We have both been dads for many years, but we are far from being parenting experts. We frequently fail, pick ourselves up, learn from our mistakes, and seek advice from other parents for tips and tricks. Through our New Dad Boot Camps and an incredibly active social network for fathers, NYC Dads Group, we get to meet up, share ideas, and engage in fun activities with our children. We have heard just about every fear there is, but we’ve also heard some great advice. Here are some ways to fight through the fears of becoming a dad.
1. No, you’re not going to break the baby: Most new dads have very little experience and are genuinely terrified of caring for a newborn baby. It turns out that newborns are more resilient than we think! They can endure the awkwardness of you practicing the football hold, snuggle hold, cradle hold, or face-to-face to find the one that works for you. Make sure your baby’s head and neck are secure, and then relax.
2. Yes, your life will change, but you can take steps to return back to normal: Any engaged parent will tell you that the first few weeks with a newborn are a blur. However, as things settle down, there are things you can do to bring life back to normal. First, rely on your partner and be reliable to your partner. Next, try to integrate the baby into your life. If you want a baby that can sleep through a little noise, don’t tiptoe and whisper while he’s sleeping. If you want a baby that can sleep during daylight hours outside her room, then don’t install blackout shades!
3. No, taking paternity leave will not destroy your career: Your career is 50 years long (or more). The choice to take 2-3 weeks to be home with your new baby is not going to destroy that, and the benefit of getting in the mix early is invaluable. Start the discussion with your supervisor well in advance to create a mutually workable plan that maximizes your ability to focus on your family while also keeping things afloat at work. Over time, consider ways to push into your family by managing your schedule—leaving early from work once a week to make dinner for your family, or go in late one morning to enjoy a morning music class with your daughter.
4. Yes, it is still is a mom’s world, but that’s changing: It wasn’t long ago that there were one or two books devoted to dads on the shelves, but that’s changing. Now, there are dozens written for and by dads. There are also active and diverse dads’ groups popping up all over the country with opportunities to learn from and connect with dads who have been doing this longer than you have.
5. Yes, your in-laws might drive you crazy, but you need the help: You will have people falling all over themselves wanting to support you—take advantage of it! Manage them like you would your best employees and make sure you are delegating even the most basic tasks—cooking dinner, washing bottles, doing laundry. Also, two words: Free babysitting!
6. No, you don’t need all the stuff: There are no bigger suckers than new parents, and most of the products available in stores are not necessary. In a cramped apartment, space is at a premium, so choose wisely beyond the essentials. If you’re not sure about some new-fangled device, borrow it from a friend before you buy. If you can’t find a friend that has it, you don’t need it!
7. Yes, you will have sex again: You won’t be back in the sack the day you get home from the hospital (doctors generally recommend 6-8 weeks), but getting back to what got you into this mess in the first place will happen if you make it a priority. Start by making your partner a priority when you first walk in the door.
Make date night mandatory, whether it be a night out on the town or a “Netflix and chill” session with takeout and a glass of wine. Your relationship with your partner is as important as it has always been, and taking care of that bond is the best gift you can give your baby.