3 Tips to Help New Dads (Survive the first few Months)
Very few things are as euphoric as having your own kid. To be honest, I was kind of a “baby hater” until I had kids of my own. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I “punched them” or anything… It’s just that I never thought they were cute… And I never wanted to hold them. (I literally feel guilty admitting this… Yet it’s also quite liberating). Some people would say that I was afflicted with a classic case of “Manliness.” Yet, it’s amazing how kids change things.
I swear, there’s got to be some sort of hormonal thing that happens to us guys when our wives have kids. I almost never cried up until I had kids – and then it was like a fire hose was turned on. In the beginning, I would tear up watching NFL films. And now, even Toy Story 3 can cause my lower lip to quiver.
But aside from this, there were a lot of things about my 1st kid that caught me off guard. So if you are “dad to be” or, your shoulders are already smeared with yack, then allow this blog to give you a little extra wisdom.
(1). Don’t Allow the 1st Four Months to Freak You Out: To be honest, I felt more like a “baby owner” than a dad. (Honestly, “fatherhood” really seems to take off when they hit 2 years old). So, if you’re having a hard time “getting into the excitement,” don’t let it mess with you. Most babies don’t interact much in the 1st four months. Even more, newborns are ugly… I mean, really ugly. All of my kids are extremely good-looking now; but as babies, they looked like an alien race of oversized dried prunes. So if you are stunned by your baby’s extreme level of ugliness… don’t fear, within a few months, you’ll be convinced that your child is the best looking specimen on the planet. Even more, in the 1st few months, you need to remind yourself: Your wife is surviving a hurricane of hormones; Your baby cries a LOT; None of you are getting good sleep; your baby is getting more boob action than you are. So, if you feel a little useless and lonely, remember: this is temporary. Just keep repeating to yourself: “I didn’t have to give birth,” and suddenly, those 4 months will fly by.
(2). Serve your Wife & Affirm Her Body: I always thought that pregnancy was a nine-month process; but for moms, it’s more appropriate to say it’s an 18 month process (nine months of pregnancy followed by 9 months of recovery). A lot of women experience massive waves of insecurity regarding their bodies – and understandably so. Unfortunately, a lot of guys falsely interpret this as “my wife isn’t attracted to me anymore.” As one guy put it, “I feel like there’s an 18 month sexual drought – and I feel guilty even bringing it up.” So what does a guy do? Two Things: (1). Affirm the heck out of your wife & her body; & (2). Stay extra vigilant about sexual purity.
As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, research shows that porn, lust, and masturbation tend to increase sexual discontentment – and this is especially so when used during and after pregnancy. Under normal circumstances, porn is proven to increase depression and eating disorders and decrease the self-esteem of sexual partners – (women who marry a porn addict generally experience a 40% reduction in self-esteem, 22% increase in eating disorders, as well as a 43% increase in depression symptoms).
Keep in mind, after giving birth, women are already prone to an increase in depression and a decrease in self-esteem; thus, when men add isolating “self – sex practices,” it often becomes a lethal combination that many marriages never recover from. So, if you think you’ll need extra help during this season, make sure you read my blog linked here. And, all of this leads us to the 3rd helpful tip:
(3). Make friends w/ Other Married Guys who are in a Similar Season: Like I share in my book Broken Escalators, your “happiness” is dramatically affected by the quality of friends you keep. When the shoulder-region of all your shirts are stained with baby puke, there’s something comforting about meeting other men who have a similar stain. Certainly, parents of teenagers can still mentor you in the basics. But I’ve blacked out most of the trauma already; so, guys like me are virtually useless in helping you navigate the newest swaddling techniques. You need friends who are freshly acquainted with cutting-edge strategies on how to “clean poop out of car seats” or, how to “safely drug your baby on an airplane.” Heck. There’s probably an iPhone app that controls when your baby feeds (hopefully not); but if there is, you’ll want to know someone who’s tweaked it out to perfection!
But, whatever phase of fatherhood you’re in, just remember, it’s all worth it. And the pain is temporary.
Kids are one of the most delightful things in life. Every year of parenting has gotten better and better. (& if you’re looking for more parenting tips, click here). But part of the reason it’s been like this for me is because, I’ve constantly surrounded myself with friends who are one step ahead of me.
Both you and your spouse will go through many awkward phases. My wife and I have both gone through several year weight gains (and weight losses) – we’ve both gone through several year identity crises. We’ve known each other through many phases of life. But, keep treasuring and dating one another even when babies are crying. And I can assure you this: Your romance will reignite. Indeed, I’m now more in love with my wife than ever before — after three kids!
But, who are you surrounding yourself with right now who can help you accomplish this?
Heavenly father, give an extra allotment of grace to the young parents who are reading this blog. Give us strength, endurance, and joy as we go about the delightful process of stewarding these precious lives that you’ve entrusted to us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
For dozens more blogs and messages on parenting, check out my parenting page! I cover everything from “How to talk about sex, dating” to “How to Vacation with young kids.”
Peter Haas is the Lead Pastor of Substance Church – an international multisite church based in Minneapolis. Peter is also a dj-turntablist who produces & tours with Substance Variant. He writes comedy books on spirituality: “Pharisectomy: How to Remove Your Inner Pharisee and Other Religiously Transmitted Diseases” (2012) and Broken Escalators (2015). See www.SubstanceChurch.com – @peterhaas1 (twitter & instagram)