My friend, any day now your life is about the change in a big way. While I’m still pretty new at it myself, I thought I could share a few thoughts from my first steps into fatherhood.
You will be overwhelmed.
There is a lot of new shit to learn, all at once, when you become a dad, and there will be times when you don’t know what you’re doing. When your baby won’t stop crying, then your wife starts crying because you guys can’t figure out why, just remember it happens to everyone. Ask the dads you know for advice, read a few of the many articles your wife will surely be forwarding to you, and take solace in that fact that far stupider people than us have been managing to keep their babies alive for millennia. You’ll be fine.
You will see things that can’t be unseen.
When you look between your wife’s legs and see that head start making its way out, there’s no coming back from that. The only consolation is that it is such a shocking scene that you completely forget about the previous context that region held. What you will see that day is not a vagina, it is a birth canal, and the two should never be confused for one another. That being said, it’s a truly amazing experience and, not to worry, it all goes back to normal once you’re finally allowed to see it again.
You will have to be a rock.
Your wife has just endured 9 months of pregnancy, a traumatic birth experience, and now she is up five times a night and running on fumes all day. She’s struggling to find a breastfeeding or bottle-feeding groove, the crying is wearing her down, and she’s on the verge of tears numerous times a day. She’s gonna need you to step up in the beginning, support her decisions about the baby, reassure her everything will fall into place, not complain about a hard day at work, and help out with chores when you get home. Try to be a beacon of positivity and point out all the things that are going great. This phase doesn’t last long.
You will accumulate vast amounts of crap.
It’s amazing that two grown adults can comfortably reside in a modest one bedroom apartment, but as soon as there are 10 pounds more human being in your home, you now need at least one or five more rooms for all the stuff. Crib, changing table, glider chair, ExerSaucer, Jolly Jumper, booster seat, Bumbo, mountains of clothes—it’s seemingly endless. And, I mean, how many hundreds of toys on the floor does it take to entertain an infant? He only ever wants the remote or the car keys anyway.
You will have a greater sense of worth.
Once you have a baby there’s far more purpose to your job. It’s incredibly important that you are successful at what you do and that you do it safely. Bringing home a paycheck to your little family is far more rewarding than working for beer money.
You will spend hours learning about baby products.
Never have you spent so much time researching something without megapixels or horsepower or anything cool like that. The ergonomics of baby carriers, the safety ratings of car seats, the Amazon reviews on Pack n’ Plays, the range and video quality of monitors and the brilliant fashion and function fusion of the bibdana—these things will soon be important to you.
You will still get drunk.
Just not nearly as often as before, and the following day will be one of newfound guilt and responsibilities. Choose your hangovers wisely and don’t waste them on anything frivolous.
You will be bored.
It’s a strange feeling to be busy and bored at the same time. There will be many days spent entertaining your infant with the same toy for hours, or pulling them away from the lamp cord for the thousandth time, when you haven’t had a minute of downtime and you’re still bored to tears.
You will be able to afford it.
There are a few big ticket items you’re going to need, and the smaller “necessities” do seem to pile up on you, but all the hype about how expensive a baby is hasn’t really materialized. Don’t get caught up in having everything the crazy ladies in your wife’s moms group are buying, companies know that new moms want only the best for their babies and they exploit that maternal instinct. Do your own research and know what you’re talking about when you say you might not need to buy something right now. Besides, when you factor in all the money you save by losing your social life, babies are, at worst, revenue neutral.
You will see your wife milk herself like a farm animal.
Just don’t tell her that’s what she looks like. Last year there was no plausible explanation for walking in on a scene like that. The sound of human milk squirting into a bottle is one you won’t soon forget.
You will lose control of your surroundings.
You may have spent the last few years acquiring the furniture and electronics to get your home set up just the way you like it. Once your baby is mobile, however, it’s game over. Your house is now one big crib, what was once a great home theater is now a 55-inch tipping hazard with 120-volt strangulation hazards. Every doorway is now a gate to step over, your kitchen a series of childproof dexterity games, your leather sofas a chew toy, and your car is now merely a vessel for driving loose cheerios around town.
You will have alone time with your wife.
After a tumultuous first few weeks, you will settle into a routine that works. Kids go to bed pretty early, grandparents are dying to spend time with their grandkids, and after about 6 months, you may even trust a teenage girl to babysit your kid. It’s important to take these opportunities to spend quality time with your wife, and to make sure to talk about things other than the baby. The life you knew before isn’t completely gone, you just have to try harder.
You will make small talk.
Having a baby with you is an open invitation for strangers to talk to you. Older parents reminisce about when their kids were that small, the elderly talk about their grandkids, and other babies will want to interact, leaving you to awkwardly converse with their parent. There will also be situations where you find yourself out somewhere where the moms and babies all know each other from swimming lessons or some shit, and you and all the other dads have to try to find something to talk about.
You will laugh.
Babies are the funniest damn things to watch. Their movements are so unnatural, what with their flailing little arms that can’t move independently of each other. They make hilarious faces when they try new foods. They blow spit bubbles and make fart noises, then actually fart and laugh at themselves doing it. They are constantly full of surprises and you can’t help but laugh with them as they discover the world around them.
You will still do the things you love.
Of course there will still be time for all the things you loved doing before kids, just not much of it. You’ll have to explain to your non-dad friends that you have responsibilities now and activities have to be scheduled. When you do get out to enjoy your hobbies, you’ll appreciate them more than ever before though, and that’s a good feeling.
You will get shit on.
And the most surprising thing is how little it will faze you. For some reason, when something disgusting starts leaking from them, you just dive right in like its nothing more than spilled water. It must be an evolutionary quirk designed to make you refrain from dropping them when they start pissing on you. You can expect your wife to laugh every time it happens, be sure to return the favor.
Your heart will melt.
Before having a baby you would never say something like “your heart will melt,” but you’re about to get sappy. When you walk in the front door and their little eyes light up, and they rush toward you on all fours, your heart will melt. It’s a thing.
You will have even more appreciation for your wife.
Watching the woman you’ve spent your 20s growing up with become somebody’s mum is a strange and wonderful transformation. The selfless sacrifices, the endless patience, the overwhelming love, it’s amazing how many new things you will find to admire about her. Seeing your wife as a nurturing mother is pretty special.
You will be a dad.
You won’t feel like one at first, but trust me, when that kid is born you will be a dad. You will feel a dad’s pride when your child reaches a new milestone. You’ll feel a dad’s joy as you toss him up gently and he laughs back down at you. You’ll feel a dad’s frustration after you pick all the toys up off the floor and then turn around and step on the goddamn one that you missed. You’ll remember so many great moments from your childhood with your dad that you can’t wait to recreate for yourself. There are a lot of big changes coming your way, and you’re gonna have to make some sacrifices, but when you look at their little face and see that there’s an actual personality behind those eyes that you helped make, and a personality you get to help shape, you won’t care at all about how things were before.