My Best Advice for New Dads
When Kelsey was pregnant I took a daddy class at the hospital. It wasn't a technical class with step-by-step instructions on how to be a good dad, but rather it was just a guy who is a father of two. He talked a lot about what to expect pre-delivery, post-delivery and after bringing our baby home from the hospital. At the time, I was a little bummed that there wasn't more hands-on training and specifically that he didn't show me how to change a diaper (my worst fear going into the whole thing).
In hindsight, the class was very helpful. I took lots of notes and it gave me a pretty good heads up into what we were getting into. There is no way it taught me everything I needed to know in one class, though. Since Rooney has been born, I have had some time to reflect on the things I've learned along the way, and have come up with a list.
My Best Advice for New Dads
- Be ready to serve. I did a lot of chores around the house before our baby was born, but once we brought her home I assumed all responsibility to keep the house in order. Acts of service is one of my love languages so it comes pretty natural to me, but it's a lot of work and is no glorious task. You give and give and give because that's what your family needs. Kelsey had enough to figure out with recovering from giving birth and feeding our little girl. I made it my job to provide them with everything else. This included enlisting help from family when possible.
- Get up with your wife. Sure, you don't HAVE to get up in the middle of the night when your wife is breastfeeding, but she probably wants you to anyways. There is plenty you can do. Simply being present with Kelsey makes her feel loved and helps ease her baby blues knowing that I was there with her.
- Take as much time off as you can. I had the first 10 days of my daughter's life off from work. I wish I had taken another week. The first 10 days were a complete blur and flew by so fast. It totally depends on your situation, but in our case, Kelsey needed me for an extra week. This leads me to my next point...
- Your wife needs you as much as the baby does. Maybe even more. Not only is your wife recovering, but if she is nursing, she is working nearly around the clock for the first few weeks at least. In conjunction with No. 1, I tried to make sure Kels always had what she needed. She wasn't thinking about taking care of herself, but it was apparent to me that I needed to constantly refill her water and get her snacks and/or make her meals so that she could replenish her energy throughout the day/night.
- Be prepared for chaos. The first two weeks were the most exhausting of my life. I have never been so busy. And on top of it, it seemed like it was a never-ending cycle of feeding, changing diapers, watching her sleep, rinse and repeat. It's so out of the normal routine it just feels weird. Be prepared.
- Be an encouragement. Again. Hormones. Recovery. Getting to know your newborn. Kelsey had so much newness in her life, it was quite overwhelming for her. I did my best to be her cheerleader. She did such a great job, but she needed help to see all the wonderful things that she was doing. She was so exhausted that she couldn't see past the next feeding. I just kept telling her how great she was doing, that I loved her more every day and to simply look at the beautiful miracle that we created.
- Take care of yourself so you can provide for your family. I saved this one for last, but I think it's one of the most important. If I wasn't taking care of myself, I wouldn't have had anything left to take care of my family. I stayed in physical shape by maintaining my running schedule. I missed one day of running when Rooney was 1 day old and we were still in the hospital, but then I was back at it. I needed that time to recharge my batteries so I could do all the other things listed above.
I am definitely not an expert, and I don't even know if these will apply to every situation, but these are the main things I learned as we struggled through after the first two weeks of taking home our baby. Every day gets a little better, but sometimes it feels like you take two steps forward and one step back.
Talking with other parents helps tremendously, too. I had the luxury of talking with other moms when I went back to work about what we were experiencing at home, and they assured me it was completely normal to feel how we were feeling. I would relay this information to Kels every night, and it was like free therapy. Parents are willing to offer all the advice you can handle. Ultimately, we have to try a lot of different things and discover what works best for Team Williams. We are getting there...one day at a time.
Any other advice for new dads?