In a few short months, I will be a father again. On or around February 14th, we have another baby girl on the way – and she is already making her presence known with her 5am kicks! One of my best friends is also on his way to fatherhood – for the first time – and we were able to met up on a “future” dads weekend this month. Over the weekend, he asked for my top 5 pieces of advice and compiling them has turned out to be a great reminder for me on my own journey into fatherhood again.
- Take parental leave – I know not everyone has the luxury of having leave, but if you do have any parental leave, TAKE IT. I hear many working dads talk about how little time they took off when their child came, and about how urgent that one work trip or presentation was at that time in their career. This is such a myopic view of work and your role outside of work. You can and should take time off! One of my favorite perspectives on work is from this New York times article, “Play the role you are given… Play it seriously, and diligently. But recognize that it is only a role, one among many — and not of your design or choice. When you see your duties as various roles you must play, and your life as a collection of these roles, this will alleviate the urgency and anxiety that burden any given task — including, or especially, your career.” You will never get those first few weeks/months with your new child back, so being able to be present, involved, and not boggled down by emails and work to-do lists is a really good thing.
- Tune out the noise – there are so many books, blogs, podcasts and people out there with TONS of parenting advice. What they should wear, what they should be doing at what age, if you should co-sleep, how or if…or when! to sleep train, how to discipline and the list goes on and on. Each piece of advice conflicts with the last, and each is given with such passion that makes it challenging to ignore. Ultimately, every kid is unique, and it is your responsibility to figure out what pieces of advice to ignore and which to take as you embark on your journey of fatherhood.
- Change all the diapers – especially early, new baby doesn’t need you as much as they need mom, so do the dirty work. Jump up to change diapers, to rock to sleep, and for 5am wake-up calls. Especially if you are working, you don’t get as much time with the baby, so every second you can grab – even doing something non-glamorous – is precious and helps start building the same bond that is ingrained with mom from birth.
- Be a good partner – your relationship with your partner changes overnight. It is so easy to let frustration fester in a lack-of-sleep induced craze. If your partner is at home with the baby, they are going crazy from lack of adult interaction, and never-ending diapers and whatever your child needs in a given moment. If you are working, you are running on fumes for important calls and meetings and feeling under-appreciated for aforementioned #3, while providing for your new family. Go out of your way to show appreciation and thankfulness for what your partner is doing – both in words and regular actions (if you can’t think of the last time you did… it has been too long). Emily Oster’s interview with Erza Klein has one of the best reflections on the data around martial happiness – and how it is impacted and evolves with kids.
- Be present – with so much less time, it is easy to try to multitask your life. Play with your kid, as you respond to just one more work email. Scroll instagram as you rock your baby. Being constantly connected helps to bring friends and family closer – but also disrupts boundaries between you and your baby. Ditch technology around your kid when you can (trust me, they will notice when you are fully present), and create rituals to leave work at the door as you get home.
These are the 5 pieces of advice I am giving myself as I prepare for daughter number 2 – what is the best advice you have heard? What has been noise you have learned to ignore?