Just like most bloggers, I receive a lot of email at Daddy Doin’ Work. I do my best to read all of them and reply to the ones that I can, but doing so takes a lot longer than I expected. As I sit here now, I realize that many of the emails I received asked a common question:
What advice do you have for a new dad?
I can’t say that I have all of the answers, but I’ll gladly share what works for me in the hopes that it will work for you.
(With my younger daughter Reiko on her birth day.)
Keep in mind, none of what you’ll read here is earth-shattering or profound stuff, but it’s what I swear by as a Daddy Doin’ Work.
#1 – Be there when your wife/girlfriend gives birth: And when I say “be there,” I don’t mean being in the hospital’s waiting room. I mean, being there in the delivery room
with your lady as she brings a baby into the world. This should be a no-brainer, but I keep hearing about dudes who are “grossed out” by the whole experience. Fair enough. I’ll be real with you here – nothing is beautiful about the act of childbirth. With bodily fluids and other things flowing everywhere it was probably one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. However (yes, there’s a however), my wife never would’ve known that. The day your child is born is never about you and your feelings. It’s about your wife/girlfriend and baby, period. Be present, don’t give her any advice, let her curse you out (if that’s how she rolls), and do whatever she asks of you without complaint.
(First-time Daddy Doin Work! With older daughter Emiko, just born.)
#2 – Step your game up: It’s important for a man to step his game up for his wife/girlfriend after delivering a baby. She spent hours pushing an 8-pound human through a small opening or she had her abdominal wall sliced open during a major surgical procedure. She’s exhausted, she’s in pain, and she needs time to heal. That’s when a man has to go above and beyond. He has to change diapers, give baths, make his wife food (or bring his wife food), and offer support without being asked to do so. Whatever a man was doing before his baby arrived just won’t cut it now. His wife and baby needs him more than ever, and he can’t let them down.
#3 – Hold your child often: As many of you know by now, I’m big on baby-wearing. As a matter of fact, other than the days when I was traveling out of town for some reason, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t worn my daughters in the Ergo. Your child can learn your smell, your voice, your mannerisms, and everything about you. Not to mention, doing so will create a happier, healthier, and more confident child – and what’s better than that? An extra perk is your lady will probably think that a baby-wearing daddy is damn sexy.
(This photo of me doing Emiko’s hair while I was holding Reiko in the Ergo went viral… go figure!)
#4 – Have zero-technology hours: Once a baby comes into the picture, life becomes extremely fast-paced and it almost seems as if you have zero time to yourself anymore. It’s not rare to feed your baby a bottle with one hand while you send an important email with the other. Sure, multitasking is unavoidable when you become a parent, but take a moment to slooooow down. Find a time during each day when you put the iPhone or computer away – and don’t check Twitter, Facebook, or email. During that time, give your child 100% of your attention. In doing so, you’ll find that it will be the best time during the entire day.
(Just you and me, baby girl.)
#5 – Don’t bring baggage home with you: You had a horrible day at the office. Your boss chewed you out. You got stuck in horrific traffic. You repeated your lunch order to the restaurant cashier THREE TIMES and he still messed it up. The bottom line is you’re really upset. I’ll offer this piece of advice to any new parent: do whatever the hell you need to do to get over it before you walk through the front door. Go to the gym, sit in your car for twenty minutes and yell, call your best friend, meditate, whatever. Just don’t bring that negative energy with you inside. Your baby doesn’t understand what adult life is like. He/she only wants daddy to be present and attentive.
#6 – Don’t collect things. Create memories: I see a lot of new parents focusing on buying the most expensive clothes, toys, and gadgets for their kids. That’s completely fine by me, and if they can afford it, go for it. I operate a little differently. When my family spends big money on things for our kids, it's always for things that create lasting memories. For example, we went to Hawaii recently and anyone who vacations there understands how ridiculously expensive it is. For months we saved our money and cut back on a lot of stuff just so our trip would be epic. And it was. Although my daughters are 4-years old and 18-months old respectively, they will have literally thousands of pictures and videos to go through from that vacation and other excursions when they’re older. In twenty years from now, will they (or anyone else) care that I bought their shoes at Payless instead of Bloomingdales? Of course not. Creating memories for the win, man.
Oh, and if you’re going to spend big money on any material item, be sure it’s for a really good camera.
#7 – Take lots of pictures: Speaking of pictures, here’s something I did with both of my daughters. My oldest daughter was born on a Sunday and every Sunday for the first year of her life I took a photo of her and placed it into a folder called “Sunday Pictures.” I also labeled the weeks accordingly (week 1, week 2, week 3, etc.) to ensure I kept everything organized. When her first birthday arrived, I played a 52-picture slideshow illustrating the week-to-week transformation of my daughter and it was absolutely breathtaking. I cannot stress this enough – if you’re expecting a baby, do this. You will not be sorry. My youngest daughter was born on a Tuesday and we did the same thing for her first year. Yep, you guessed it, the experience was equally as breathtaking. When you’re dead and gone, pictures and videos will be the primary way your kids will remember you. Take photos until your hands fall off.
#8 – Have Daddy-baby time: Don’t get me wrong here – spending time together as a complete family is really important, but it’s also important to create a Daddy-baby ritual with your kids. For me, I would spend at least an hour a day with my baby in a baby carrier. That was our time for bonding. With my 4-year old, we go to swim lessons together every Sunday – just the two of us. It’s something we both look forward to and enjoy. Whatever it is (story time, playground time, bath time, feedings, etc.) find something that only you and your baby do together. It will only intensify your bond.
(Cuddle time in daddy’s arms:)
#9 – Choose your friends wisely: So you know that buddy of yours who thinks it’s cool to play a round of Edward Fortyhands on a random Tuesday night? Or what about the 38-year old guy who spends his free time at the club trying to pick up 22-year old girls? You may want to think twice about bringing them around your kids. It’s not that they’re horrible people, it’s just that you’ve outgrown the foolishness they partake in. Your priority is with your family and anything that takes away from that needs to be ruthlessly eliminated. Besides, there are many great dads out there to spend time with who get what you’re going through as a new dad. Hang out with those guys.
(Kicking back with a cold one has a different meaning when you’re a daddy.)
#10 – Trust your gut: People (including me, with my nine aforementioned points) will try to give you advice. Some of it will be really good. Some of it will make you question the sanity of the folks providing it. At the end of the day, we have our intuition to guide us through life as parents. Don’t spend time listening to so-called “parenting experts.” I’m not a parenting expert and let's face it - neither are you. What works for my kids may not work for yours and vice versa. That’s okay. Your gut will never let you down when it comes to being a Daddy Doin’ Work, I promise you.
(Loving the dad life with my little sidekick!)