Being a dad to a tiny baby is a thankless task. Everyone will ignore you. Visitors and family will only focus on the baby. Health professionals will only care about your wife and baby. Your baby will much prefer their mum – they have the tits you see. You will also be fiercely compared and judged by your partner’s friends and NCT group. Don’t get down about it – it’s a fact. And so I have written some general advice about how to be as productive and as little of a twat as you can.
Firstly do some reading, but not the dad chapter in ‘What to Expect’. Read these two books instead:
Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis (the guy who wrote Moneyball)
Night of the Living Dad by Sam Delaney
They are funny, short, easy to read and most importantly – true.
Then from me:
Go on a baby stag
If like the majority of people you were living together before you got married – a stag do is basically an excuse to have a party with no responsibility, old people or children before the actual wedding party. Neither the stag or the wedding – above and beyond being a lovely celebration – actually mark the fact that you are significantly changing the way you live your life the way a stag do used to. Having a baby though is when the shit gets real. You will have literally no social life for the first 3 months of your baby’s life at least, and from now on in there will never be a completely guilt free night out. Trust me looking after any age of child with a hangover is not pleasant. No one is saying go to Prague in a gimp suit for 3 days but you may as embarrass yourself on the dance floor one last time before it officially becomes dad dancing.
I have no idea why all spies are not women. After the first night of sleep deprivation most men under interrogation would be blubbing every secret they knew like Chunk faced with a blender. This is not the time for man flu or any other kind of ‘I feel a bit tired and I fancy a cuddle’. My (normally reasonably sensible) husband came down with and whinged about! sinusitis two days after I gave birth – ‘eeerrrm.. I’m sorry I must have misheard you did you say you gave birth out of one your nasal cavities. If that happened and only if that happened do you deserve sympathy at this current time.’ He had to call his mum in the end to drive him to A&E for antibiotics (due to Boxing Day medical provision).. A&E. Yes, you may feel steamrollered and mental and knackered but so do we and we actually did the birthing thing so I’m afraid you must expect no sympathy and be able to self medicate. But at least you can feel a certain Daniel Craig smugness in your stoicism.
Always be at the birth
I have no idea why this is even raised in public debate again. Probably because some pain in the arse male doctor somewhere questioned the neccessity, probably the same one who sets the targets for natural birth rates. Yes you will feel useless, uncomfortable and contribute very little. But you need to be there. You, to be frank, did this to your partner – face the consequences. Give yourself a little job, it doesn’t have to be much – passing the cup of water or the gas and air pipe and try not to be too irritating. Because you know what this stuff is fucking hard and a little bit dangerous and if something did happen and you were not there – you’d never be able to forgive yourself. Plus even if she says she’d rather have a doula and her sister with her, if you miss the birth it will be bought up in every fight you ever have… forever.
Do not become obsessed with jobs
Yes mowing the lawn is technically productive. But it is also a bit of mind space and basically a diversion from the baby. You may not feel an immediate bond with your baby. We admit it newborns are weird and you have no idea what to do with them but guess what we feel a little bit like that too. The bond will always come through caring and spending time with the baby, even if it’s just holding them while they sleep. It’s the time you put in that lets you really get to know your own tiny strange little thing.
Buy many box sets
You will both have very little social life for the next while. There are now 3 people in your relationship. No it’s not – ‘you, your partner and your baby’.. it is ‘you, your partner and TV’. Films are too long for sleep deprived people – 40 minute episodes for during the week and hour long ones for the weekend when you can push the boat out and even have a takeaway and a beer too! Get comfortable, get slobby, get your tracksuit out. Trust me you will like it.
Embrace the wardrobe
If you are having or have had a baby girl – this is probably the first time that you have entered into the female clothing realm with anything other than bemused indifference or occasionally (depending on who’s wearing it) an appreciation of something small. Now however you are making the decisions – no one is expecting you to master colour blocking – but you do need to be able to dress your child so they look functional and normal outside where other people will see them. This requires you to learn the basic difference between between dresses and skirts and, even more complicated leggings, trousers and tights.
Do not be smug
Do you like being good at things? Did you ask more questions than your wife at NCT? Step away from the information sources. You do not need to be better at this than your partner. She will probably be massively hormonal, vulnerable and maybe even a little bit mental after giving birth. What she doesn’t need is someone second guessing or desiring to show off just how much better you are at this than her. Congratulate yourself that despite this obviously irritating personality trait, someone liked you enough to allow you to impregnate her and instead concentrate on being nice and supportive. And you never know she might even let you do it again.
Oh and if you could look a little like this while you do all this, that would be great.
Feel free to add people – what advice would you give?