5 Tips for New Dads

The birth of my first child was nothing like the movies. My wife’s water breaking was the first surprise. Before that moment, I imagined a water balloon popping requiring some cleanup. I didn’t anticipate it being like a running faucet. That was the moment I realized that I probably should have read the books. Well, at least I knew that when the water breaks, it’s time to rush to the hospital. Nope. After calling the doctor, they told us to wait an hour. Next, I was sure that upon arriving at the hospital, our baby would be delivered in one to two hours. I didn’t consider the more than 24 hours of agonizing labor my wife would go through culminating in a C-section. I also never imagined my sweet and patient wife telling me I was “unhelpful” and didn’t “know anything” when I tried to encourage her and tell her she was getting closer. She was correct on both accounts.

When we finally headed into the operating room, I realized the depth of what was about to happen. Someone was going to be dependent on me for the rest of my life. That’s when I became flooded with fear and panic. The moment my son was born, I didn’t feel a sense of wonder or deep emotion. I felt inadequate. Becoming a father is disorienting. It’s like the ground underneath you shifts requiring significant adjustment. As I look back, there are a couple of things I wish I knew at the time. Here are 5 tips for new dads.

1. Relax, You’re a Baby Too

There’s a saying that when you first have a baby, you are a baby as a parent. I remember feeling pressure because I had no idea what I was doing. If I did the wrong thing, I was going to mess this little person up. I thought I should have a well thought out parenting philosophy and plan. If you are feeling that then stop. Yes, there are good and bad approaches to parenting. You’ll learn those. And yes, what you do will have an impact on your child. You’ll never feel like you have this thing down and that’s good. However, you’ll get more of a handle on it as you love your child, as you get to know them, and as you invest in them. Give yourself some grace and relax. This is just the beginning of an amazing ride.

There’s a saying that when you first have a baby, you are a baby as a parent.

2. Start Letting Go

For a good amount of time you have been in control of your life. If and when you got married, you had to let go of some sense of control. This is a whole new level of intensity and the faster you let go of control, the better you’ll be. Your life is about to become a complete mess. Embrace the crazy.

3. Everyone is Unique

Be a student of your child. While there are a lot of parenting best practices out there it doesn’t mean those techniques work in all cases. Everyone is made profoundly different. That is one of the beautiful things about each of us and your child(ren).

4. Find a Routine

A part from injury or sickness, there are three main reasons a baby cries: It’s need for sleep, to be cleaned or fed. The baby will decide when diapers need to be changed, but you can be proactive in setting up an eating and sleeping routine. Really it’s more for you than them. It will give your life much more structure which will give you more opportunity to rest.

5. Get Your Sleep

Speaking of rest, get as much sleep as you can. There’s no reason why both of you need to be up at 3 a.m. tending to the baby or getting up at the crack of dawn. Take turns giving one another the gift of sleep. You’re about to realize what a gift it truly is.

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What can I do to help you?”