5 Things is a new content series where Playground Dad contributors share 5 tips with new and expectant fathers.
Becoming a father is a life altering experience. It’s easy to see how the arrival of your first bundle of joy will turn your life upside down. But I didn’t really heed the warnings, and now looking back I can say there were things I knew, but didn’t really understand.
Here are five things I found out, and what I suggest for new and expecting fathers.
#1 – Your sleep habits will never quite be the same again.
It’s hard really to explain what it’s like waking up every two hours to help with a feeding or change a diaper. Those first few nights are crazy. Yet somehow you find ways to push through. Your body is amazing and you find energy stores you never knew you had.
If you are lucky enough like me to have children who sleep 10 straight hours by age 2 months, this part of your life returns to ‘normal’ pretty quickly.
I suggest you read up early and often on creating good sleeping habits for your child. Things that worked for us included having a set routine and a bedtime, keeping lights off or low as possible during night feedings, and being consistent.
One of the things no one explained to me is, I can’t sleep until noon on weekends anymore! At 7 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday begins the routine. You hear the fist one wake up, come plodding down the stairs and burst into your room, “Good morning dad! It’s light out!”
I suggest you get your beauty rest when you can, your gonna need it to keep up with these amazing balls of energy!
#2 – Your driving habits will change.
I’ve never considered myself a reckless driver per se, but once you strap your child into a car seat for the first time you will instantly be transformed into the slowest, safest, most defensive driver on the road.
That first trip home from the hospital will change your mind about how yellow a light has to be before you consider stopping. You will stare down intersections a full three seconds or more after the light turns green. Inevitably you will curse (well, bemoan really, since you can’t use curse words now with kids in the car) other drivers for doing the exact things you used to do!
This will ease with time, but get used to the idea that other drivers are crazy and take way too many risks.
I suggest you leave yourself plenty of time to get where you are going since not only do you drive differently now, but it takes an enormous amount of time to get the kids dressed and strapped into the car. Especially in bad weather. Especially if you have somewhere important to be…this never fails to put my daughter into ‘drag my feet’ mode.
#3 – Your reading and T.V. viewing habits will evolve.
When my daughter reached the age of television viewership I discovered that there are more channels than just ESPN. Now she dominates our viewing decisions with requests for that infernal Diego and his catchy theme song that gets stuck in your head for days.
Don’t worry though, once the kiddies are in bed, all bets are off. You don’t have time to watch during the day anymore anyway, and believe me you’re not missing anything.
I used to read Esquire and any sports related story I could get my hands on, not terribly informative for parenting advice. Now I read parenting magazines and watch for crib recalls.
I suggest starting a twitter account if you don’t already have one, and follow parenting advice sites (like this one for example). You will get great insight from people in the trenches.
#4 – Your eating habits will change.
They say that men put on sympathy weight when their wives get pregnant. I can attest to that. My wife didn’t have too many crazy cravings for junk food, but she did have one dramatic change for us. She craved chocolate. That doesn’t sound weird really, but for her it was a big change. She rarely ate sweets before she was pregnant with our first daughter. With her amazing metabolism her body snaps right back into place, me not so much…
With the abundance of chocolate around (and for me especially true when our second daughter was born right after Halloween. I was downing ‘fun size’ candy bars three at a time during every late night feeding), I recommend you craft a waist saving plan to keep the sweets out of your reach.
Beyond that baby and pregnancy phase though, you will find yourself finishing off what your child did not eat. Also you end up demonstrating how tasty the food is in an effort to encourage them to eat. This part is not so bad since you will now find yourself eating way more fruits and veggies than you did in your dorm room years. We need to encourage healthy eating from an early age, right? Put down that french fry and reach for a carrot stick!
One problem I have is I can’t stand wasting food, and when picky kids get done pushing food around their plate I end up eating my meal, plus half of theirs.
I suggest you learn to use small plates, and don’t fill them up. There is always the possibility of going for a second helping if need be, but if you’re like I used to be and pile food high on your plate, you will soon tip the scales with that extra calorie glut.
#5 – Your evenings out will change.
Before your child was born, you could sit down and say, ‘Hey, wanna go check out that new restaurant that just opened? Maybe see a movie after?’ or ‘I wonder what the Johnson’s are doing tonight. Maybe they want to go out for drinks…’
Now you have to plan ahead and get a sitter. Not to mention, your friends probably have kids now to.
That is not a spur of the moment thing any more and not cheap either. Now a night out can cost you an extra $20 to $50 depending on the going sitter rates.
I suggest you learn to love a pizza delivery and a movie rental. Find ways to entertain yourself with a relaxing night in. Also, it’s vitally important to the health of your marriage to schedule some date nights. If your lucky enough you can recruit grandparents to take the kids for a sleep over. It’s great to get away and remind yourselves that there was a couple before there was a family.
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