Whether it’s in the conversations new dads are having on Reddit (like the thread that ensued from one user’s warning: “as soon as your little ones can crawl they will try and eat everything”) or in the tales from friends after they changed their first child’s diaper, there are a few consistencies underlying these discoveries that all new dads say they wish they’d known about before. So if you’re about to become a first-time dad yourself, let us prepare you (as best we can).
1. Small babies bring LOTS of accessories
The paraphernalia and equipment required for a first-born is huge. It’s like you have a clutter-loving new roommate rather than a little baby moving into your already too-small home. Imagine a pile of stuff, some of which you don’t even know what it’s actually for…now double that amount of stuff. You’re getting close to the reality of your new born’s kit.
How to prepare: Knowing your home will be soon turned upside down is the best time to de-clutter the spare room, ditch old books and clothes at a thrift store and treat every day between now and your baby’s arrival as if it’s chore day. Action taken now will minimize the disruption of a cot taking up half your bedroom and a stroller the size of a small family car blocking your hallway. You’ll be too sleep deprived in the first months of your little bundle of joy’s arrival to do any of this clearing out then. And remember…your family and friends will happily fill that empty toy box to bursting. No need to fill it yourself.
2. You’ll be sick in new and unusual ways
New dads are more often exhausted than not, and it can be hard to find time to eat regularly, let alone healthily. Food is grabbed on the go like instant fuel, which means sugar and fat win the day. Getting to the gym seems like a distant memory, and multi-tasking new dad stuff while holding down a stressful day job is overwhelming. Your immune system will be stretched, giving every germ in your office or on the subway a great shot at making you its home.
How to prepare: Stock your bathroom cabinet now with cold, flu and upset stomach cures, and build a sympathetic rapport with your boss when you inevitably need to take sick leave or risk making your co-workers ill. Learn to sleep whenever or wherever you can…now. Rest is important to a healthy immune system, and it will be in short supply.
3. The definition of stress will change
Your trusty bicycle will morph into a vehicle for carrying boxes of diapers, powdered milk and baby wipes on emergency 2 a.m. dashes to the drugstore. Your best made plans will crumble the moment your child decides it’s nap time as you’re about to leave the house for the third time that morning. Routines are your friend and your enemy. The more regimented you are, the happier your child. The more regimented you are, the more likely you are to feel trapped on an endless treadmill. Factor in lack of sleep, little or no sex with your partner and it’s no surprise new dads are often sore-headed bears.
How to prepare: Treat frustration as a learning opportunity when you’re late for work, don’t hit deadline or mess up your schedule. The more able you are cope with the inevitable feelings of frustration when things don’t go your way, the more you’ll stay calm when the going gets tough and your baby is calling the shots. When you’re feeling frustrated make your out breath out twice as long as your in breath. You will immediately start to feel calmer even while you watch the train you just missed pull away from the platform. Learning to tolerate frustration will make everyday stressors seem like child’s play.
4. Say hello to a whole new social world
Your social life will go out of the window like heat in an ice storm. Babies don’t just eat whatever is put in front of them like newspapers and all things shiny…babies eat time like a favorite box of candy. So you decide to include them in your social life. Wherever you want to go on the weekend baby comes too. Nice in theory, but some of your friends will be less than impressed, especially if they are kid-free themselves. A child in the room changes the dynamic in every situation, and some of your friends may not like having baby around, although they’ll never say as much. You’ll just feel the tense atmosphere instead.
How to prepare: Nurture friendships with other dads-to-be and look into antenatal classes. There you’ll not only learn essential stuff like how to change a diaper and feed and bathe your baby, but you’ll meet a slew of people going through the same experience. Friends with kids the same age as yours can easily become friends for life. You’ve instantly got so much in common.
5. The glue needs time to set
Bonding will happen, it just takes time. First time dads may have more distant feelings about their baby than new moms. Dads may even feel a bit useless and confused in the first few weeks. Mother and baby seem like such a tight unit. It can be hard to relate to a little human that just demands feeding, cleaning and an endless cycle of attention like a pet that can’t even fetch a ball. And what’s all that crying all about? Crying when they’ve just been fed or woken up…isn’t that meant to be their happy time? Jeez!
How to prepare: Get skin to skin with your baby as often as possible. Be there at bath time, story time and bed time. When your child is a little older, speak in simple, engaging language treating every moment as a learning opportunity for you both. Babies are sponges in the early years, constantly craving information and new skills. Be their best loving teacher and you’ll forge an unbreakable bond.