Being a new dad destroys a lot men. Unprepared, they find themselves disempowered and overwhelmed, while their relationships flounder.
When my wife was pregnant with our daughter, I anxiously looked everywhere for real information about how to handle the emotional and personal challenges I sensed lied ahead. I found a number of keys that have made fatherhood a deeply wonderful experience and allowed my relationship with my wife to thrive.
I am not talking about how to change diapers, save money or get by on less sleep. These are the things that helped me move into manhood.
Here are the five most important keys that have consistently made fatherhood a wonderful experience for me and and how I’ve maintained a healthy relationship with my wife through it all.
Read the transcription below or watch more videos at www.FullFrontalFatherhood.com.
Becoming a new father is one of life’s most amazing experiences, but so often we can be floored by it, and it can devastate our relationship. Like any great challenge, it all depends upon how prepared we are.
Here are five things that will enable you and your family to thrive in the intensity of having a new baby and really enjoy the wonder of the whole experience.
#1: Plan Ahead
Having a plan for any difficult situation in life makes a huge difference. If you are going to climb some big mountain, you have to sit down with your teammates and talk about who is going to do what and what you are going to do when things go awry. Unfortunately, we rarely do this when it comes to having a baby and thus so many parents are unnecessarily overwhelmed. If you can sit down with your partner and talk about all the challenges you can imagine, you will be much more able to handle it when it is three in the morning and you are changing a blowout diaper with a screaming banshee of a baby.
As I talk more extensively about it in my video How to Babyproof Your Marriage, sit down and talk about all these difficult situations. Who is expected to provide for your baby at four in the morning? Who is going to handle the diapers at what times? How are you going to handle it when you get home exhausted from work to a disaster of a house, a crying baby and wiped out mom that needs some time alone? How are you each going to handle the money? And how are you going maintain the intimacy between you without the same level of sex?
All these situations and many more can easily be taken on if you have already planned for them. But if you are overwhelmed with a baby that is keeping you up all night and there is no sex, and you haven’t really talked to your partner in days, and you are depleted from having worked too much on too little sleep; it easily becomes a very bad moment and typically leads to some form of conflict. With a little planning, this can all be avoided. Take the time before it hits the fan, sit down with your partner and get ready for this tough challenge.
#2: Ask your Partner to Stand Back & Let you Find your Way
Moms are wired to quickly step in and provide for their children. They have strong motherly instincts to make sure the kid is getting everything it needs and even if we do beat them to the punch by stepping in to parent in a tough moment, they are likely to tell us how we should do it better. It makes it hard to be an engaged dad as it typically leaves us feeling disempowered. We often back away from the family and go off to work, sports or even an affair to feel better about ourselves. We need some other place where we feel more competent and valued.
Our partners need to know that we want to be an equal parent. There are not many role models around where both parents are working as a team to provide everything the kid needs. Typically the mom is the boss and we are second class parents. Obviously, not everything has be to split equally, but it is much healthier situation when both parents feel equally empowered and capable. If she knows you want that opportunity, then she can give you space to find your own way even through the ‘mistakes.’ She can watch the video called The One Key to being a Great Mom about how she can hold herself in that strong motherly instinct and not deter you from being the father I am sure she wants for her children. This will give you the space to really connect with your baby and be an empowered dad.
#3: Step Up!
As dads, we have to choose to step into the experience of being a parent. It is so easy to just let the mom run the show. That leads to a very imbalanced situation. We as dads need to step forward and that typically requires us facing subtle insecurities. We are not nurtured to be parents in the same way that women are. We were not given all the opportunities and all the support to be a great parent. And thus, we often feel less confident in our ability to be there for our children.
We have to face these hesitations, just like if we are climbing a mountain for the first time. It is scary, but if we step into it over and over again, we quickly become masters of the situation. If we stand back and let our partners do it, we quickly feel inferior as they get more and more empowered, while we get more and more disempowered. I talk more extensively about how to do this in the video, The One Key to being a Great Dad.
#4: Learn to Connect
Having a dad who really connects with their child has been shown to greatly increase that child’s chance of success and happiness. Unfortunately, many of us men don’t have much experience with how to connect with a baby or even a toddler. When it is first born, all it needs is to feel your skin next to its skin. Stare into its eyes, follow its sounds, enjoy these precious moments. As it gets older, join it on the floor.
It can really help to set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes so you are not distracted by all the pulls of life, and can give your child your real attention. Just by making sure you have regular undistracted time with your child, you can find your way to really be there with them. It will quite possibly be a more connected experience than you have ever known. I talk more extensively about this in How to be a Great Dad (For at Least Ten Minutes).
#5: Find Replacements for Sex
Sex is a wonderful way to connect, play and be close with our partners. But often through the birth process, the woman has no interest in sex. This is partly due to what she goes through physically and hormonally, but also having a baby that is constantly pulling and sucking on her.
Fortunately, this is not always the case, but if it is for you, it makes an immense difference if you can find other ways to connect with your partner through these times so that your relationship can still thrive. If we don’t have moments where we feel intimate with our partners, we typically find ourselves quite separate and even lonely. Without the counterbalance of a loving relationship, we can easily end up feeling resentment in the face of the consistent challenges of being a parent. The relationship can really suffer.
This can be easily prevented if we take regular time to connect. You have to find your own way, but often just taking ten minutes to sit down with your partner and share what is happening emotionally makes a real difference. Listen to them, cuddle, massage, stroke each other’s hands, stare into each other’s eyes without saying anything for a minute or three. It is amazing how intimate we can feel without actually engaging in sex. You can watch or read more about this in the post, How to have a Baby & Still have Sex.
Being a new father is one of life’s greatest joys. Particularly if we are prepared to handle the difficulties that come with it. Use these five things to really harness that moment.
• Take the time to plan with your partner about how you are going to handle all the difficult moments.
• Talk to her about how you want to be an engaged father and you need her support.
• Step into your own awkwardness and realize that you can easily be an awesome dad.
• Take the time to learn how to play with your child and connect over and over again.
• Find replacements for sex so that you continue to connect with your wife and feel that thriving relationship.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I would love to hear your ideas about how to handle being a new dad. Please join the conversation below, but let’s be friendly because we are all doing this the best we can and it is hard stuff.
I will see you next time for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.