To the new dads that are reading this and to those that are expecting to be one soon, let me inform you about what lies ahead. For some reason that you will be unable to explain at a later time, you will get really mad. You’re not going to be mad at the baby, but you’ll be mad at the situation. Being deprived of sleep for a long period of time can wreak havoc on anybody. And so there will come a time when you are tired and in the middle of something and everything will go wrong. Maybe you grabbed that one diaper that has a rip in it, or the baby poops all over everything and you don’t have a change of clothes. Maybe you ran out of something. For some reason the baby just won’t go to sleep. The baby keeps crying and won’t stop and you can’t figure out how to help them. These are all things that have happened to me and will happen to you. Let me repeat that, “they will happen to you.” You will have no control over the situation and you will be angry about it. Really angry about it. But, you still have to be the adult. Don’t let your emotions control you.
I recently participated as a “veteran” dad at a New Dad Boot Camp run by the New York City Dads Group. A large portion of the conversation addressed how we as dads handled stress during those beginning stages of fatherhood. In fact, the number one question I get from other dads is how I keep my temper in check. There really isn’t an easy answer for that question. The best advice I can come up with is that you must put the situation into perspective. When you feel that high level of frustration, step back and take a breath. Try to be calm. If you are all alone in your house, put the baby back in the crib and take a couple of minutes to yourself. The baby will continue to scream in the crib, but you’ll have a better chance of helping the baby if you give yourself a couple of cooling off minutes. Obviously, if you are out in public, you won’t be able to leave the situation and you’ll have to deal with it the best way you can. Good luck.
You will be angry and you will become frustrated and that may make you want to do something irrational, maybe even something violent. Stop yourself before you get there. Controlling anger made it into my Basic Baby Care series because of the risk of Shaken Baby Syndrome. We’ve heard the story, the baby was crying and the parent could not find a way to stop them and so they shook the baby in frustration. And that one moment changed everything forever. There is never an excuse for child abuse. Don’t let your emotions in any situation cause you to reach that point.
Here is the one thing that has helped me stay in control: Remember in all your joys and frustrations with the little one, that it is only a short moment of your life. Those frustrating moments are a tiny part of the timeline in your life story together and they will pass. Those joyous moments will pass too, so cherish them.