. Put that in your calendar every week.
It could be mundane like “going to the grocery store without having to deal with lugging a car seat.” It could be “getting nails done,” or “spending a weekend out of dodge.” But whatever it is, it’s the least you can do. Make sure that every 10 days or so she gets 12 hours away from the kid.
I was afraid to watch the kid alone. Afraid that he’d never stop crying. I felt like “she owed me one” if I watched our child. But…if she’s my partner, she deserves relief, self-care, a few hours to laugh, a stiff drink.
Another word: You don’t want to outsource this (assuming she’s not) because the idea here is that you’re suffering alongside her. It’s sorta symbolic, but you don’t get the same credit for your inlaws watching the kid. You gotta do it yourself. You’re part of the team, if only for a little while.
Don’t seek a pat on the back, recognition or even a “thank you” for this shit.
The First Kid is not the time for a career change, new work project or “launch”.
You will seek stimulation everywhere because parenting an infant is dead boring. That makes it hard. And you’re dead stressed. Give it till the kid is 9–10 months before you make any massive changes in your career because you’ll have a better sense of what the “new normal” is.
Have it in your mind that you’ll take 6 months to grind at work, and then 3 months to establish a new routine, and then you can make the move you wanted to make.
You gotta be at home. You gotta be around, and you gotta be good to your wife during this time. You’re on duty. And you won’t accumulate debt if you do this part right.
There’s other “standard” advice you hear and it’s good. Bond, spend 1:1 time with the kid, go on dates. But I haven’t seen anyone spell out these ideas before, and I always wish I had ‘em.
But the biggest thing to internalize is that this is TEMPORARY.
I got all of this mostly wrong. I had no idea what to expect. So, I was a jerk to my awesome wife during this because I thought that this would be eternal.
So do a better job than I did, and keep in mind it’s a grind that doesn’t always pay off.