No one has to tell you that when you become a dad, your life is forever changed. In the months leading up to my your birth, I politely smiled and nodded as well-meaning people kept trying to prepare me for fatherhood by telling me the same tired cliches: “Say goodbye to your social life!” or “Get plenty of sleep now because soon you’ll be wishing you could.”
Sure, there is some truth in their advice, but there’s also a bright side to the social and psychological changes you go through after becoming a dad.
Most guys need a little time to space out — to think about nothing in order to recharge. Once you’re a dad, you have to be creative to get this time back in your life, and you’ll probably feel like you need it more than ever, no matter how much you love spending time with your new addition. You may have to wake up 30 minutes earlier for work, or partner up with your wife to help each other grab a few do-nothing breaks. Designating regular time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s essential to being a focused dad.
Now, you may constantly realize just how seemingly unqualified you are for the job of fatherhood; you may question your ability to care for a child, and your worthiness, every step of the way. But rest assured–you’re not the first dad to feel this way: We didn’t come programmed on this whole parenting thing, but we were programmed to wing it.
You can’t breastfeed, but you can help your wife get comfortable while she nurses. You may not have the instincts to wake up as easily when the baby cries in the middle of the night, but if the baby sleeps in your room, you can sleep on the side of the bed closer to the baby. That way, you’ll be more likely to wake up and better able to help out with those 2 A.M. feedings.
Paying your child’s doctor’s bills, buying his clothes, saving up for his college education–when it all adds up it can weigh on you and your bank account. The good news about not being a millionaire, though, is that most other parents aren’t millionaires either, and they’re all doing just fine. Obviously, it’s going to be vital for you and your wife to create and stick to a weekly budget to stay on top of the game.
You may feel guilty about leaving your wife and baby at home when you go out to do anything other than work or buy diapers. But just as you have to purposely set aside some time for yourself and your family, it’s important that you pencil in some time for your friends and hobbies, even if it’s considerably less time than before. The same goes for your wife.
The good news is, these sometimes seemingly forced friendships end up becoming great support groups. You instantly have new friends who relate to you, and they’ll likely have good and relevant advice for you. As for your existing single and/or childless guy friends, make time to do activities with them outside of your new-parents circle. That way, they can still relate to the old you and not feel intimated by the new you.
Gone are the days of being called just “a guy”; you will now be forever seen by all as a dad. The sports you used to play with your buddies eventually become the sports you teach your kids. That overpriced latte on your desk in the morning has been replaced by work coffee in a mug that reads “I love you Daddy.” And, honestly, you won’t even mind the changes because the biggest change is your biggest reward: your kid.