The transition into parenthood is a different experience for moms and dads. While mom has a constant physical reminder of the new baby and her life has changed drastically from day one, dad might need a little more proactivity as he eases into fatherhood for the first time.
Here are 10 tips for new dads to help the transition into fatherhood a bit easier.
Make an effort to bond
While you may feel immediate love and attachment to your baby, realize that bonding and building any sort of relationship takes time and effort. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t feel an immediate or effortless bond. Be deliberate about getting to know your baby. Spend meaningful time with your baby, learning his/her sounds, movements, and preferences.
Pay attention to your wife’s needs
A woman’s body goes through so many significant changes during pregnancy. Recovery is not easy, both physically and emotionally. Although she may not admit it, she needs help. Her hormones are fluctuating, her body is healing, and she’s learning to be a new mom. Being part of a family means watching out for each other, so take time each day to make sure your wife is okay as she heals and adapts to parenthood.
Fill in the gaps
You will both probably come up short in some departments that used to be routine, like chores or self-care time. Do your best to stay positive as you adapt to a new normal. If you notice that things aren’t getting done around the house, take the initiative to do it yourself rather than complain or mourn the loss of your old routine. Change is difficult, but every change becomes a new normal with time and acceptance.
The most important thing you can do is practice patience. I say practice because it truly requires practice – trying over and over again. Sleep loss is exhausting. Taking care of a baby is demanding. Your baby isn’t going to sleep perfectly the first night you introduce sleep training. It may take several months to find a method of feeding your baby accepts. Your wife isn’t going to bounce back physically and emotionally for a while. You may fall behind in some things, and that’s okay. Be patient and gracious with yourself and your family. Believe it or not, you will look back fondly on this time of change. Embrace it.
Ask for help
It’s not cliche – it really does take a village to raise children. On those hard days where you or your wife can’t seem to keep your cool, desperately need a nap, or haven’t been to the grocery store for far too long, call for help. I guarantee you have family, friends, or neighbors who will feel honored that you called them for help and trust them in that capacity. It’s not shameful, it’s a sign of strength and it’s you doing your best to take care of your family.
Make some dad friends
Go watch the movie, “What to expect when you’re expecting,” and pay attention to the dad group who meets at the park to walk with their babies. While you might not want to adopt their specific habits, that sense of community and companionship with other dads is so valuable. Simply having someone to listen to you who understands what you’re going through, or to give your own tips to someone going through something you’ve just come out on the other side of, will help so much.
Take care of yourself
While having a new baby will mean making some sacrifices, don’t forget to take care of yourself still. It’s the airplane analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you’re falling apart it will be difficult to help your family. It may not be as often as you want, but even once a month will help you stay grounded and connected with yourself. Go see a movie, schedule an afternoon of golf or fishing, or go see a game. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you truly love to do.
What advice would you give to a new dad?