Stuff I wish I could have read about before becoming a father.
Let nobody tell you otherwise; being a HANDS-ON (note the emphasis) father is extremely hard work.
Almost everyone who is a responsible parent will tell you that. It’s pretty much the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But the parts that are hard are not necessarily intuitive.
First off, the poop and pee things are really not that big a deal. You’ll get used to it.
Spit up is the nice thing to call baby vomit — have I yet mentioned that babies nearly continuously vomit curdled milk?
As a father, it’s the sleep that you’ll miss. Because when you’re poorly slept, everything is actually harder and — emotionally — it feels much much harder. So you need to first and foremost optimize for sleep.
You’re going to need to head to bed a lot earlier than you’re used to. The old adage “when the kids sleep, so should you” needs to apply until you are rested enough to walk in a straight line.
This probably means lights out by 10pm because you’ll need to be up at 7am and are likely to be up a few times in the night from your wife pumping, you changing and re-swaddling the kid, etc.
As a new father, you may be up 2–3 times a night every night for a few months. Yes, the Geneva Convention considers that kind of sleep deprivation unlawful torture.
One of the most important things to understand is that kids are pretty robust. Many men panic at first holding a child, but you’ll see second-time dads master one-handed grasps with ease.
As long as you don’t try to hurt the kid and keep them from doing something obviously bad (like tumbling out of a second story window), they’ll probably be okay. If babies were delicate, you wouldn’t be here.
This insight will make you a better dad, because it enables you to jump in with gusto to help your wife and your baby instead of playing it safe, staying on the sidelines, and pissing off your wife who is already putting in a full time job amount of work just to sustain your kid.
If you want to sleep well through the night (remember the earlier parts about this being all about sleep?) you’ll want to wrap your baby real tight, and this is something you may be able to do better than your partner.
If you haven’t heard about The Five S’s then read up on it. It’s a little unintuitive that wrapping a baby very tightly will make them happy and cozy, but it’s real.
During those times when my daughters were still neonates, I get angry at the Nigerian system for refusing to entrench paternity leave into laws for establishments.
We’re one of the only countries on Earth to not guarantee parents any reasonable time off with their newborn. But if you’re lucky enough to work for a company that does offer paternity leave, you’ll want to work with your manager and HR to figure out how to make the most of it.
Most importantly, you shouldn’t let it go to waste!
The ideal seems to be taking a block of time to help with the few weeks right after the birth (the first four weeks are just a big, blurry mess honestly), a week to help ease things back in when your wife goes back to work.
Most importantly, your social profile will change a little. Out go your pals who you connected with over late night drinking competition in the city and in with the friendly couple across your flat who always looked underslept with a baby in tow. It happens.
Do your best to stay connected while you’re in “the baby cave” of the first year of life — both online and having friends come over after the kids go down. Suck it up and go to that two-year-old’s birthday party. Embrace befriending other parents over your kids. It’s okay.
Being a father is enormously satisfying but don’t be deluded, it is a thankless job but one that needs to be done responsibly in order to foster a heathier society.
Happy Fathers’ Day.