When it comes to being a first-time parent, you don’t know what you don’t know. But discovery is half the fun, right? Plus, it’s something every new dad has in common.
Just remember, everyone is new at some point on the road to fatherhood, and much can be figured out through trial and error. To hopefully ease some of the uncertainty of one of the toughest jobs around, we talked to a variety of experienced dads about the things they wish they had known when they were just starting out and what they’ve come to love in fatherhood.
If you are a veteran dad, you may want to read on and reflect. If you are a new dad, it’s probably time to take some notes. Here’s what to expect beyond the delivery room.
Victor Z., father to a boy, age 4
“Be prepared. What does this mean? Keep a pack of baby wipes in every room, car, bag, cargo-pants pocket and wherever you are planning to be with the new baby. Additionally, keep diapers, latex gloves, and a change of clothes in some of these locations. There will be poop, and lots of it. The gloves will help. And if you need help, ask for it. If someone offers to help, take it… and ask them to cook because you’ll probably forget to feed yourself.”
Ryan H., father to an 11-month-old girl
“Always remove all of the child’s clothes when they are eating tomato sauce, and never let a child whisper in your ear while they are chewing.”
Andrew B., father to boys ages 7, 5 and 3
“Take turns with diaper duty. Take turns with feeding if using formula. Give your spouse a break daily. Enjoy the moments. Make sure to update the diary daily if keeping one so you don’t find the book six months later and have to recall all the events you swore you would never forget.”
David E., father to boys, age 5 and 3
“Show your love to your kids often and show love to your spouse often. This will teach your kids how to love and how to express it. This will demonstrate what a loving spousal relationship looks like so that they can aspire for the same in the future.”
Brent B., father to a 20-year-old girl and two boys, ages 15 and 17
“Only keep one kind of bottle in the house. That way, whenever you are half-asleep and trying to make a bottle you aren’t trying to figure out what fits where.”
Clint S., father to a 2-year-old girl
“No new parents know what they are doing and everyone wonders if they are doing it wrong—you’re not. Find what works for you family, communicate, support each other and take it day by day. Asking or allowing others to help doesn’t mean you are failing as a parent, it means you are utilizing your resources.”
Blake B., father to a 5-year-old and 4-month-old
“You will realize within the first seconds of your child’s life that you never knew a love this intense was possible. You also realize levels of frustration you never knew possible as they get older. That frustration fades when you start to realize you did the exact same things as a child.”
Jeremy J., father to two boys, ages 6 and 3
“You will sleep again. You will hear stories of kid’s that slept through the night at six weeks and other kids who are18 and still do not sleep through the night. Everyone will have advice but take it with a grain of salt (including all the advice in this article). Every kid is different and what works for one kid might not work for another”.
Chris S., father to a 2-year-old boy with a baby girl on the way
“Cardboard boxes will get more play time than expensive toys.”
Brian G., father of a 1-year-old girl
“Take the childbirth classes. Have you ever birthed a baby before or never changed a diaper? They have classes for that. Even if you have, you won’t regret investing the time to be prepared.”
Dustin H., father to 2 boys, ages 7 and 11, and one 1-year-old girl
“Sports before the age of 5 are far more stressful on the parents then they are on the child.”
Russell M., father to two boys ages 4 and 2
“Supporting your wife! You’ll both be tired beyond belief, and arguments pop up easier than previously. Remember you’re on the same team.”
Randy F., father to two girls, ages 11 and 13
“Life is short, and life with children is even shorter. Don’t waste it. That block of time between the scary trip home from the hospital and that dreaded trip to the college campus is mercilessly short. Don’t let yourself lose sight of that in the day-to-day grind. Roll up those sleeves and be engaged in your family life throughout the journey. You’ll have time for hobbies later.”
Clint C., father to a 3-year-old girl and an 18-month-old boy
“Your time, energy, patience, love and dedication is about to be used and tested. Rise to the occasion! Go above and beyond for your partner and for your child/children as often as you can. You’ll never look back on your life and say, ‘I spent too much time with my kids.’ Also, drink good coffee every morning.”
Kris K., father to a 6-year old girl and a 3-year-old boy
“You are going to get frustrated, agitated and depressed because you can’t seem to figure out your new bundle like you figured out the DVR. You are not a horrible parent, you just are a new parent.”
Texas Health offers a Basic Training for New Dads class. To find one near you, visit TexasHealth.org/Childbirth-Education.