My intention to be the best dad I possibly can.
The first thing I said to myself when I found out I was going to have my first child was “I don’t know how to be a good dad!” Since then I’ve adjusted to dad life quite well.
I think the first thing we need to cover is “what is a dad?” It can mean a lot of things to a lot of people depending on their family situation.
I had a family dynamic that included separated parents, which made it difficult to learn what a dad is meant to do.
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The expectant father should understand that the primary role of a dad is to be there.
You’re not going to be a good dad if you’re 300 miles away on a permanent basis.
Take it from a child of divorce, if there’s distance between you and your kids you need to do whatever you can to close it so you can still see them regularly.
Even if you live with your partner/wife and kids, that doesn’t let you off the hook for not going to plays, sports events, musical/dance performances and any other events your kids have.
How to be a good father depends on a few things but there are some mainstays that apply regardless of the situation.
Like I said above, turn up. Another one to consider is making sure you engage with your kids.
Try to be more understanding
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that if you go to work every day you get to keep an adult compartment of your life.
If your partner/wife is staying at home with the kids all day, you need to remember that they are no longer able to just go out and be an adult again like you do at work.
Your family come first
Although fatherhood and other dreams don’t always match up, the minute your first child is born your life isn’t the important one anymore.
Your wife and your child need to be your top priority at every point.
Don’t despair though, as my wife and I have a very co-parent dynamic where she lets me go for a nice hot bath to soothe aches and pains.
To be fair I swoop on my freshly awoken child like a hawk in the mornings and carry her downstairs before her screams can wake up my wife.
Never discount letting your partner/wife catch up on some sleep, you can take pride in knowing you’re doing right by your partner/wife and you’ll also get to spend some quality time with your adorable child.
Beware, children aren’t always adorable and if like me you’re unlucky enough for your child to develop colic, you may find yourself rocking and soothing a screeching banshee.
A good piece of advice for this situation is always remembering that it does pass, and your child is having a worse time than you.
Good father or good dad?
There is actually a difference between being a good father and a good dad.
Being a good father doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be that close to your children to be there for them.
To be a good father means picking up the phone at every call from your children and teaching your children the important things at every opportunity.
Trying to be a good dad is different. A dad is someone who is there like step-dads can still be good dads.
Be supportive with feeding
The foundational pillars to being a good dad, in the beginning, including supporting your partner/wife if she chooses to breastfeed as it is not an easy undertaking.
For example, my wife exclusively breastfed for 2 months in the beginning with our first and then afterwards we went to expressed and breastfeeding feeding.
That brings me on to my next point, if you’re bottle-feeding with either breast milk or formula there shouldn’t be any judgement and you should take every opportunity to do day and night feeds.
By doing the feeds, take it from me, you’ll find it to be a quintessential bonding experience.
Changing nappies isn’t a fun job but it needs to be done, and you’ll appreciate it when your child has been potty trained for a while and you’re reminiscing about when your child was a baby instead of a toddler.
When I was expecting, I looked for classes and information to try and make me better.
Although it helped on the theoretical side of things, nothing could’ve prepared me for the practical side. Something to remember is when it comes to parenting there is always an element of winging it.
As a first-time dad, it’s strange for a while to think that you’re responsible for the life of an adorable little human. It’s also really scary.
Being a dad can be the most rewarding thing you ever experience, but the fulfilment you get out of being a dad depends on the effort you put into looking after your child.
Taking some of the burden from your partner/wife so they can rest every now and again will give you a chance to bond with your baby.
Things that I cut back on
The life of new dads is usually a topic of some debate.
The reason for this is when the time comes to helping out with a newborn, some dads find it difficult to stop going to the pub.
Alcohol consumption in general around a newborn can be a dangerous game and it’s one I never participated in.
You might want to consider cutting back very early in the pregnancy and going to zero as soon as possible because it’s a show of solidarity that your partner/wife will appreciate.
It’s also important to note that the reduction in going to the pub and alcohol consumption will do wonders for your bank balance.
As a dad to be you need to be ready to make sacrifices, but you’ll be able to take solace in knowing these sacrifices will be for the benefit of your family.
Trying to deal with stress
Being a father can be difficult. Stress runs high a lot, especially in the early stages with a newborn.
Stress is something a father needs to be able to cope with.
If you don’t do well with stress maybe it’s time to practice some coping mechanisms like breathing exercises.
Something you might constantly be asking yourself is “how’s your daddy game?” You’ll be scrutinizing your parenting repeatedly and potentially quite often.
It’s not uncommon to assess your level of parenting and be insecure in how well you’ve been doing.
I’ve been a dad for a long time at this point and I still criticize my parenting skills. Some expecting dads find it useful to get a baby book for dads.
There are lots of books out there and there’s no single correct book. If you want to get a book, get the one that’s right for you.
Find a hobby to unwind
The life of dad is a special one and dads that have been dads for some time tend to be a lot more domesticated.
Because of how difficult it can be to keep your current social circle when you’ve got kids, parents tend to focus more on themselves, their spouses and their kids.
As a dad, you might need to find a hobby to fill some time, especially after your kids start sleeping through the night and going to bed at a reasonable time in the early evening.
Some dads take up projects like working on cars, making something with their hands, or gardening.
I like to write, and I’ve known other dads to get into things like web design and programming.
Dealing with feeling overwhelmed
New fathers can be overwhelmed by the fear of being responsible for a cute, adorable and defenceless baby.
As someone who’s since met new fathers with children the same age. Let me tell you there are some mainstay dad quotes that will help.
A prime example is “Prepare for weird colors of poop”.
By the time you’ve been a father for a month, you would have seen colors of fecal matter that will both disgust and amaze you.
After a while, a large portion of the conversation between you and your partner/wife will be discussing your child’s poop.
Even when they’re in bed and you’re supposed to be relaxing.
There’s an old saying that becoming a father changes you and it’s completely true.
When you imagine a picture the old father holding the baby for the first time.
You can’t understand the feelings and emotions that wash over you until you’ve been through it.
The truth is the feelings involved make you feel like a completely new man.
For about 5 minutes, you’ll feel better than you ever have before and all of your problems disappear.
There’s a price for that feeling though.
Payment is staying with your partner/wife through the entire labour process and almost no sleep.
Let me tell you that after 36 straight hours of intense emotions.
Watching your partner go through so much pain and not being able to do anything but offer emotional support.
Supporting her, getting things she needs and being a super dad. You’ll be running on empty for a long time before the baby is actually born. Trust me, it’s worth it!
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There will be sacrifices
As a first time father, you should be wanting to make every effort. Not only to look after and engage with your child whenever possible but being available if they need you.
I changed countless amounts of nappies in my time. By trying to always be a better father, I found myself being a better man.
Becoming a parent can change your lifestyle and it requires sacrifices.
Being a good father is more worth it than any feeling you’ll find in a casino or at the bottom of a bottle.
When you’re a new parent, you’re never really sure about how to be a great dad.
You’ll find yourself more able to give things up in order to be a better dad.
Drinking around children will stop you from gaining the full experience and joy of playing with your kids and seeing them enjoy the time they spend with you.
I once knew a father that enjoyed gambling on poker with his phone, and because of it he used to ignore what was going on around him including his wife and his kids.
After years passed he finally realized how much he regretted missing out because he was too busy playing poker.
Since he stopped playing it on his phone and now goes to the casino once or twice a month when he has childcare available.
He’s enjoying poker more now that he’s moderating it and he feels so much more of a bond with his children.
The bottom line
Becoming a dad made me a better man.
Everything in your life changes when you commit to being the best dad you can be, and when you adjust to making the sacrifices for your family you’ll soon find that your life will be so much better for it.
The main thing to remember is the key to being a good dad is to be there as much as you can, engage and play with your kids whenever possible, and do your best not to miss any important events.
Kids don’t remember who bought expensive presents when they’ve grown up. They do, however, remember who was at the plays, football matches and important events.
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