From the time you hear “I’m pregnant” till you get to hold your baby for the first time a lot of stuff runs through a looming father’s head.
One of my friends recently informed me he is going to be a father for the first time…Twins.
He asked me if I had any advice for him.
It got me to thinking, while I can’t give any advice on raising twins specifically, I do have two younger children that aren’t too far apart in age and I’ve been on that job for over four years now…
And, Like he will be, I was a first time father.
After reading his ‘any little bit helps’ response via text, I figured I’m no expert but why not take a shot.
Here we go.
IT STARTS WHEN THEY’RE PREGNANT
The mistake I hear a lot of people make, including myself, is oh my wife is pregnant, I’m gonna use these next 8 months to really live it up, because when the baby comes I gotta bear down and get serious. No, actually you need to get serious now. It starts with being there to support your baby’s mother while she goes through hell.
Will she play it up a little bit? Will she take advantage of the situation ever so slightly? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no way for us gentlemen to really ever know the true answer to that question. And, no matter what, that’s never for you to judge outwardly.
These pregnant women are a different species than anything you’ve seen in your life. You keep your phone on, answer every call and text immediately, when a request is made you’re out the door to get it, yes dear, you’re right dear, no problem dear, and take some initiative in doing some things around the house you wouldn’t normally do without being asked. Dishes, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.
You’re never gonna be perfect, you might be at work when something big or small happens. Just be as supportive as you can, keeping in mind that any criticisms and outbursts are most likely due to hormones, and just having to carry around a 2nd person with them at all times. Avoid the arguments. Be as thick skinned as possible.
Trust me, when that baby comes out it’ll all be worth it. As times goes by every now and again your wife will wax nostalgic about your little boy or girl’s journey…and gleam in memories of how great her partner was throughout the process. Trust me, you’re earning some long-term points here. It just won’t be as clear as it should be to her while it’s actually going on.
So many others have done it before us. Ask them what they did in certain situations. You can start while your baby’s mother is pregnant. Ask how you can be there to support her. What mistakes have other people made that you can prevent? Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends and family. Read articles about it. All good things.
I know the in-laws and soon-to-be grandparents can sometimes be a little overwhelming and maybe a little too suggestive at times, but try to weed through the nonsense and pick out the diamonds in the rough. I know from experience that they’ll be plenty of good suggestions to choose from.
One thing I specifically enjoy is texting my friends who have kids of a similar age. It has given me a lot of perspective. Frankly it has helped get my ass in gear towards getting my kids to be more active. No one else in my household seems to care about that, so I make sure to get them out-and-about everyday it’s possible. Even if it’s only for a quick walk somedays.
SUMMON THE ENERGY
When you’re working full-time it’s easy to think because you’ve had a long day and you’re tired that you’ll just be able to throw your feet up and relax when you get home. There’s no such thing. Whether it’s the early stages and your wife is still home on maternity leave, or later on when you’re picking your kids up from day care, or if your wife stays at home and everyone’s waiting on you when you walk through the door…your day has just begun.
The mother will be exhausted. Being a stay at home dad for the last 10 months, I completely understand why. Find a way when you walk through that door to make sure you’re gonna be ready to be productive. Ideally it would be spending time with the kids and giving their mother a break, and doing your fair share of cooking or cleaning during the week.
I used to work my ass off, six days a week, 8-12 hour days. I figured out early on that wasn’t going to be an excuse to relax when I got home. I drove around a lot at my job, so I would try to mentally tell myself that the driving was my free time and get myself psyched up with a deep breath right before I walked through the front door after my working day was done.
The kids are gonna tire you out one way or another. I have worked a lot of hard labor jobs in my life and nothing compares to the energy needed to stay home and take care of my kids all day. Whatever your role is, just make sure you find the time and energy to consistently show up for it, with energy.
THERE’S AN ADJUSTMENT PERIOD
When a baby comes along that means you, the husband, are no longer the one who garners all the attention and care. It can take awhile to get used to.
Along with that there will inevitably be times where you want to do something on your own that you flat out won’t get to do, or if you do do it maybe you shouldn’t have.
For me the days of stopping what I was doing and going golfing at the drop of a hat were gone. If I want to do anything now without my wife and/or family I usually need to make plans 24 hours in advance, and bring up the possibility of doing so way before that to take the temperature of the room.
Its really not all that bad, you get used to it. My single buddy down here knows that’s how it is now and will often times text me something like “How’s this week looking for golf, can you get out any days this week…?”
The first few times you have to say no to doing something spontaneously that you could normally always do before will be frustrating. A lot of your independence will be sacrificed when you have your first child. You may even encounter feelings of I made a mistake. It’s important to fight through those feelings because you definitely didn’t.
At the end of the day, hanging out with all your jackass friends–whom you can still hang out with time to time by the way–is nothing compared to watching your son or daughter say or do something for the first time.
Years down the road it won’t be your drunken softball team friends and golf buddies that will always be there for you. It’ll be your wife and kids, and eventually your kid’s kids.
There’s nothing like being a father. My son is four, my daughter is three in June, and I can tell I’m starting to get into my “good ol’ days” right now. Hanging in there through all the fears of fatherhood has gotten me to this point. So worth it.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT
Fatherhood will come natural.
When I was in sixth grade I was worried about my first kiss. I thought maybe I wouldn’t know how to do it or I’d miss or something.
Fatherhood looming on the horizon is similar to that.
But you’ll find if you screw up the kids aren’t ever going to know. It’s not like they’ll be taking notes for when they grow older to tell you all the times you screwed up. They just know you’re there and you love them.
Things like holding a baby, feeding them, putting them to sleep, changing diapers, and doing anything else disgusting will come easy because you’re their father. You won’t even think twice about it.
I know this to be true because I was too scared to even hold a baby all those years I was single. I was worried to death about being able to switch over to the fatherhood gear once Harrison was born, but the instincts I never knew I had were flushed to the surface and my parenting skills just seem to take over almost instantly after his arrival. By the time Mara rolled around it was ‘been there, done that.’
Bottom line is not to worry about it so much. Be there for them and everything else you’ll pickup as you go.