The media hasn’t been completely honest about how hard parenthood is. Every day, we’re bombarded with images of serene-looking couples looking calmly at their cute newborns without a care in the world. Real-life couldn’t be further from the truth. Parenting indeed is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things in the world, but it is also one of the most difficult paths a person could choose. When you factor in a pandemic and a recession, it’s pretty much like rolling a giant boulder up a steep hill. Admitting this doesn’t mean we love our family any less—in fact, it is an opportunity for the whole family to be realistic and prepared for the challenges of home life.
There’s also not a lot of resources for first-time dads. It is good and right that there is a wealth of knowledge and tips for mothers, but dads need a lot of encouragement and support, too.
Here are a few hacks for first-time dads, because we know fathers need all the help they can get.
Save money. It is common knowledge that having a baby is expensive. But it’s one thing to know about it in theory and one thing to experience it firsthand. It costs even more for couples who have no health insurance. Use the months leading up to the baby’s birth to save up as much as you can.
Don’t miss the prenatal checkups. Nothing gives you more excitement than seeing your baby’s first ultrasound scans and hearing their heartbeat. It will also keep you up-to-date on the state of your partner and child’s health, and if there are risks, you need to be aware of it.
Be there for your partner. Depending on your partner’s pregnancy risk (some pregnancies are more high-risk than others), you may need to be more active and present for her. Not every pregnancy is the same, but there are a lot of guidelines and precedents to abide by. For some, the first trimester is the hardest. Be prepared for the morning sickness, food aversion and cravings, mood swings, and other signs. Be patient and attentive, and don’t hesitate to ask your partner for her needs. Ask her what she needs from you during the birth so you can set some expectations.
During the Birth
Make sure the baby bag is complete and prepared. Prepare the bag you’re going to bring to the hospital 2-3 weeks before the due date. The hospital has all the disposable stuff you need, but if your partner’s skin is sensitive, it couldn’t hurt to bring your own as well. Here is a basic checklist for the baby bag:
- Birth plan
- Toiletries for you and your partner
- Comfortable clothes
- Nipple cream (if you plan to breastfeed)
- Adult diapers
- Bottles of formula (if you plan to feed with baby formula)
- Car seat (the hospital will not let you leave with the baby if a car seat is not yet properly installed)
- Clothes for going home
Be present, and don’t panic. Ask your hospital or healthcare provider about their COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. Since the pandemic was announced, some hospitals have not allowed visitors in the delivery room. Some hospitals only allow one visitor per mother if specific health criteria are met. The restrictions vary from hospital to hospital, but one thing is sure: All hospitals are working hard to ensure a safe and normal delivery for mothers, even during a pandemic. Don’t panic and meet the expectation your partner set when you talked about what she needs from you during the birth.
Take the initiative. The delivery will take a toll on your partner’s energy. She’s going to need as much rest as she can, but it will be a challenge for her with the baby needing to feed most of the time. Take the initiative and be one step ahead of her needs, but be sure to ask her regularly how you can help. Your partner may need to sleep as the baby sleeps, so take watch over them as they do.
Pick up the slack around the house. Your partner may not be fully able to help around the house as she used to before she gave birth. Understand and pick up the slack. Do more of the cleaning and cooking around the house. Don’t hesitate to outsource what you can, like going to a laundry service for your dirty clothes and sheets. Your parenting is only as successful as your teamwork.
Treasure These Moments
Yes, parenting is hard, but it is also a privilege. Don’t focus on the hardships or think of it as a duty. You don’t have to take care of a baby; you get to take care of one. Babies grow up fast. Treasure these moments and enjoy being a father.