I tend to be a nosey person when I am bored and like going for walks during my lunch break at work. I was walking near a couple of guys last week and they were talking and my Bluetooth headphones had died so I listened in. The older guy was telling the younger guy (who was apparently expecting a baby) how hard it was and then the phrase that makes my skin crawl “You better sleep now because you won’t be sleeping for a long time”. I had to turn and walk away. Why has this type of thing turned into “advice” from us veteran dads to new dads? Are we just trying to prove how tough we were to be able to get through it or is there more to it than that?
Dads have a very different perspective on parenthood and that shouldn’t surprise anyone. When our bellies get bigger with a new baby coming, nobody says how cute we look or how we are glowing, just gaining sympathy weight. Having a designated driver for 8-9 months was really nice but I know I’m not alone when I say that we definitely have our unique worries as well. Moms usually have that instant connection with their baby; it usually takes dads a little longer to form that bond, whether it is because of maternity leave and not as much paternity leave (I did get 10 days off), the possibility of breastfeeding or the lack of skin on skin time that moms seem to get automatically. I had never changed a diaper in my life before we had Brennan and I hope that I’ll never have to again since we are done having kids after 2. Those first few months are crucial and very hard for dads; many of us have similar feelings like we aren’t bonding and it is very scary, but I assure you that is normal. Why aren’t dads telling fathers-to-be this kind of thing instead of scaring them and telling stories of no sleep or “I guess we will never see you outside of work again”. I mean really, what’s that all about?!
I heard the same type of thing over and over when we were expecting our first kid and it got met with a smirk and an eye roll when that person wasn’t looking. I vowed to not be that guy that just wanted to scare new dads and make them dread their new addition. Unfortunately, I remember catching myself saying the same type of thing after a few years, forgetting how I was on the other side. I heard a great take on advice and I’m trying my best to live by it now; don’t give advice to others, share your experiences and allow them to make decisions and use what they might find useful. I thought this was genius! I’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.
Part of that mantra helped me want to start this blog. Share some of my funny and many times very real experiences with anyone interested on the hopes that someone could learn from them and it could help them or make them feel better. It wasn’t until my son was a few years old and I was having a few beers with some other dads that I someone admitted that it was really hard to bond with their newborn. It was a moment of raw emotion that made me smile and tell them I felt the same way which was followed by all of the other dads saying the same thing and I think we all took a sigh of relief. We need to life each other up, not try to scare each other, I mean the competitiveness can be saved for the sports field of your choosing but dads need to stick together. I remember being at my wit’s end after taking the kids out to eat one day and thought they were the worst behaved children on the planet, when really I don’t know a parent that hasn’t had a similar experience who has tried to eat out. I am a part of a dad blogger community that we can ask for help with our writing, vent or just joke around with each other and the entire point is to lift each other up and never put each other down (except for a few well-taken jokes).
Let’s cut the scare tactics and share our great experiences with fathers-to-be. Tell them how you felt when your kid first said dada, tell them how there was a period when only you could make them smile, tell them how your whole world changed for the better and how your kid made life seem just a little bit brighter. I remember recently telling a soon to be dad how I did stop hanging out after work sometimes because I had a kid but not because I had to, but because I wanted to spend every possible minute with them. I’m not sugar coating fatherhood to make it seem like everything is flowers and rainbows but new dads have enough to be worried about without you trying to prove your manliness and scare them. Always tell some good with the bad. If you are asked how well they sleep through the night, be honest and say that you get a up a few times every night for a while but also tell them how when they are so tiny and fall asleep in your arms, you just want to stare at them and know how your world has changed for the better.
Stay strong out there dads and raise up your fellow dads!