Many a guy has looked at his gal and newborn, filled with a desire to take part in the magical parenting journey but unable to figure out exactly what to do.
Sometimes it feels like there’s no space for dad in the weeks after the birth. He’s not the mom, he’s not lactating, and there are only so many diaper changes available to complete every day.
Dads – I’ve got you covered with five practical strategies to help you find your place in your newly changed family life… along with a few warnings to keep things from going suddenly, inexplicably, bat-crazy wrong.
1. Complement her appearance. Find something about your gal that is genuinely attractive. You see, a woman, after having her insides rearranged as her uterus grows from an organ the size of a marble to roughly the size of a planetary mass, can feel a little – shall we say – ugly. Strategy: Complement her, play up to her vanity. WARNING: This is not a good strategy if there is any part of you that suspects in a future moment of irate passion you will yell, “I told you you were beautiful when you looked like a grizzled walrus and had cankles!” The key here – be sincere.
2. Give her insanity grace. There is no greater indication of the power of hormones than me going through the last 10 months saying this is our last pregnancy… and then five days post-partum telling my husband I’d like to have another baby. Hormones. They are wicked, wicked little zappers. Strategy: When she says something completely outlandish, make a deal with her to write the notion down and seriously discuss it’s applicability seven months in the future. That will give the hormones time to settle down. WARNING: Experts say it takes two full years for a woman’s hormones to return to normal after the childbearing process. (I’ve been pregnant or lactating 6.5 years of the 8 I’ve been married. You do the math and realize why I refer to my husband as a saint so often.) Be the bigger man – give her room to to be slightly bonkers.
3. Let her sleep. Having a newborn is a little like military special operations training. Sleep deprivation, the body stretched beyond capacity, being literally responsible for another’s life… Strategy: Be a warrior! Wake up for that last night time feeding and take the baby into another room so your gal can get a few hours of sleep when she’s not “on” and listening for whether the baby is still breathing. WARNING: When she asks how your night was, DO NOT tell her it was hard because you didn’t get much sleep! This will remove all brownie points you have accumulated! In dire cases, this inadvisable course of action may actually cause her head to explode. Shrapnel can land in tender places… just don’t do it.
4. Become a domestic maestro. If mom has been the conductor of household management, having a baby can completely derail the cleanliness of the house. Strategy: Every day, do a spot check of what remains undone: dishes? laundry? wiping the toilet seat down? lightbulb changes? grocery shopping? folding clothes? emptying the trash? making the beds? creating a mini-Olympics so the older kids get to bed early and worn out? If there are tasks undone, just do them. There are even bonus points available if you do these things without expecting applause! Get older kids to help you… the more time mom can spend with her feet up, not stressed about how the house looks, the better off everyone will be. WARNING: Do not despair or become resentful if you don’t get oodles of praise… it’s good to expand your horizons to see what your gal does on a daily basis. And… I can pretty much guarantee, consistency in this area will ultimately benefit you. (Approximately 6-8 weeks post-partum. Wink, wink.)
5. Be a Daddy. There’s nothing that melts a gals’ heart more than seeing her guy all gushy and tender over their baby. Strategy: Hold your baby. Talk to your baby. Make eye contact with your baby. The time for rules and regulations will come – as a newborn there is no way you can spoil the little sucker. If they cry all night long, get out of bed and walk the floor while singing a song. Daddys matter. WARNING: This might make you feel, well, vulnerable. Like the anti-guy. After all, real men smash small things and beat their chests while yelling, “ARGH!!!!!” (At least that’s what it looks like in The Avengers.) You might get a little scared by how much you feel for that baby. That’s OK. If you’re willing to take a bullet for any member of your family… you should truly know the people you’re protecting. Love is a good thing.
Do you have any suggestions for dad’s that have been invaluable for your family?