Welcome to fatherhood! You’ve survived the delivery-room experience without passing out (some of you, anyway). But now the world is effectively upside down and you’re struggling to figure out best practices for riding that new baby roller coaster.
I’m here to warn you of the common pitfalls new fathers encounter with key subjects and provide alternative statements to help you avoid the dog house. Remember, men have been negotiating this sensitive period for millions of years, and with this guide, you may be the first one in history to make it through without a severe tongue-lashing or worse. The odds are monumentally against you, but it’s worth a shot!
Up until this point, you’ve spent the better part of your life thinking about breasts and trying to catch a glimpse of them. By the time you get through this first month, you’re going to beg your wife to put those things away. Women who were previously coy and prim about their bosoms will whip those babies out every seven minutes, without a moment’s thought. You’ll see them at the breakfast table, at the mall, in the car, on the airplane, in restaurants…everywhere.
What you want to say: “Well, at least you can’t blame me this time for your breasts being sore.”
What you should say: “I envy how you are able to bond
with our child through this miraculous experience, and I would be delighted to take over the 2 a.m. feedings so that I, too, can experience this treasured moment.”
Simply put, you aren’t going to get any.
What you want to say: “Yikes, you look exhausted!”
What you should say: “Please let me take the
baby for a few hours so you can rest. In addition to caring for our child, I will also use that time to do housework and cook a nutritious meal for you.”
Again, you aren’t going to get any.
What you want to say: “When the doctor said we should wait at least six weeks to have sex, that was a very conservative estimate, right?”
What you should say: “I would like to
express my love and physical desire for you through the simple act of cuddling only on demand, until you decide the time is right for more, whenever that may be. But I also realize it is the last thing you want to talk about right now, so let me tiptoe away and buy you some jewelry.”
Now that your wife’s given birth, there is no physical pain you can experience that will ever equate. Unless, of course, you have a 10-pound bowel movement that lasts between 12 and 48 hours that several people watch, including medical personnel, your spouse, and your mother-in-law. And even this is not quite the same thing. Therefore you are no longer allowed to feel any physical pain yourself, lest you want to get eviscerated by your wife. So if you smash your thumb with a hammer, particularly during this first month, just smile.
What you want to say: “Holy @#+*&!!”
What you should say: “I am glad I just slammed my hand in the car door, because this sensation of discomfort brings me closer to understanding the pain and sacrifice you made bringing our child into this world. I love you.”
Yes, they all look like monkeys or Yoda when they’re first born. But you’re not allowed to say they look like monkeys or Yoda, particularly in front of someone for whom the pain of delivering the little creature is still quite fresh. Nor should you comment how much the baby looks like you; first, because that is essentially saying you look like a monkey and, second, well…isn’t it -obvious?
What you want to say: “Wow, this wrinkled, pink monkey looks so much like me!”
What you should say: “This is the most beautiful baby ever, and he looks just like you.”
This is perhaps the single biggest minefield you face. In the first month after coming home—and, let’s face it, for a few months after that—your wife has gone from -being the immaculate icon of beauty you -married to having a little bit of spit-up in her hair pretty much all the time. It should be -obvious, but we’re guys so it must be said: Under no circumstances should you ever comment on your wife’s appearance during the first month after the baby is born unless it is a direct confirmation of how beautiful she looks.
What you want to say: “Seriously, the smell of spit-up in your hair is
making me gag a little bit.”
What you should say: “I didn’t think it was possible, but those diamond earrings I gave you make you look even more beautiful than before.”
Kevin Lynch lives in San Francisco with his wife and three beautiful children, none of whom resemble Yoda in any way.