While I’m hardly a parenting expert, as a co-organizer for Dallas Dads Group, I sometimes get asked for tips for new dads. So without further ado, here are my five tips I’d give to any new dad:
Don’t strive for perfection when good is good enough.
As parents, we want the absolute best for our children. We want to feel good about our parenting and we want to portray to others that we have this down. Seeing other seemingly perfect parents on social media doesn’t help either. The truth is this: we all have bad days and we all make mistakes. They key is to learn from them. Don’t fall into the trap of obsessing over every detail to make things perfect. You’ll likely drive yourself crazy and your kid won’t end up being better for it.
Continue to do things you enjoy and support your partner in doing the same.
You had a child, not a brain transplant. You’re still you and your interests and hobbies are still valid to pursue. Whether your thing is playing golf, going to concerts, writing novels, or visiting every new BBQ restaurant in your area and keeping score of all of them, don’t let parenthood stop you from doing those things. Time and financial constraints will force you to do them less often and/or on a different schedule. That’s reality, but it’s important to make time for yourself. It’s also important to be willing to take some alone time with the baby to ensure your partner has time for their own things as well.
Be in touch with your feelings.
Whether it be joy, pride, frustration, worry, or any other numerous feelings, fatherhood brings them all out at times, in ways you might not have expected. Enjoy those times you’re feeling great, and for the negative ones, be careful that they’re not affecting you too seriously. Take an extra few deep breaths before responding to something frustrating. Also, know what postpartum depression/anxiety is and be on the lookout for signs of it. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it can, to both women and men.
Be ready for unsolicited advice.
And lots of it. To quote GURU from Gangstarr, “It’s often easier to give advice than it is for a person to run one’s own life.” (Ironically, I’m basically doing that right now, lol). The point here is that people like to give advice, and many times they assume dads with babies need lots of it. There will be the little old lady yelling at you in the supermarket because she thinks your baby isn’t dressed warmly enough. There might also be your own parents questioning your child’s eating habits or bedtime routine. Just know that it’s coming and plan ahead for what you might say back. Take the advice when you want/need it, and be ready to defend the decisions that you and your partner have made for your child. Just don’t go too hard on those little old ladies.
Connect with other dads.
For involved dads, fatherhood is a universally connecting phenomenon. I’ve been to over 90 meetups with dads in lots of situations and know this to be true. It doesn’t matter how much or little else we may have in common with each other, we can all talk about fatherhood. Being a parent also means that your life instantly becomes a lot more complicated and time consuming. You have less time for support and socialization when you need it most. It’s important to make that time for yourself as a father and join with other fathers however you can. Dallas Dads Group is here to provide a framework for these encounters to happen. We welcome all dads from all walks of life and host several events each month. We try to connect guys who live close to each other for meet ups and provide social media outlets for guys to connect with one another. If you aren’t sure when or how to get involved, contact an organizer and we will help show you the way.