As my wife and I get closer and closer to the birth of my second child, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the transition to fatherhood. It’s no secret that many new dads are afraid of not being a good father. Self-doubt, lack of experience with kids, and sleep deprivation can make just about anyone feel inadequate. But the thing is, being a good father is not rocket science. It’s actually fairly simple. The little things, especially in the early days, are what matter most. Now you may already know these things, but with everything that is going on around you right now, it is not bad to have a quick reminder. So, here are my five quick tips to help you in those first few months.
#1 – Take initiative
You already know what needs to be done around the house. Nothing has really changed now that a new itty-bitty person lives in your house. The same tasks (dishes, laundry, cleaning, mowing, cooking) still need to be done. Do them without being asked, and don’t complain or look for praise either, this is your child too. So, take initiative and do as much as you can to get these tasks done.
#2 – Be the first one out of bed
When the baby cries at night, be the first one out of bed. Yes, it may suck the next morning when you are at work, but that’s what caffeine is for my friend. You can still drink nearly unlimited amounts of this miraculous beverage. Your wife cannot. Try and look at the situation from your wife’s perspective. She just did this amazingly exhausting thing, and now she not only has to recover from the stress of it, but is also (most likely) feeding this baby with her own body. If the tables were turned, I’m sure you would want the extra few minutes of sleep. And even if you have a job which requires significant amounts of mental focus, chances are you can spare some sleep.
Being the first one out of bed is also a great way for you to bond with your little one. The little one will begin to realize you are there for them just as much as their mom is. Assuming they don’t need a diaper change, just holding and rocking them is a very easy way to be a good dad. If they need a diaper change, then change the diaper. Again, it’s the little things which help the most. Pro-tip: breathe through your mouth if it’s particularly stinky. And even if you wind up having to pass the little one off to feed, it still gives your wife the chance to rest for a bit longer.
#3 – Let your wife sleep as much as possible
Sensing a trend here? Sleep is so important for the new mom. Especially in the first few months. Postpartum depression is made worse with lack of sleep. Giving your wife the ability to take naps, when she has the opportunity to do so, will not only help her out in the long run, but also give you the opportunity to bond with your little one.
What do you do with your little one during this time? If they’re not sleeping as well, you can cuddle with them while reading a book (you can read whatever you want, they won’t care). You can put them in a stroller and go for a walk/run and get your exercise in. You can play with them on the floor with baby toys, make faces at them, do tummy time, or just talk to them. Tell them about anything that comes to your mind: favorite movies, sport teams, hobbies, what you did that day/the previous day/will do tomorrow. Babies love to hear voices and words. The more you talk to them, the more you help them to understand spoken language.
#4 – Be yourself
You don’t need to be someone else to be a good father. Your wife picked you because she thought you would someday make a good father. If she didn’t think you could hack it, she wouldn’t have picked you. Plus, your sense of humor, your interests and passions will all be new to your little one. They’ll love it because they just love attention. So, when in doubt, be yourself and your kid will love you just the same.
#5 – Go easy on yourself
Are things ever easier when you beat yourself up over things you did wrong? No. So, realize that you will make mistakes. We all do. Apologize, and move on.
None of these things require incredible insight or anything out of the ordinary. We can all do these tasks without any extra training. So just remember, the best thing we can do is to give ourselves permission to let go of the doubts and fears we have about doing something new. You got this, now go out and be the great dad that you know you can be.