Leading up to becoming a dad I had expectations of what fatherhood would be like. It was only once Mabel arrived that I could truly comprehend what was ahead of us.
Love, excitement, frustration, wonderment, fear, joy and gratefulness were hitting me from all directions. And the extreme exhaustion, like nothing else I have ever experienced before, muddled the rest of the emotions up. But along with all of the emotions I have learnt to deal with, I have also learnt some lessons on how to best manage my new life as a father.
So I’ve finally decided to compile a short list of points for any soon-to-be parent to mull over…
- Do what works for you and remain flexible
Leading up to Mabel’s arrival, Kate & I had prepared extremely well to cover all practical solutions as best as possible. We bought a LOT of stuff.
For example, we purchased a king size bed, a bassinet and a cot and we remained open to whatever sleeping option would suit us all best. Turns out Mabel never really dug the bassinet and neither did we, so we’ve all just bunked together in the king bed since day one.
We very quickly worked out that certain ideas we had (such as using reusable cloth nappies) were not going to work for us so we ditched it and moved on. Most importantly however, we are going to remain flexible. If in two weeks/months/years time, the decisions we’ve made now are no longer working, we will reevaluate and change it up.
- Communicate with your partner
As new parents that are dealing with a range of emotions, it is imperative to communicate effectively with your partner or support person.
It is a reality that under the pressures of looking after a newborn for the first time you will no doubt be more snappy with your partner than before. This is totally normal and whatever you are going through you can rest assured that your partner is too.
I make a habit of talking openly with Kate wherever possible so that we are constantly clearing the air with one another. In the moment, what you are doing or saying probably seems totally reasonable, but in reality you are probably coming across as a bit of a dick (you can thank the exhaustion and frustration for that one!).
That’s why communication is key. Apologise where appropriate and raise any concerns you have straight away before they escalate. A simple “how was your day?”, or “how are you?” can go a long way when everyone is tired, stressed and feeling a little helpless.
- Get some fresh air
This point follows on from the last one as Kate and I discovered early on that we needed to make time to communication properly with one another.
We found that going for walks every night once I got home from work was the best way to do this. It also killed two birds with one stone, because getting out of the house was really important for Kate and a good way for me to switch off from work-mode.
It allows us to spend quality time together as a family (yes with big Gus too!) and do something good for ourselves mentally and physically. The reality is, time by yourself is pretty much impossible (excluding work, because that’s work) so getting out and enjoying nature for a bit is as good as it gets. Especially if you have a super chilled baby like Mabel who loves the great uutdoors.
- Setting boundaries with visits
I was very fortunate to have five weeks off work once Mabel was born and this allowed me endless hours of getting to know her and my new life. However, once I returned to work and Kate began her new role as full time mum to Mabel, we realised that we needed to set up some boundaries in regards to visiting times with family and friends.
As wonderful as it is to have everyone so excited to meet your child, it is also extremely difficult to fit everyone in and keep everyone happy. We quickly realised that our time with her is our first priority.
So we decided that weeknights would be our sacred family time and that our weekends were no longer going to be spent running all over the place trying to visit everyone.
Anyone who has a child will understand how bloody long it takes to even get out of the house (one particular instance took us three extra hours following two projectile vomits and an unsavoury poo episode) and can probably relate to how exhausting a whole day out with a newborn can be on everyone.
So make sure you are clear with people from the start and say 'no' when you feel like saying 'no' – you can’t do it all.
- Look after yourself
In my first two week of parenthood, I managed to drop 5kgs from what I refer to as ‘the dad diet’. This basically involved me forgetting to eat while I spent all day focused solely on Mabel.
With late nights and early mornings, this was not an effective way to live. Neither is a fast-food diet which at the time seems convenient, but you pay for it with feeling like shit all the time and watching your funds drain away. Not to mention those 5kgs are easily found with a few double quarter pounders.
As mentioned earlier, getting fresh air, going for walks and add in a healthy, balanced diet is going to be the easiest way to look after yourself and be a good role model to your child in the long run. Stay hydrated!
- Switch off, and switch on
Surely this is a no-brainer in today’s society, but it has to be said as I’m certainly guilty of it myself. Log out of Facebook. Shut down Instagram. And enjoy every single second with that precious babe of yours because it goes so quickly.
With a 12-week-old sitting on my lap as I type this, it is a reminder that these moments really fly by.
She’s currently smiling, cooing and is just about ready to laugh (at her hilarious dad no doubt). I wouldn’t want to miss any of this for anything.
And just remember that their most fussy, challenging and frustrating days are when your baby is developing physically, mentally and emotionally right before you and that’s pretty incredible. So don’t forget to cherish every single moment.
Written by Dan Lister, dad and blogger at Beard & Bug.