Being a dad is one of, if not the, most important jobs of your life. You, along with your partner, are responsible for the life of another human being. It is up to you to make sure they are fed, changed, cleaned, soothed, and loved. You will be their moral compass…you will be their guiding light. This beautiful baby who looks at you with awe and wonder will rely on you to teach them how to navigate this world, how to build and maintain relationships, how to be the best version of themselves they can become. With great power comes great responsibility, and there are few greater powers than being a dad.
Something incredible happens the moment you first hold your newborn child in your arms. In an instant you realize that you have never loved another human being (other than perhaps your partner) more than you love this child. All reservations and hesitations you may have felt about this life changing moment simply fall away. You know, in that moment, that your life has changed, but for the better and in a way you did not think possible. You are now a dad, and you will do everything in your power to give your child the life it deserves.
Very quickly, however, the euphoric high fades when you realize “I am responsible for another human being.” Panic sets in. Your fight or flight response takes over (hopefully you choose fight). Worries come fast and furious. Can I really do this? What if I do something wrong? What if drop him or her? How do I get the baby to stop crying? I have to change a diaper? Wait, the nurses won’t be following us home to make sure everything is ok? At this point, you are probably in full panic mode and really unsure of what you have gotten yourself into.
As a father of two wonderful boys I am here to tell you that you will be okay. Those feelings of panic are perfectly natural. You will also feel stress, exhaustion, hopelessness, and yes, even anger. The next few weeks and months of your life will be a roller-coaster of emotions, both for you and your partner. You will question your decision, you will doubt yourself, you will feel like giving up. I am here to tell you, again, that you will be okay. Say it with me: I will be okay.
So what is my advice for new dads?
Breathe. You may not believe it now, but this too shall pass. All the sleepless nights, the endless crying (yours and your baby’s), the fear and frustration of being a new parent…it will all pass. Your baby will sleep through the night. Together you will find your groove…you will learn your baby’s needs and your baby will adjust to your cues.
Laugh and Smile. Often. Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. There will be plenty of laugh about…mostly because you are exhausted and cannot tell night from day, but also because there will be moments when you realize how amazingly blessed you are to have this child in your life. Laughter and smiles can lift you and your partner through the tough moments, and will also have a wonderfully calming affect on your baby. Believe it or not, through all the cries and whines, babies like to be happy too.
Love Your Wife. With everything else going on it is easy to forget the one person who you rely on and relies on you the most: your wife. Be sure to tell her you love her. Let her know what an amazing job she is doing. No matter how tired you are, if you see your wife struggling step in and give her the support she needs. Your relationship with your new child is important, but your relationship with your wife is even more so. Now more than ever you will need each other, so take this time to forge even deeper bonds to last you through your life together.
Step Back and Take It All In. The first four weeks or so are non-stop craziness, and it may take months before you find your groove. While it will be stressful in the moment, you will find yourself months down the road saying “how did it all go by so quickly?” Be sure to spend time holding your child, staring at your child, taking in every small detail of this beautiful little child. Take photos, lots of photos, but do not spend so much time behind the camera that you miss out on the connection you should be building. Most of all, take time to really appreciate the rare and special privilege with which you have been gifted. Cherish each and every moment, the good and the bad, because life is precious and these moments are ones which you will never want to forget.
Whether you are a new dad or a dad to be, I wish you the best of luck and leave you with these quotes to reflect on:
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” – Umberto Eco
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” – Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” – Sigmund Freud
I would love to hear your stories of being a new dad, or if you are a soon to be dad, share what you most look forward to and what you are most afraid of below.