This guest post was written by my husband, Shannon. After having two baby girls he wanted to share his best advice for preparing for fatherhood with soon-to-be dads.
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They say we can’t ever be fully prepared for fatherhood, and that’s definitely true. But we CAN be as prepared as possible so that we’re not completely overwhelmed when baby arrives.
Below, I have listed ten practical tips that are wise to keep in mind as you are preparing for fatherhood.
1. Practice with Real Babies!
Some guys are great with babies before they become fathers. Maybe they had plenty of baby-holding opportunities, maybe they were born with unwavering baby confidence, or maybe it’s Maybelline. Who knows?
The majority of guys I know are scared straight when asked to hold a baby pre-fatherhood.
However, if you’re preparing to be a dad, this is something I highly suggest you get comfortable with and lean in to. If you can get comfortable with someone else’s baby, you’re going to be sitting pretty once your little one comes along.
Take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Don’t shy away, maybe even ask to hold a friend’s baby. Trust me, parents usually love when people are willing to hold their babies, even if it’s just for a minute or two. (Just make sure you’re not sick and have clean hands.)
2. Learn Your Calming Mechanisms
And no, I’m not referring to calming the baby.
Unless your baby is the second coming of Christ, it’s likely they will scream…a lot. Like, you can’t even imagine how long and piercing this screaming will be. It was and still is one of the hardest things for me as a father to deal with.
When the crying becomes too much, my body goes into fight-or-flight mode and I instantly become a rage monster. Instead of what I would like to do (probably punch a wall), I resort to a personal calming technique I know will help.
Stepping outside for a moment and getting fresh air helps me immensely. Removing myself from the situation, breathing slowly, and processing my thoughts is helpful. I’m not normally the high-stressed type, but it’s amazing what pterodactyl-like screams will do to a man’s will.
Find your calming technique before baby comes along so you know what to do when things become too much. Maybe it’s working out or going for a drive (another of my favs). Maybe it’s playing video games or watching a show you know will make you laugh. Whatever that thing is that will ease your mind and make things okay, do that thing.
3. Accept You Will Be Living With Less Sleep
I was so tired when we first brought Hazel home from the hospital that I tried to hand Jenny a phantom baby in the middle of the night. Literally, I thought I was handing Hazel to Jenny and there was nothing in my hands. It was a hallucination. We laugh about it now, but it illustrates just how exhausted you become when you bring home a newborn.
There isn’t a great way prepare for less sleep. Everyone I asked before we had Hazel said I should just enjoy the sleep while I could. That was good advice. The best thing you can do is set the expectation low. Accept that you will be a walking zombie for a while and anything better than that is a win.
If you really want a few practical tips, caffeine can be a life saver and darkening your bedroom can increase the quality of your sleep (definite plus with limited sleep). I’m no specialist, but I think those two things are universal.
4. The Art of Misdirection
This is marvelous advice; don’t take this for granted!
Why a baby wants something is a mystery that will forever go unsolved. There are things your baby is going to want possibly just because you are holding it. If you want to keep said thing in your hand, you will need to distract your baby with another item. Normally, you will have your keys, cell phone and wallet on hand. I have a saying, “Distractions are key, and keys make a great distraction.”
One minute your baby will be throwing a tantrum and the next thing they know they are screaming for joy with shiny new keys in their hands. It sounds stupid, but clever misdirection is how magicians make their money from other adults. Entertainment is entertainment.
5. Increase Your Baby Knowledge
There are so many practical ways to prepare for fatherhood. Early on, your main job is responding to your baby’s feelings and needs. If they are hungry, know what to feed them and how much. If they are bored, know what toys they like to play with or games they enjoy (e.g. peek-a-boo). And if they are upset, know what soothing techniques calm them down the best or what items will distract them from their frustration (e.g. car keys).
You won’t be able to learn exactly how to calm your own baby until they are born, but knowing multiple methods beforehand will save both you and your baby a lot of frustration in the beginning.
I highly recommend watching this video to understand how to soothe a baby if you are preparing for fatherhood for the very first time.
6. Prepare for Less Personal Time
Whether you recharge with time spent alone or you are a social butterfly who is revitalized by people, get ready for less personal time. As a very outgoing person that would spend every waking hour around friends or family if possible, I wanted to be the type of dad who wouldn’t let having a child keep me from my social aspirations.
Unfortunately, I was very naïve. Children are a lot of work, and it’s not a short process. Taking care of someone else makes it harder to fully take care of yourself. Time you would have spent reading that new book or going to the newest Marvel movie is now filled with diaper changes and your best rendition of Good Night Moon.
Take advantage of the sweet-sweet moments of personal time that come your way. I also highly recommend you communicate with your partner and schedule in personal time for the both of you. Which segues into my next tip…
7. Improve Your Time Management
You may already be a great time manager. If you are, that is going to pay dividends as a parent. If you’re not, pregnancy is a good time to learn!
After having a child, just about everything you do is going to take extra time. I used to be able to wake up twenty minutes before church and still get there on time. Now, I have to cushion in over an hour to make it for worship. After changing the morning diaper, picking out clothes, packing the diaper bag, and feeding baby, still only one of us is ready to leave the house. This is why parents always look crazy, we just say, “to hell with it” and leave the house in our pajamas.
Seriously, though, buffering in time is difficult if you aren’t a great time manager. To improve, always be looking for ways to be more efficient and waste less time. Maybe you like to take 30-minute showers. Think about switching to 5-10-minute showers. Little changes here and there will help dramatically.
In terms of your baby, you can’t speed certain things up, like how fast they decide to eat, so you will have to find a balance between becoming more efficient and buffering in a realistic amount of time for any event or activity. See how many areas you can become more efficient in before your baby arrives. It will help you in the long run.
8. Know that You Will Have Less Time For Sex
It’s no surprise that there is less time for sex once you have a child. And there really isn’t anything you can do about it other than being intentional with your time and setting realistic expectations. Even when a window does magically open it’s hard to find the energy to get in the mood. Often, you will both be so tired from parenting that all you want to do when you are baby-free is nap or watch Netflix. And that’s okay.
But it is important to maintain an intimate relationship with your wife through all phases of life. Practice being intentional in your sex life before having children. Don’t let it boil down to heat of the moment passion frenzies. Learn to communicate with one another and, literally, schedule time for intimacy if needed. Above all, be gracious and understanding about what your partner has gone through physically in childbirth.
And remember, life is filled with seasons. This too shall pass.
9. Learn to Cook
My wife and I LOVED to eat out when it was just the two of us, but it’s not as relaxing once baby comes along. They are a ticking time bomb that almost always without fail will annoy other restaurant patrons. You might play Russian roulette and come away with your life once or twice, but don’t press your luck.
You will likely be choosing to stay in and cook more meals at home once baby arrives. Get to know your way around the kitchen beforehand and it will benefit you greatly and be one less stress point. Because you know what’s worse than being hangry? Being hangry and not knowing how to cook. Learning how to cook is the gift that keeps on giving. There is no better time to learn than now!
Bonus: This will also help you save a lot of money, which is nice.
10. Serve Your Partner (Do Your Part and More)
Men, this might be the most important tip I give. If you’re not already doing your part in the relationship in terms of helping with daily life responsibilities, now is the time (and forever) to step up your game and chip-in. Your partner will need every bit of help she can get once baby arrives. It is an overwhelming time filled with new emotions, responsibilities, and seemingly unending tiredness, but you must be strong and serve your partner.
Owning your responsibility and making it a habit pre-birth will naturally help you become a kick-ass father who serves his wife and baby well. You don’t have to know everything about being a father to be willing to help and take initiative.
It Is Worth It!
Despite all of the adjustments and changes in my life since becoming a parent, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I will never forget sitting in the hospital holding my baby girl the night she was born. She opened her eyes and looked up at me peacefully before snuggling back to sleep. It was a moment of pure joy, and we’ve continued to have many together since.
I believe in you! You are going to do an amazing job as a new father and I hope these tips truly help you in preparing for fatherhood!
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