New babies don’t have instruction manuals. Not that dads are known for reading the instructions. We usually tell ourselves and others, “I got this”. The funny thing is that we often find ourselves with extra parts or something attached backward. Perhaps you are especially organized and have the engineering degree need to put that Christmas morning present together. As for me, some assembly required usually means frustrations and several words that you wouldn’t want to say in front of momma.
I want to encourage those with older kids that I’m not going to do these blogs “necessarily” chronologically. However much sense that may mean for a future publication, I know that there are readers at different stages in life, facing various struggles. I like to stay up with current events and readers questions/comments that may spark a specific interest. This was just a side note.
Back to my daily rant, I have been asked what I believe new dads should know about that first couple of weeks at home. Let me paint this picture as clearly as possible. Both of my boys are now grown and in the military. My oldest is in the Navy. My middle child is a Marine. I’m not making light of the Navy boot camp, but there are 2 reasons that I’m going to give a Marine analogy. #1, my oldest son is a machine. Once you set him in motion he just keeps going. I really did not worry about him at boot camp. I knew he was going to be successful. #2, my middle son would fit the typical all American athletic kid. He has lots of potentials, but can be lazy at times.
Marine boot camp has been reported to me as a bit more lengthy and intense. My son described it as very little sleep, always hungry, always being yelled at, and when you think something is over, it gets worse. I told my son that it sounds like being a new dad and getting into a new routine. At least it is the case for dads that try to do it right. There are some fathers that allow this time to fall heavily on their wives. This is a mistake.
Try as you may, a baby is on their own schedule. You can attempt to “groom” them into a schedule. However, in many cases, babies are like cowlicks. No matter how you comb it, it kind of does its own thing. Many babies are up and hungry while the world sleeps. You know, it’s the time when you should be resting before going to work. DO NOT use this as an excuse to stay in bed, ignore the babies cries, hoping your wife will get up.
Mom’s have this amazing connection with babies that gives them extra stamina or resilience. However, it does not mean that their bodies and minds don’t pay for it later. So in Marine terms, you are exhausted. When you don’t sleep, you get fatigued and stressed. Finally, when you think you did everything right to get them to sleep, the eyes pop open and they wanna play.
The positive side of it is the end product and the bond that results for your continuous care. Dads…hear my words. Look for opportunities to step up. This is where the “I love you” words to your wife are proven. Seriously, If you slack off, stay in bed, fuss at her, or use the words “I gotta go to work”, you are gonna screw up. Doing your best to serve and love her as well as your baby makes you “the man”, not “henpecked”. It means that you are strong enough to do what you have to do as well as bare the needs and load of others.
The first couple of weeks or months can definitely be an adjustment. However, your performance will echo with your wife for years. This is especially true when ladies get together to talk about their men. Don’t be the loser. You won’ get everything right. You may not even get verbalized appreciation. However, it is the best course to take. Serve your family. Bear their burdens. Talk is cheap. Show your love with action.
When you have additional children, not that all kids are the same but you will know what to expect. It was so much easier with my second and third child. Again, not because they were better babies, but I was just living in a been there, done that situation. I knew what to do. I didn’t do everything right, but I got my butt outta bed and sought to be of assistance.
Something that worked for me to make this time a bit easier was a quick nap at lunchtime. I brought a sandwich, ate on the walk to my lunch break, set a timer, and crashed. When I got home in the evening, I would play with my babies if they were awake. If not, I would try to catnap again or go to bed early. You will develop your own system. Just make sure that you stick to it. Keep moving forward and be the best dad possible.