Parenting has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and also the biggest life change. Being a parent for the first time is quite daunting. Our son is now almost 5 months old and growing fast.
In this article, I thought I would share some of my experiences on fatherhood and some of the things no one tells you about the journey.
You feel useless.
During the initial days, despite your best intentions, you will feel utterly useless.Throughout the pregnancy, I would watch my wife gently rub her belly and connect with our unborn son. I used to joke about how much the two were enjoying themselves. I could not wait for him to arrive so that I could “join the party”. Well, the day arrives and to start with, the birth process was painful and horrifying. All I could do was be by her side. We took our son home and for the first few months, it was the constant feeding. We tried baby formula and he rejected it almost instantly. I did not realise how much dependent a kid is on the mother in the initial months. Time and time again, I have watched my tired, still recovering, sleep-deprived wife put everything on the line for our baby. In many cases, there is nothing much I could do to help with caring for our kid.
Thorough out our decade-plus together, I’m used to being in a situation where I can contribute equally to anything we do but this time my wife had to take one for the team. Thankfully as the boy grows my involvement had grown.
I learnt that the best thing you can do as a new dad is to handle all other non-childcare related stuff like housework and support your spouse in whatever she needs. Don’t feel bad about not being as involved as you want. As time passes, your involvement will increase.
It’ll change your relationship forever.
Your relationship will never be the same again. You are used to receiving undivided love and affection from your wife. Now,, there is someone else competing for her attention. Also, you have this new human being who you love and adore and therefore the focus shifts from just each other to you this new member of the family.
Yes, the intimacy game will change and so will other aspects of your relationship.I’ve learnt that even though it now takes more effort, make sure you do not neglect your core relationship as happiness between the two of you makes the hard job of parenting easier. Also, at the end of the day, you two are still a couple on top of being parents.
Embrace not knowing.
I’ve tried looking everywhere and I still cannot find an operation manual for my son. I was there at the birth and I’m pretty sure the midwives did not misplace it or withhold it from me.
In all seriousness, you’ll find yourself completely out of your depths and not knowing what to do. What does this noise mean? Is this a cry for pain, discomfort, overwhelm, needing to be changed or hunger? Also, as soon as you master a new routine, the baby is off to a new growth stage and we are back to square one. Common wisdom does not always work because every baby is an individual. As a new parent, you are pretty much learning as you go…and making stuff up too.
Thankfully, we live in an information age. Picture this, I learnt how to quite a screaming infant and a few other tricks from YouTube. I joined a dad support group and it’s been great for my mental health as well as practical tips and perspectives from other dads. It takes a village to raise a baby. Find or assemble your village as soon as you can. You will need it.
It’s a crash course on resilience.
Being a parent is a crash-course on perseverance. That popular phrase “You are left holding the baby” takes on a whole new meaning. Soothing a baby could be a simple task or hours of back and forth rocking. And did I mention that good solid sleep now a premium luxury out of your reach?
I just hired a personal trainer, joined a gym and started working out just so I could have the physical strength to carry my son around. You’ll notice that your patience threshold will increase as parenthood is unpredictable and ever-changing at every stage.
Your outlook to life will never be the same again.
The way you see life will never be the same. I use to struggle with long term thinking but now think of life in terms of generations. How will his future be? How do we create a great legacy for future generations of Kiama’s?
I’m also constantly evaluating my habits, beliefs and choices and wondering how they will impact him in the long run. Will I pass my limiting beliefs or bad behaviours to him? Are there aspects and areas of my life that I need to deal with to make sure I don’t subconsciously pass certain traits to the next generation? Being a dad has driven me further and further into self-awareness and personal development.
You’re in awe of your partner
I’ve always been in awe of my wife. She’s smart, intelligent and confident. She’s always been my voice of reason and someone I look up to.
Our son’s birth was painful and brutal. I remember one of our good friends telling us that giving birth is one of the most painful and beastly things you get to do as a human being. I helplessly watched my wife go through incredible pain to deliver our son yet she pushed through.
In the coming months, I’ve watched her push herself when sick, sleep-deprived or tired and take care of our baby. I’ve never had so much gratitude and appreciation for her as I do now. I could not have chosen a better person to start a family with or do life with.
You’ll discover emotions you never thought you had
You think you know how to love, wait until you have a kid. Your flesh and blood. A small piece of you. Oh my goodness, the way they stare at you without blinking like they are looking through your soul. Then there is the moment when they learn how to be expressive and smile when they see you. Those smiles just melt your heart. Did I mention the cuddles?
The flip side is how much pain you feel when you see them in pain or sad. Parenting is a very emotionally charged game.