I’ve been writing about parenting for a while now, so being asked to write advice for new dads is something I’ve gotten used to. The thing is, I honestly don’t feel like I should be speaking for all the fathers. In fact, if you ask some of my Internet trolls, no one should be taking advice from me, ever.
But I suppose that’s a different matter all together. And sure, I have some advice for new dads. My most tried and true is this little nugget: make love a verb. You can love someone all day, but until you turn it into action, they won’t know about it.
With a new baby, love looks like taking as much paternity leave as you can so you can connect with the baby, and support the new mom. It looks like finding ways to help, even simple ones. It means really looking at ways to pitch in, even when the mother of your child doesn’t ask for it. It looks like being present, and involved, and supportive.
But the thing is, while I know this is good advice, I’m still figuring out this parenting gig. It’s a learning process, and one of the best things any father can do is learn from mothers, right? (Nod your head, guys. It’s true). So instead of dishing out advice from a dad’s perspective, I decided to ask other moms what they want and need.
1. “Take the picture. Moms are always taking pictures of the kids with dad or of the kids. Let her be in a few so she has some memories with the kids too that aren’t selfies. Just catch her in a moment with the kids and take the picture.”
2. “Don’t wait for mom to ask for help. Change the diaper while she sleeps. Throw those clothes in the washer. Snuggle the baby while your wife/girlfriend takes a shower.”
3. “If your wife/mother of your children is going out and you’re staying home, don’t say you’re ‘stuck babysitting.’ When they’re your own kids, it’s not babysitting… it’s being a parent. It’s not any more special than when the mom does it and you don’t deserve special praise for taking care of your own children.”
4. “Everyone is tired. Don’t make it into a competition. If you aren’t comfortable helping with the baby, find ways to help around the house. There is nothing sexier than a good dad.”
5. “When our girl was young and my husband was going back to work, he started packing me a lunch when he made his. It meant he knew I’d easily be able to have a decent lunch and not snack on junk, and it was always something I could prepare one-handed if baby was fussy and I couldn’t put her down. Just knowing he’d left a simple sandwich helped ease some of my load.”
6. “Most first time moms feel like they have to do everything for their baby. Tell Mom you’re going to take the baby for a while so they can have a break. Don’t wait for her to ask for help. Often times the mom wants help but won’t ask and the dad wants to help but doesn’t want to step on moms toes.”
7. “You are every bit as important and needed as Mom is. You may not feel like it, but you are! Step up. Make dinner, wash clothes, run the sweeper, hug your baby mama, fill her drink, fill her soul, love them both!”
8. “Mom may not want to be touched AT ALL for a while. It happens. It’s normal. And it’s not you.”
9. “Take all of the [family] leave that you can. As strong as the other parent is, you need to be there for them. Don’t spend that time doing projects or going out with friends. Be in the moment.”
10. “Her hormones will be even worse after pregnancy. Don’t expect that to stop the day she give birth. Be understanding, helpful, and supportive.”
I’m going to be honest here: I’d have loved this kind of advice 11 years ago when I first became a father. None of this is too complicated. But the thing is, when you first have a child, everything, even the simplest of things, feels complicated.
So parents about to have a child, take a breath. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. And new dads, apply this advice. I know for a fact it would have made things much easier for me and for my partner. I honestly feel like I just gave every new dad the answers to the test.