I was recently gifted an amazing book produced by Daddilife Books called ‘You’re going to be a dad!’ which is all about pregnancy and the first year of fatherhood.
“Learn from a whole community of dads so you’re fully prepared to be a great first-time dad and partner.”Daddilife Books
You’re going to be a dad is an incredibly in-depth guide for dads from conception all the way through the first year of being a dad, and the main thing I love about the book is that it’s REAL. Real experiences, real scenarios and real talk throughout. This blog is not called Real Parent for nothing, you know!
A book shining a light on real dadding
Throughout this whopping 400 pager, there are real accounts from real fathers from all walks of life. Not all have had a seamless journey, some have encountered sorrow and tragedy, challenging mental health issues and perturbation. Whereas some encounter joy, true happiness and epiphanies. It’s a really strong book for all dads to be as it shines a light on dadding, warts n all! (As they say.)
Get the book here.
Whilst reading the book, it got me thinking about some of the most important things I share with first-time parents. Not things like, prepare a freezer full of meals, or buy a truckload of size 1 nappies, or cover your entire house in plastic sheeting for 20 years.
These are my 5 commandments for new dads and dads to be:
- Acknowledge that life as you know it is changing
- Take each day one day at a time
- Accept that being a parent is hard sometimes
- Learn how to be a team
- Take your mental health seriously
Acknowledge that life as you know it is changing
When your partner falls pregnant, it can evoke all sorts of emotions for everyone. In fact, it’s a real-life rollercoaster of emotions for both of you. Thinking about practical things like will the car seat fit in the car, will you be able to afford everything and how will you cope with those first weeks of sleepless nights and get up for work, are all very real middle of the night thoughts that might keep you awake.
However, spending some time getting to grips with some of the more life-changing things you’re going to have to face would be time better spent. Yes, it’s great to make sure you’re prepared for every scenario and eventuality, but preparing yourself for the fact that the life you once knew is going to change will help you to cope when your new life challenges start to unfold.
Andy and I were so naive when we had our first baby. We had done absolutely zero planning and had zero insight into life after birth. It shocked us to the core. Not only had we no idea how challenging newborns are, but we also spent weeks mourning our old lives. We could no longer pop into the shops with just a bank card and a door key when we felt like it. We had to take it in turns to make and eat meals. Andy only took a week off work and boy could he have done with more. I was ok to crack on with being a solo parent, on maternity leave, but he had to go to work, do a good job, retain enough energy to come back and support us, and then repeat! It was hard work for Andy. And understandably so.
So, my point here is to take time to understand that life needs to adapt. It needs to adapt so that you can all stay sane, and be continued support for each other. Once you accept and be at peace with the fact that your life has changed, it does become easier to live it.
Take each day one day at a time
Us parents have the tendency to think too far ahead…
When will they sleep through?
When will they need fewer nappy changes?
When will this become easier?
The truth is, these moments will come. I promise. I’ve done it three times over now, and though it does get a tiny bit easier with every subsequent child, it’s easy to become incensed by the thought of being stuck in this particular stressful situation forever.
But I believe the key to a calmer first few months is just to take one day at a time. Don’t overthink, don’t worry that you’re never going to feel better or be better. Just try to accept what the day throws at you, deal with it, possibly even enjoy it, go to bed and tackle the next day afresh.
Accept that being a parent is hard sometimes
Parenting is hard. I believe every stage of a child’s life tests you in ways you never knew possible, and no one situation is harder than another. One moment you’re wiping butts every hour, delirious with sleep deprivation and the next you’re talking about reproduction with your 10 year old trying not to make a mistake that will scar them forever!
But the cool thing about parenting is that although it’s hard, it’s totally ok to admit it’s hard. Speak up, speak out, get support, get help. If you come across someone who says parenting is a breeze, I think they are kidding themselves.
As soon you accept that parenting is hard, acknowledge that you are trying your best, that’s the key to rocking it.
Learn how to be a team
The ‘You’re going to be a dad’ book covers this really nicely, and it’s so good to hear another perspective on it.
We’ve fallen into the “your turn” trap so many times. I say it’s a trap because when you get into a tit-for-tat parenting war it’s hard to see your way out of it.
A common scenario might look like this:
Phew, I’m so glad that work is over. I’m going to have a shower.
Wait, I haven’t been able to have a shower today at all. I’ve had the baby all day today so I need a break.
Well, I had back to back calls all day and I had to fire someone. I’m beat and I just need some time to myself to process it.
Well, I haven’t had any time to even pee today. I’ve only had one cup of tea all day and I am so thirsty and tired….
I could go on, and I’m sure you’ve seen this scene before.
I believe the way to get through the first few weeks of the crazy early parenting stage is to empathise with each other. If you’re on a mission to prove who has it harder then you may as well quit now, because as I explained in my last point, parenting is hard. Whether you’re out there earning a buck for your family or in there changing nappies and feeding every hour, we all have our challenges.
The key is to try to understand how your parenting partner is feeling and to figure out a solution in a calm and empathetic manner.
A key to sanity in our household is to take turns laying in at the weekend. No questions asked, the first child to wake gets taken down for brekkie to let the other person get some rest. I can’t sleep after one of my children wakes so I usually just watch the tv in bed and enjoy some time by myself. That way, one morning a week you know you get some respite with no begging!
Take your mental health seriously
I’ve chatted about acceptance, acknowledgement and empathy, but one of the most important things about being a parent is being kind to yourself.
I don’t just mean putting your feet up and having a cuppa when the baby sleeps. Even though that’s a must too, I actually mean being kind to your mind.
Your mind is a powerful and wonderful and essential thing, and it should be treated with as much importance as your physical health. If you are finding things tough, take getting some help with those feelings seriously.
This topic is also covered in depth in the ‘You’re going to be a dad’ book. Mental health awareness has come a long way since I started to have children, and it’s great that it’s being covered in print so extensively too.
Once I accepted that I was finding having my third child really hard, which was presenting itself as crippling social anxiety, I felt tons better. I admitted how I was feeling to my health visitor first, then to Andy and then to a few friends. It felt so liberating to have let someone into how I was feeling, and it felt like I could think straighter and breathe properly again.
I got help and I took medication, and with ongoing coaching for a year, I was able to come off my medication. I’m not 100% free of anxiety, but I do now have the tools to rationalise and talk through scenarios with myself which makes it better.
Mental health issues are very prevalent in my family so I am very attuned to them. However, it does take bravery, no matter how many times you’ve encountered it, to admit something might be up. It’s ok not to be ok, but it’s not ok to not get help and support. Just something to consider…
New dad, you’ve got this!
Wow, I could talk about this forever. I hope that helps just one person dad-it a little easier. And if you want to get the book, it would be a great move. It’s an absolutely bible for new dads, and any dads for that matter.