A New Dad's Guide To Me Not Kicking Him In The Nuts
I heard about the forthcoming baby shower to celebrate a fetus with half of your DNA.
I hope that I’m on the guest list? Many people roll their eyes when they get baby shower invites, but not me. I love seeing a community support an expectant mom. I love drinking mocktails in a church basement at one in the afternoon. I even love that “guess which melted candy bar is in the diaper” game, because that shit is hilarious.
Another common baby shower activity goes like this: all of the guests write a piece of life-after-baby advice on a notecard, which are then collected and presented to the new mom in a little album or recipe box. I am totally okay with this activity, too (except if the advice is “sleep when the baby sleeps” — What if the baby doesn’t sleep, SUSAN?). What I am NOT okay with is that people don’t tend to sit men down and assault them with advice in the same way. And some of y’all really need it.
Luckily for you, you have me. How about we go to a secondary location, I open a tab, and I proceed to tell you how to act right?
HEY COME BACK, I JUST WANT TO TALK!
Okay, I was planning on doing this after you had three IPAs in your system, but we can also do it now, on this street corner, with my surprisingly jacked arm around your neck. This shit is important and people don’t talk about it enough. So shut up and listen to your Aunt Eva.
1. Okay, first off, I want you to know that new parenthood is hard for dads, too. Your feelings about this transition are valid and it’s not good for anyone if you shove them down into your gut where they will ferment into rage, resentment, or cancer. But for the love of cheese, find a therapist to help you sort through these feelings. If that doesn’t work for your budget, find a trusted friend, family member, or religious leader to help you. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT dump your feelings on your child’s mother. She’s got other things to deal with, like a c-section incision, bleeding nipples, and her own complex feelings. Commiserate with each other, but don’t complain, got it?
Go to therapy. Talk about all this baby stuff. And while you’re there, sort out your old business, too. Everybody’s got their problems, and now is the time to deal with yours. In particular, address anything you use to numb yourself or escape from complicated feelings. Whatever it is–gambling, problem drinking, pornography, drugs, screens–get it out of your life and resolve to live in the real world with your partner and your baby.
2. Develop emotional intimacy with people other than your partner. Especially with other dads! Men have been socialized to believe that they cannot show emotion or develop intimacy with other men. But listen here: You can, and you should. It is good for you, and it is good for the women in your life. Diversify your support system as much as you can because, hoo boy, you are going to need it.
3. Yes, your sex life will change after the baby is born. Get over it (with the aforementioned therapist’s help, if need be). I need you to know that it is okay for your partner not to be interested in sex. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, it just means she’s exhausted and her vag hurts. Just remember: different doesn’t necessarily mean worse. If you communicate, you and your partner can take the postpartum time to draw closer to one another and explore the softer side of romance. This new intimacy can be used to fuel the sex rockets once she is ready.
(Take note: if you pressure her into any kind of sexual activity she doesn’t want, or seek secret sex outside of the relationship, I will personally end your sex career.)
4. Spending time on hobbies is important to your mental health. But, guess what? It is equally important to the mother of your child. You cannot spend the same amount of time on your hobbies as you did pre-baby. Scale back your expectations for the moment, and do your best to make sure she is getting just as much leisure time as you are. If you are going to golf 18 holes at any point during the first two years, you sure as shit better have your kid in the Ergo while you do it.
5. It is now time for you to consider your attitudes about division of labor. Even if you are more involved in household and childcare duties than your dad was, there is probably still room for improvement. Experts say to look at the amount of free time each partner has (see above) when judging if work is being divided equitably. If you think that any time you’re not at work is “me time”… it’s not. In this brave new world of parenthood, you have to work your shift, and then come home (or leave your home office) and do … more work. Because you live in that house and you helped make that baby. But Aunt Eva, you say, that is so unfair! My job is very stressful, and I need to unwind!
Imagine, for a moment, that you are a new mom a week into your international embarrassment. Oh, sorry, I meant to say “maternity leave.” You are so sleep deprived you are hallucinating, you have logged 19,845 steps on your step tracker from pacing with the fussy baby, and your taint looks like something Leatherface attacked with a chainsaw. You get no weekends, no sick days, no vacation days. Not to mention no pay, unless you are very lucky. On a scale of 1 to 10, how open are you to hearing, “I need to go lie down for a minute, I’m just so tired” from someone returning from a mere 12 hour shift?
Do the damn dishes. Clean the damn toilet. Hold the damn baby so your partner can do some self-care. If, after digging deep, you literally can’t even, do the legwork to find someone who can. Call someone from your now-diversified social support system to deal with the dishes/dinner/baby. Then go take a nap with your partner.
Oh, one last thing. Before you take your nap together, tell her she’s a beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring human being. If you follow my advice, she just might return the favor.