Advice for first time fathers
Becoming a parent for the first time is one of the most challenging and overwhelming experiences of your life. It's like trying to become an expert at playing the guitar without ever having held a guitar in your hands. No matter how many classes you take or videos you watch on music theory or chord progression, until you pick up that guitar and start to make music, you have no idea what you are doing. This is the same with parenting. No matter how many books you have read or parenting classes you went to, you truly have no clue what being a parent is like until that baby is placed in your arms.
And that's okay!
Give yourself grace.
You aren't expected to know what you are doing, you've never done this before. Hopefully you will find some peace and relieve anxiety reading the rest of this post.
What to Expect
You Will Be Tired
This is nothing new. Generally, babies follow a three hour feeding cycle, so you can expect to be up every three hours.
If your baby is bottle fed, YOU take the night feedings. That baby's mama just spent the last 9 month growing a freaking human and went through a traumatic day to bring it into this world. Let the woman sleep!
If your baby is breastfed, be ready to take the baby after feeding, change its diaper, and put it back to sleep. As if growing a human and child birth wasn't enough, breastfeeding is a whole other challenge, especially for a first time mother. Don't allow more burden to be placed on her.
You Will Be Emotionally Drained
The first few months of being a parent is tough. One reason for this is the fact that you are pouring your heart, soul, mind, energy, everything you have into this little being and get nothing in return. Not that we expect payback from our children, but within these first few months, you won't even get a smile. It can be extremely emotionally draining during this time. But just wait! Somewhere around 2-3 months, they give you that first smile, then laugh, and it is the most joyous sound in the world.
You Will Be Surprised
I can't tell you the number of times I have been surprised by my boys. Whether it's something they learned, said, did, anything, they will catch you off-guard and you will be greatly surprised. It is truly amazing to watch a personality form before your eyes. In the early days, even the smallest leg kick or a yawn can just put the biggest smile on your face!
You May Not Connect Immediately
Often you hear that the second your kid is born there is an immediate connection and you feel the love and attachment. Believe me, this is not always the case, so don't fret about it, it will come.
I remember the first time I held my son. This connection was not instant. I remember some of my first thoughts being "what do I do now?" and "where's the adult to take over!?". For me it took a couple of days and lots of skin to skin contact. Skin to skin is commonly talked about for new mothers, especially breastfeeding moms, but make sure to get your time in too. There is just nothing like a sleeping newborn on your chest.
There is No Right or Wrong Way To Parent
No matter what the parenting books say or even those around you, there is no wrong way to parent, as long as you are acting out of love. So don't second guess yourself. You probably know more than you are giving yourself credit. As I said in my Encouragement Post Normalize Fatherhood: "No parent is perfect. No approach is 'the best'. The best you can do is act with pure intent to be the father you want for your children."
It's A Continual Learning Process
You will make mistakes. Plain and simple. The goal is to not make that mistake twice. As simple as that sounds, in your dreary state as a new father, it can happen. The biggest challenge of parenting is that your child is constantly growing and changing. Which means, you have to continually learn and grow too. When you first had a baby, you had never had a baby before. When that baby turns 2, you have never had a toddler before...and so on. Basically, none of us know what we are doing, just learning as we go.
Give Yourself Grace
All that to say, give yourself grace. Don't come down hard on yourself for a poor decision. Don't be frustrated at the fact that your instinct was to raise your voice. If you picked up that previously mentioned guitar for the first time and couldn't immediately start playing John Mayor, would you be frustrated with yourself?
It’s a learning process. Sleep when you can, ask for help when needed, and take care of yourself. But overall, enjoy. As crazy as it may sound, there will come a time when you will miss the days of a newborn. Soak it in, give yourself grace, and relax. You got this!
Be Present. Be Intentional.