With more women returning to work soon after giving birth, the new dad is stepping up to the plate caring for their newborns more and more. As a result, the bumbling dad stereotype is becoming a thing of the past as dads get better at changing diapers and living on two hours sleep. This is good because studies show that the more dads engage with their kids from day one the more likely their kids are to flourish. What’s not so good is that these same dads aren’t often prepared for the major shifts in their relationship when a baby enters their world.
In fact, “A baby will change virtually every component of your life: physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, relational, social, financial, logistical and spiritual,” according to Joyce Marter, LCPC, a psychotherapist and contributor to Psych Central. Lack of sleep strains the relationship in various ways and because couples are agitated, they wind up bickering more in general. In the end, newborn boot camp makes dads all the stronger. Here are 15 life lessons a new dad learns from his babies.
Read Related: 9 Reasons Why Your Baby is Like Yoda
1. ‘Skin to skin’ and touch is very important.
Oxytocin is an important relationship building chemical, which is released every time you cuddle with your partner or child. If dad practiced ‘skin-to-skin’ with his newborn, he now knows how important the human touch is.
2. Apologize more.
To parents, for missing all their calls. To your wife, for a never ending list of shortcomings as a support partner. To friends, for not being in touch. An apology means “I see you were harmed by my action, and that matters to me.”
3. Nap when your baby naps.
One no longer sleeps ten hours like they used to. Four hours on a good night. And it no longer matters either. You will eventually have time for sleep; when you want to cuddle with your child and they’re now at college.
4. A father needs to develop his own connection.
In other words, a way to get at the baby without becoming an intruder between mother and newborn bonding. Quiet, relaxed time with baby helps, as does wearing your baby (slings and carriers).
5. Stop and enjoy the moment.
One could sit for hours and watch their baby peacefully sleep. Or just sit and make faces at them for hours looking for a response. So do it. They grow up too fast and many dads miss little moments like this.
6. Forget about “me” time.
While it’s important to find a stress-release sport or hobby so you don’t blow up at your wife, keep it to a minimum because you are needed at home to help out. Alright, maybe you’re allowed to pee like once a day.
7. Dads get baby blues, too.
During the first few months as a parent, with the lack of sleep, the constant worry, the drastic change of life, don’t be shocked at how angry and depressed you can become. It’s almost embarrassing, but human. Talk to someone.
8. New sympathy for parents with crying babies.
Remember when you used to curse out the parents of a crying baby on a flight? Now you sympathize with parents and feel bad for all the ones you were mad at in the past.
9. The days when you get nothing done.
And that’s okay because you got a lot done: you held, rocked, and changed your baby’s diapers and helped your wife. Even if you haven’t attacked the fifty message in your inbox yet.
10. Priorities and adaptation have new meaning.
Learn to prioritize what really needs to be done and let everything else go. Dads can quickly figure out what their priorities are in the household. Adapt to the fact that bathing, sleeping, eating and computer time are luxuries.
11. Fridays mean nothing anymore.
Remember how Friday came around and there were once concert tickets, a romantic dinner out or a move night at home with wine and pizza. Well, Friday is now any other day where your biggest goal is simply sleep and maybe a shower.
12. Your spouse is an asset, not your enemy.
Stress at work, a weird new life, and so many emotions are a Molotov cocktail of ingredients to fight with your bossy, sleep-deprived spouse. Don’t. You are on the same side, be patient with her and together you will get through this.
13. You feel alienated from your wife for a while.
It comes as a shock, but you learn that that beautiful baby has a profound and often negative affect on a man’s relationship to his wife. It’s a challenging, but temporary stage of your relationship. Rely on one another for support and take turns at night.
14. Good marriages don’t just happen, nor do good parents.
Both require love and a lot of work, education and dedication. The quality of your baby’s life is in your hands. Dads who tend to babies, also tend to marriages, deterring parental depression, anxiety, marital conflict, and divorce.
15. Involved Dads = Successful Children
You’ve got an important role to play from day one. Research shows that babies with more involved fathers are more likely to be “emotionally secure, confident in new situations, and eager to explore their surroundings. Doesn’t it feel good to be needed by such a beautiful little creature?