Advice For New Dads

Just like most bloggers, I receive a lot of email. I do my best to read all of them and reply to the ones that I can, but doing so takes a lot longer than I expected. As I sit here now, I realize that many of the emails I received asked a common question:

What advice do you have for a new dad?

I can’t say that I have all of the answers, but I’ll gladly share what works for me in the hopes that it will work for you.

Keep in mind, none of what you’ll read here is earth-shattering or profound stuff, but it’s what I swear by as a Daddy Doin’ Work.

#1 – Be there when your wife/girlfriend gives birth: And when I say “be there,” I don’t mean being in the hospital’s waiting room. I mean, being there in the delivery room with your lady as she brings a baby into the world. This should be a no-brainer, but I keep hearing about dudes who are “grossed out” by the whole experience. Fair enough. I’ll be real with you here – nothing is beautiful about the act of childbirth. With bodily fluids and other things flowing everywhere it was probably one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. However (yes, there’s a however), my wife never would’ve known that. The day your child is born is never about you and your feelings. It’s about your wife/girlfriend and baby, period. Be present, don’t give her any advice, let her curse you out (if that’s how she rolls), and do whatever she asks of you without complaint.

#2 – Step your game up: Contrary to what some NY radio hosts said last week, it’s important for a man to step his game up for his wife/girlfriend after delivering a baby. She spent hours pushing an 8-pound human through a small opening or she had her abdominal wall sliced open during a major surgical procedure. She’s exhausted, she’s in pain, and she needs time to heal. That’s when a man has to go above and beyond. As I said in last week’s post, he has to change diapers, give baths, make his wife food (or bring his wife food), and offer support without being asked to do so. Whatever a man was doing before his baby arrived just won’t cut it now. His wife and baby needs him more than ever, and he can’t let them down.

#3 – Hold your child often: As many of you know by now, I’m big on baby-wearing. As a matter of fact, other than the days when I was traveling out of town for some reason, there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t worn my daughters in the Ergo. Your child can learn your smell, your voice, your mannerisms, and everything about you. Not to mention, doing so will create a happier, healthier, and more confident child – and what’s better than that? An extra perk is your lady will probably think that a baby-wearing daddy is damn sexy.

#4 – Have zero-technology hours: Once a baby comes into the picture, life becomes extremely fast-paced and it almost seems as if you have zero time to yourself anymore. It’s not rare to feed your baby a bottle with one hand while you send an important email with the other. Multitasking is unavoidable when you become a parent. Take a moment to slow down. Find a time during each day when you put the iPhone or computer away – and don’t check Twitter, Facebook, or email. During that time, give your child 100% of your attention. In doing so, you’ll find that it will be the best time during the entire day.

#5 – Don’t bring baggage home with you: You had a shitty day at the office. Your boss chewed you out. You got stuck in horrific traffic. You repeated your lunch order to the restaurant cashier THREE TIMES and he still fucked it up. The bottom line is you’re pissed off. I’ll offer this piece of advice to any new parent: do whatever the hell you need to do to get over it before you walk through the front door. Go to the gym, sit in your car for 20 minutes, call your best friend, meditate, whatever. Just don’t bring that negative energy with you inside. Your baby doesn’t understand what adult life is like. He/she only wants daddy to be present and attentive.

#6 – Don’t collect things. Create memories: I see a lot of new parents focusing on buying the most expensive clothes, toys, and gadgets for their kids. That’s completely fine by me, and if they can afford it, go for it. I operate a little differently. When my family spends big money on things for our kids, it will always be things that create memories. For example, we went to Hawaii in February and anyone who vacations there understands how ridiculously expensive it is. For months we saved our money and cut back on a lot of stuff just so our trip would be epic. And it was. Although my Daughters Doin’ Work are 3-years old and 9-months old respectively, they will have literally thousands of pictures and videos to go through from that vacation and other excursions when they’re older. In 20 years from now, will they (or anyone else) give a shit that I bought their shoes at Payless instead of Bloomingdales? Of course not.

If you’re going to spend big money on any material item, be sure it’s for a damn good camera.

#7 – Take lots of pictures: Speaking of pictures, here’s something I did with both of my daughters. Many of my old-school SDW (Subscribers Doin’ Work) have heard this before, but I’ll share it again. DDW1 was born on a Sunday and every Sunday for the first year of her life I took a photo of her and placed it into a folder called “Sunday Pictures.” I also labeled the weeks accordingly (week 1, week 2, week 3, etc.) to ensure I kept everything organized. When her first birthday arrived, I played a 52-picture slideshow illustrating the week-to-week transformation of my daughter and it was absolutely breathtaking. I cannot stress this enough – if you’re expecting a baby, do this. You will not be sorry. DDW2 was born on a Tuesday and I already have a “Tuesday Pictures” folder set up for her. When you’re dead and gone, pictures and videos will be the primary way your kids will remember you. Take photos until your hands fall off.

#8 – Have Daddy-baby time: Don’t get me wrong here – spending time together as a complete family is really important, but it’s also important to create a Daddy-baby ritual with your kids. For me, I would spend at least an hour a day with my baby in the Ergo. That was our time for bonding. With my 3-year old, we go to swim lessons together every Sunday – just the two of us. It’s something we both look forward to and enjoy. Whatever it is (story time, bath time, feedings, etc.) find something that only you and your baby do together. It will only intensify your bond.

#9 – Choose your friends wisely: So you know that buddy of yours who thinks it’s cool to play a round of Edward Fortyhands on a random Tuesday night? Or what about the 38-year old guy who spends his free time at the club trying to pick up 22-year old girls? You may want to think twice about bringing them around your kids. It’s not that they’re horrible people, it’s just that you’ve outgrown the foolishness they partake in. Your priority is with your family and anything that takes away from that needs to be ruthlessly eliminated. Besides, there are many DDWs out there to spend time with who get what you’re going through as a new dad. Hang out with those guys.

#10 – Trust your gut: People (including me, with my nine aforementioned points) will try to give you advice. Some of it will be really good. Some of it will make you question the sanity of the folks providing it. At the end of the day, we have our intuition to guide us through life as parents. Don’t spend time listening to so-called “parenting experts.” I’m not a parenting expert, and neither is anyone reading this post. They simply do not exist. What works for my kids may not work for yours and vice versa. That’s OK. Your gut will never let you down when it comes to being a Daddy Doin’ Work, I promise you.

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  1. ShyOne says

    Love the “step up your game” section. Be aware that a normal (vaginal) delivery can leave a woman in a state where walking up stairs is incredibly painful for more than a week. My husband needed to take over all grocery shopping, and meal preparation for about two weeks. Neither of us were expecting that. A C-section delivery does even worse number on a woman’s body.

  2. Nita says

    Heh point #10 sounds similar to what I blogged last month XD

    It’s sound and awesome advice that all parents need to hear.

  3. patrick says

    re: #3 – Hold your child often:
    The whole family went to Disney a couple of weeks ago. Our daughter was adopted at 25 months. She’s now 4 (just turned). Everyone kept asking me “Don’t you want to put her in a stroller?” “Isn’t she heavy?” “Don’t you need a break?”

    I carried her for three days. Mostly because I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for a stroller, but also because I know there will be a day where she doesn’t want me to hold her because she’s too grown up for her daddy to carry her around.

    I don’t know much about her first two years, except that she spent most of it in front of different people’s televisions- grandma’s, aunt Susie’s, shady unlicensed daycare’s, whoever wasn’t in jail or rehab’s, etc.

    She’s mostly been a pretty happy kid, strongly bonded with my wife, sings and laughs a lot ( at least now she does, after two years), so we weren’t really prepared or anticipating a massive improvement at any point, BUT- after three days of being carried by daddy? She’s even happier. More bonded with me, sings MORE, laughs MORE, wakes up happy.

    Daddies: carry your kids. Hold them close. Being at work all the time (and believe me, I work plenty) and being taciturn and stoic doesn’t make you into your child’s rock, holding them does.

    DDW- thanks for all you do.

    • Pam Sowerwine says

      This is a beautiful observation from a loving parent. What a blessing for all of you. <3

    • n says

      1. My husband would only stand by my head, and from what I knew was facing behind me the entire time. He was wonderful, encouraging, and he knew exactly what I needed. But he never left my head. I love that he was there, but I also knew he wasn’t moving. And when it came time to cut the cord, he stretched every inch of his long arms out to reach without moving. lol

      2. Those guys are idiots. You and the entire world have found out just how stupid some people can be. So thank goodness for real men like you who show what a man is supposed to be.

      8. And make sure you have Daddy time. My husband is surrounded by women–me and three teen girls–so he needs time to recharge.

      10 AMEN!

  4. Christine says

    I would add about taking pictures that make sure you get pictures of your MDW, too many MDW are the ones taking the photos during activities or trips so inevitably there are no family pictures with Mom in it.

  5. Fernando says

    #10 is my usual piece of advice for new parents. Everyone thinks they know everything, but there’s a reason why these short people don’t cone with owner’s manuals; they’re complex and individual.

  6. Jeremy Moritz says

    Thank you for slapping me in the face with #7. My daughter turns 1 on Easter and we have taken a picture every Saturday over the year ( and so many other photos and videos. I now know what I’ll be doing over the next 11 days (having party on the 19th) to build her the best 1st birthday present this Dad can create – slideshow/video that I will probably cry like a baby watching over and over.

  7. just_kazari says

    Aw, I did #7 (although on a monthly instead of a weekly basis) and I really agree with this one. In the fugue of stress and sleep deprivation and seeing your baby every day you don’t get a sense of how much they’ve changed since the little 7 pounder you brought home from the hospital until you look back on the photos!

  8. Patti says

    I wish my husband had read some of your stuff. I lived most everything you stand for, but he never got it.

  9. Katrina Kiefer says

    As to the photography end of things. As a professional photographer taking portraits of babies right there in the hospital I can’t stress enough how important those first photos are. You won’t believe how much your baby changes from week to week in that first month alone. Do yourself a solid and let those hospital ladies get that portrait session right there in your room. The session with my company is free and the photos are posted to a professional/protected website for you and your family to view.

  10. RyanH says

    These are the only three pieces of advice I will give a new dad:

    1. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can prepare you and your partner for what you’re about to go through. It will be the most difficult weeks of your life. Your new baby will drive your household to the brink of madness. Just steel yourself for it, and know this: if you can make it through the first 6-8 weeks, you can make it through the rest. Just keep telling yourself that you have to last 6 weeks. Mark it on your calendar if you have to. Those first 6-8 weeks you feel like a zombie caring for an inhuman screaming poop machine, but one day something will *click* and suddenly everything will be different. Maybe the baby slept for 5 hours straight…maybe he stops screaming when you change his diaper or give him a bath…maybe he’ll let you leave him in the swing so you can eat a meal with both hands. Whatever it is, It’s literally an overnight change and you can *almost* hear an actual audible click/bubble pop/etc.

    2. Your baby will in all likelihood be all about mommy for the first 2-3 months. He (or she) will not visibly react to you, and will even get unconsolably upset if you try to comfort/entertain/hold him. He will not smile at you. This is very difficult for a dad to handle. It is hard to understand why the baby does not respond to you. We know you LOVE your baby, but you may not like your child very much; you may resent how much attention he requires and how much attention you’re no longer getting; you may feel useless and helpless, or even worse you may feel like you’re always in the way. HANG IN THERE. I absolutely positively guarantee you that the first time your baby cracks a smile at you, all these negative feelings will instantly evaporate as if they never existed. Your heart will explode with love. That one smile will initiate you into a whole new world of joy and happiness (and acting like a fool to get your baby to smile/laugh again).

    3. Take, and PRINT, lots of pictures–and do not skimp on portraits. My family has skimped on family portraits and I regret it to this day.

  11. says

    Great advice! I’ve found number 4 to be so true. I love coming home, sitting on the floor with my baby and just giving him my full attention. I’ve always been someone who is distracted at home, juggling multiple things at once, but he’s so compelling that I have no desire to go check my email.

  12. Luana says

    You are such a wonderful example for men to follow. It’s SO REFRESHING and good to know men like you exist. I immediately forwarded this to my husband, as we are expecting our first child soon.


  13. Karen says

    I must laugh at during delivery comment about not giving advice. My husband called me a drama queen in the delivery room ( and he is still alive) . He also said it was not the site that got him but more of the scent. He wished his friends had warned him about that.

  14. kiel anthony ford says

    I feel like a deadbeat. This is my forth child by 3 different women and Im denying this unborn child out of fear.

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