About the time my wife and I learned we were pregnant with our third child, I realized that my pregnancy threat level—or how panicked I felt internally about having additional children—was only canary yellow instead of Creamsicle® orange. (Or was it the other way around? I was never quite sure which threat level was more, well, threatening.) I wasn’t overwhelmed by that mixture of panic, joy, and bile, and I even skipped my ritualistic calculation of how many years this new baby would push back my retirement. I finally figured out that the joy of fatherhood outweighed the fears and challenges that pregnancy presented. That’s when I decided to write my book, Dude You’re Gonna Be a Dad!: How to Get (Both of You) Through the Next 9 Months.
My goal with the book was to coach new dads along as they joined the cult of fatherhood, and hopefully provide some relief to the growing pains that are so familiar to experienced dads. To welcome rookie dads into the fold this Father’s Day, let’s take a look at five of the biggest mistakes us veterans know new dads can make:
- Playing dumb: Guys, we all know this one is classic. We’ve all done it. I think we may have overshot our goal with this technique. Originally it was a brilliant way for us to get out of doing stuff we didn’t want to do, because you know, we don’t know anything. Which end of the bottle do we put in junior’s mouth? But now we are the dumb blondes of the new century. Who is the most popular TV dad? Homer Simpson! We can do better guys. Besides, after awhile there will be an issue that comes up we actually care about and our spouse won’t even ask us our opinion-because we are just too dumb.
- Waiting for the “magic”: New dads, I know the feeling. You’re in the hospital and waiting for that rush of emotion to sweep you off your feet. Maybe they handed out magic fairy dust while you ran down to the hospital cafeteria. Either way, you don’t feel anything magical inside besides the stomachache from hospital meatloaf. Or was it liver? The truth nobody remembers to mention to new fathers is that special bond with your child is built little by little. Each small experience you have with your child helps that feeling you are waiting for to grow into something special.
- Learning on the fly: Guys, there is no doubt our days are full. After a long day we probably want to sit down, kick up our feet and maybe watch some sports, or read more about our favorite hobby. But whether your favorites happen to be Harleys or hydrangeas, you need to carve out a few minutes to learn more about being a dad. Because although our bodies are born with all of the right equipment to create a child, raising one in today’s world is hard. The good news is that ever since Al Gore invented the Internet we have more resources than ever at our disposal. So if you think there is an area your child needs a little help in, or a concern you have, much like the old TV show “The X Files”, the answer is out there.
- Neglect: This one is huge, and in applies in all directions. First and foremost, take your responsibility as a parent seriously, and never neglect your child. Keep an eye on Mom as well, as the reports state 10-15% of new mother’s get postpartum depression, but most experts feel it is a higher percentage. Dad, you may not see it coming, but estimates range from 10-25% of new Dads getting postpartum depression, you are not immune. Be vigilant in making sure you and Mom are getting exercise, proper nutrition, and as much sleep as possible. Hopelessness, anxiety, and mood swings are just some of the symptoms. If you think either of you may be experiencing this, do your research and talk to your doctor. It is much worse than the term “baby blues” makes it sound.
- Sitting on the sidelines: This is the distant relative of point number two. You share DNA with your child, and you will see that come through as time progresses forward. But if you kick back and watch Mom take over, you will probably be hurting your relationship with both of them. Times have changed and you need to get in the trenches. Find your role in your family, and be an active parent in your children’s lives. Most of all, realize, as the adage says, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
So while being a new parent isn’t as serious as, say, war, where hot metal flies by you and there are bombs overhead, there will be heated words flying between parents and stinky diaper bombs exploding all over the house. Parenting is a tough job; it always has been and always will be. Kids require a lot of time and effort, and for once in our lives there isn’t “an app for that.” But if you are willing to give the effort, you can become your child’s favorite superhero. Isn’t that what we all wanted to be when we grew up? Here is your chance, oh, and Happy Father’s Day!
Photo credit: Stew Dean, flickr.com
John Pfeiffer is the proud father of three and author of Dude You’re Gonna Be a Dad. You can check out his fatherly advice (gripes) and ramblings at http://www.dudeyoureadad.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @johnpfeifferdad.