Almost 2 years ago my life changed drastically and forever because my daughter was born. And even though it was her who had just started to explore this world from scratch, I still had to learn to live from the beginning too. Going to the gym, playing the guitar, playing video games at night, a collection of superheroes figurines, all my habits that didn’t seem unhealthy to me, my hobbies, and even my everyday chores — I was aware that I’d have to sacrifice some things for the sake of my kid, but I turned out to be unprepared for the scope of those sacrifices.
I am not sure that one can actually be prepared for something of this nature (if we are talking about the first child), still, I’d like to tell Bright Side readers about the main issues that are waiting for modern young fathers and how they can cope with them.
I couldn’t even imagine that my life would change so much after the birth of my child. Now I rarely see my friends because I prefer to spend my free time with my family. Moreover, most of my friends don’t have babies yet and my new interests and activities are not quite understandable for them. I have to admit that sometimes I want to hear the phrase, “I haven’t been on a date with my wife for ages” from someone else. The closeness I used to have with my wife is now a mythical thing that lives according to a law that we ourselves don’t understand.
Here is the solution: teach your kid to sleep separately as early as possible (though it has both advantages and disadvantages), buy a crib with reliable sides, and a crib cam, and you will be able to spend almost every evening together with your wife. And while the baby is not used to falling asleep by themselves, you can sustain the romantic spirit with the help of messengers and dates by the crib watching the latest movies on your phone. Of course, using earbuds.
On one hand, seeing your baby learn everything quickly (like using the dishwasher or cooking fried eggs) is cool. But it always keeps you tense — we are being watched and seen as an example. Therefore, picking your nose, biting your nails, and picking up food that has fallen on the floor and eating it is something parents should forget about. Once we start to get too relaxed about this, and our daughter starts to repeat all the filthy words (the ones we used when talking about a neighbor who decided to start their apartment renovation early in the morning on a weekend), breaks an egg on her forehead, and gladly brings us that empty bottle of champagne that we hid under the sink last night —we realize that we should have been more cautious when opening it in front of her yesterday.
Here is the solution: come to terms with this. Repeating what parents do is one of the best and most important ways to get to know the world. The child literally follows your every movement and remembers everything. The phrase “Oh, wow!” has become the toughest thing you can hear me using. That’s how I react to all the bad things taking place in my life now. You can try finding your own euphemisms or phrases, and use them.
I used to do analog photography as a hobby. I would take pictures in the daytime and print photos at night. There were bunches of photo negatives hanging and drying around the house, while the floor was covered with various photo chemicals. Of course, I had to hide all that in the most remote corner of my apartment, to prevent my daughter from getting to these hazardous substances and sharp items.
We have 2 guitars, a ukulele, a flute, and a clarinet at home. Guess which of these instruments I have played within the last 2 years? Right, none of them! Rattling along with a song using a baby toy from time to time turned into the biggest happiness for me, and only in cases when I wasn’t singing a lullaby. And the reason is not in the fact that playing musical instruments requires time which now belongs to my kid completely, it’s the fact that unknown things scare a little baby.
Here is the solution: in order not to go crazy from boredom, it’s better to change your hobbies and choose something safe for kids, that doesn’t take too much of your time. For example, I started to use a digital camera and kept only the ukulele for playing. Now after 2 years, my Instagram is still full of photos and my daughter is not afraid to hold the small musical instrument in her hands. I hope very soon that our clarinet’s turn will come too.
Money is never enough, no matter how much of it you have. After the appearance of the baby, expenses grow drastically. Diapers, swaddles, baby food, changing tables, chests of drawers, cribs, strollers — it’s actually impossible to list everything that is trying to drain the family budget.
Here is the solution: control your budget. The time of impulsive purchases is over, now it’s time for strict calculations and only the necessities. Also, remember to control yourself when you visit a kids’ store. I understand that it’s almost impossible, but your baby doesn’t need 5 of the same T-shirts with beautiful prints, and a button down shirt, and those cool shorts. Your baby will grow out of them and may not even have a chance to wear them for a second time. The birth of the baby is an excellent motivation to work more and better, and you can try saving a little bit of money in advance to have a financial cushion.
Eating alone? Only at night. Reading your favorite book? Once I open it to the right chapter, my daughter gladly brings her collection of kids’ poems and of course, I choose reading to my kid. The main pain in the neck is that the toilet stopped being my place of solitude. Bye to social media and YouTube videos. Hi to my toilet-mate and the game, “the cat says meow and the dog says woof.” Just like cats, kids can’t stand when someone stays in the bathroom for too long.
Here is the solution: of course, you can’t lock the toilet door because it’s not safe. Sharp items, poisonous detergents, and other stuff miraculously appears in the kid’s hands once you decide to stop watching. So you’ll just have to reduce your social media time and listen to audiobooks.
It happened the first summer I was together with my daughter. We would go walking every day and about one minute into the walk, I was already tired, sweaty, and angry. It would happen every time until I realized the mistake I was making. Turned out, I was prepared for rest and didn’t expect that I’d have to work hard while on those walks.
Keep in mind: if you are going for a walk with your whole family, don’t even think that you’ll be a light traveler — you’ll have to carry your things, your wife’s things, your kids’ clothes, food, water, toys, and a pile of diapers. If your kid suddenly wants to bring their shovel or a toy truck, you’ll have to include that to your overall baggage weight too. The same situation applies to tricycles and scooters. I don’t know which evil genius came up with all these devices and decided that kids need to go outside with them. But after 5 minutes of using them, your kid will give you the device, which they have now gotten bored with, and quickly run toward something dangerous, while you try to find a place for that bike under your armpit.
Here is the solution: admit that one small belt bag won’t be enough from now on. It’s better to take a medium-size backpack, with convenient and wide straps, or a strong athletic bag if you are going outside. You can store the biggest part of your things there and which will leave your hands free to carry the large things, like a bike.
And we all know who always loses this game. You can no longer discuss news and gossip, the new laws or some court decision... All because conversations longer than one minute get interrupted by reading kids’ books, counting, or singing. A request to massage my shoulders after a hard work day is considered a crime. Whenever I try to hug my wife, take her in my arms, or kiss her, our daughter instantly comes to us and pushes me aside (with a smile). Then over the next 30 minutes, she won’t leave my wife’s arms.
Here is the solution: usually, this type of behavior is a phase in a kid’s life. At first, daughters feel jealous of mothers over fathers, later things will change and become vice versa. Sometimes the kid might just be lacking attention and this is how they get it. There is a simple rule you can follow in this situation: once you come home from work or pick up your kid from kindergarten, keep showing an intense reaction for the first 5 minutes (preferably with enthusiasm and without distractions) to everything your kid says or does. This amount of attention will be enough for your kid and they will let you switch your attention to a different person.
A set of silk shirts, my collection of jackets and ties, and my shiny shoes have been gathering dust in my closet for going on 2 years. Before, I liked wearing something fancy when I went out in the evenings. Moreover, wearing a hat when it was ’only’ 5°F outside or a huge shapeless down jacket in early autumn seemed like nonsense to me.
Here is the solution: it’s impossible to explain to a kid that you can’t jump into a puddle with them. Moreover, you will have to get wet anyway when trying to get the kid out of that puddle. Lying in a snowdrift, wearing trousers, doesn’t sound like a good idea either, that’s why you’ll need warm, water-resistant, and quick-drying clothes. Say no to button down shirts and yes to 5 of the same gray T-shirts. I never thought that I’d have a favorite raincoat and thermal underwear for everyday wear in my wardrobe. Now I have them.
There is still a stereotype in society that it’s the mother, not the father, who takes care of a child. That’s why those special rooms are equipped only for women. And though, as a rule, they are located in separate rooms from women’s toilets, men are still restricted from using them. All because there could be a woman breastfeeding her baby in there. Though it seems strange to me that the place for changing diapers and the place for feeding the baby is the same room. It would be more logical to make a special room for feeding, and then another room for parents and kids next to it — where fathers would be allowed too.
Here is the solution: ask some nearby woman to look inside the room and check to see whether there is anyone inside. If the room is empty, you can quickly go inside and change your baby’s diaper or change their clothes, until someone finds out, comes into the room, and asks you to leave. Also, you can try to come to an agreement with the visitors in these rooms and tell them you are not going to look at them and that you’ll leave the room very quickly. Both options have worked in my case.
They come up all the time and start to lecture me or even tell my kid to stop crying without finding out the reason or asking my permission. And then they make a sharp remark toward me, saying that I should calm down my baby myself. Of course, seeing all of this makes my daughter start to cry even more. And those ladies, with their manifesto “About raising a kid” are sure that I don’t know what to do with the kid, that I am with her against my will, and that I can’t survive without their precious advice.
Here is the solution: practice shows that the less people passing by react to the tears and the less they try to prevent the parent from moving away with an upset child, the faster you can stop the kid’s tantrum. That’s why — run! I’m kidding — just show a strict and repulsive look and be attentive. In most cases, I manage to get rid of those meddling people at a distance by giving them a formidable look or by wagging my hand.
The main issue, in my opinion, is the inability to meet everyone’s expectations. On one hand, you don’t care what others think about you, on the other hand, TV shows, advertisements, and movies keep blowing your mind with the opposite concepts. Some want you to buy a watch for real men, a supercar, and a deodorant that will attract every woman in the city to you. Others recommend choosing baby food from proven brands only, to not forget about the child, and to generally spend time with your family more often. What do you do? What do you strive for?
Here is the solution: perhaps being an alpha-male and a dedicated father are 2 mutually exclusive tasks. You need to choose once and forever what matters to you most and it’s better to make the choice before you have the baby. After that, it’s better to turn off the TV, plug your ears, and not pay attention to all that informational noise. After all, it’s only what you think and feel that matters the most.
Do you know fathers who have an easy time coping with all these difficulties? Or are you the one who is ready to give a good piece of advice to beginner fathers? Please share your experience with us in the comments!