Just over a year ago my daughter was born. I was a brand-new and woefully unprepared father. The ensuing 12 months was a wild ride and I’m just now able to gain a bit of perspective and share some bits of wisdom with other new dads and dads-to-be.
I’m far from being the world’s most knowledgeable father, but here are a few insights I’ve gained along with stuff that’s worked for me:
You don’t know anything – and that’s OK
. No matter how many books you read (and I read a lot), nothing fully prepares you for life with a newborn. Don’t know how to change a diaper or handle a baby? Neither did I. But you learn as you go and it all somehow works out. In nature’s wisdom, babies start out with pretty simple needs and as you get new skills the baby develops new needs, so it all just rolls along.
It gets easier.
It seemed that every three months or so, life with baby got easier and easier. You get more sleep, you feel more competent, and the baby gradually becomes a bit more self-sufficient. So if you feel overwhelmed, don’t despair – it won’t always be this hard.
Who knew love would just keep growing?
I thought the baby popped out of the womb, you loved it, and that was that. I’m a guy – what did I know? Turns out your love for your child grows every single day. You can almost feel it physically growing inside of you. I’m not one to gush, that it’s pretty damn cool.
Spend the time.
With a baby there’s no such thing as “quality time.” There’s just time and you need to put it in if you’re going to develop a strong relationship with your kid. One thing that really increased my bonding was putting my daughter to bed every night. There’s nothing like having a baby on your lap and slowly rocking it to sleep to create a lasting closeness between the two of you. No matter what I was doing, I made it a priority (and still do) to be home in time to put my little girl to sleep if at all possible. It’s a routine that we both look forward to. I highly recommend it!
Try to savor the moment.
I’ll admit, it’s hard to savor the moment when you’ve been up half the night with a screaming baby who has just spit up all over you. But the first year passes by so quickly, and your child is so small and defenseless for such a short time, that it’s imperative that you try to value that time as much as you can.
Open yourself up.
This is really hard for a lot of guys, me included. As a new parent (hopefully) there’s a part of you that gets tapped into that you didn’t even know existed, or forgotten that it had. It’s hard to describe, but it’s about giving yourself over to this new human being who needs you so much. If you can find a way to open up your heart and feel all the love, that’s all you’ll ever really need to get you through.