Things your own dad never told you about becoming a new father
Everything had changed after my first daughter was born four years ago.
There were handshakes, hugs and high-fives along with helpful hints about everything from diapers to day care and sunscreen to post-baby sex, but nobody bothered to tell me that my life was different now and everything had changed.
Contributed by Hugh Weber, author of Dude to Dad (Familius, June 2013)
I wish someone had just pulled me aside and told me: "Hugh, everything has changed."
Waiting for normal
I woke up each and every morning hoping it would be the day when things went back to normal. Back to when I was able to make a decision on the fly about a work trip or a happy hour, knowing that my wife would manage without me. Back to when I could work until 6 a.m. and sleep until noon. Back to when a hundred dollars frivolously spent here or there didn’t mean having to choose between diapers and formula.
The biggest revelation was there was nothing to "figure out." I think men, by nature, want to fix things. However, a child, and a post-baby family, aren't something to fix. They are "things" to get to know over time and through so many varied stages.
This seems so simple when I say it out loud — I feel foolish, really — but it was so devastatingly difficult in practice.
A penguin in its place
I recently told a reporter that it was like I had gone to bed one night as the owner of a dog and the next morning woke up with a penguin in its place. Everything felt broken, but there was nothing to fix, so I waited. I waited for the dog, and my old life, to come back.
The problem with waiting for the return of the old normal — which I must caution isn’t ever coming back — is that you miss out on the new normal.
Heads-up, new dads! You are going to miss out on a lot unless you embrace your "new normal."
- You’re going to miss out on the reassuring stability of a regular schedule and bigger responsibilities.
- You’re going to miss out on how deeply your wife can need you despite her fierce independence.
- You’ll miss out on the first wink, then coo, then giggle, that are often buried deep in a middle-of-the-night feeding or in the midst of a tantrum.
Riding the wave
I allowed nearly six months to pass by as I waited for something that I thought needed to change. After ruling everything else out, I realized it was me that needed to change! It was only in deciding to embrace the change that I began to flourish as a parent. I think embracing the change is mostly about riding the wave rather than trying to hold it back. This meant rolling out of bed when my daughter wanted breakfast at 4 a.m. It meant engaging right away, instead of asking for "one more minute" at the computer or newspaper.
It meant a shift in household responsibilities with my wife to accommodate the addition of so many new tasks. I think the best way to get started from the beginning is just to be aware that it's happening. This isn't advice that men are given in general, and awareness — and acceptance — are the real keys.
About the author
Hugh Weber, "The Dude," is an everyday guy helping other everyday guys survive the challenging transition to fatherhood. Dude to Dad spawned from the online community of dads that Weber assembled through dudetodad.com. For more about Dude to Dad, visit familius.com/dude-to-dad.