While it has been eight years since I became a new dad, I feel like it was almost yesterday when my wife came running out the bathroom and said, “I’M PREGNANT!” Whatever sports event was playing at the time, I’m sure it was the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, didn’t seem to matter after that point. Smiles, hugs, happiness, and nerves all ran through us as we wondered what this would mean for us.
In the middle of a bathroom renovation on our then new home, I didn’t have much time to think about what the future as a dad held. There was an excitement that I had toward the welcoming of our new baby, but I couldn’t concentrate on what it would mean for me to be a new dad. From the bathroom renovation, the nursery needed painting, a crib built, finding a daycare that had an opening, all while accompanying my wife to the many doctor’s visits, I was afforded the time to think about what I needed to know as a new dad.
Since I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about what was about to come, I started The Rookie Dad as a way to have an outlet and a way to connect with other dads. While I look back and see all of the things that I learned from them and how they helped me as a father, there were so many other things that I wish I knew when I became a new dad.
Finding A Changing Table In The Men’s Restroom Is A Scavenger Hunt
I am fortunate enough that my last employer and my current employer both have diaper changing stations in the men’s bathroom, having needed to use them a handful of times. However, it is not the case with every bathroom that I went in while our kids were in diapers. Many places did not, and I was either forced to change them on the floor or resort to walking back out to my wife and asking her to change them in the women’s restroom.
For new dads, the skilled art of finding a changing table in the men’s restroom is, for lack of a better word, life-changing. There is a significant movement of dads (and moms) bringing awareness to the fact that dads are more involved in the child rearing than ever. There are Instagram accounts that call out businesses that have a changing station and even as far as maps created of locations with changing stations in men’s restrooms so you can navigate your next road trip without issue.
And most recently, New York passed a law that would require a changing table to be in every men’s restroom.
The New Dad You See Today, Is Not The Dad You Are Tomorrow
I look back on when I became a new dad eight years ago, at the age of 26, back when I thought I was going to be the perfect dad, and I can see now the blinders I had on. I had so much growing up to do when I became a new dad at such a young age. I was still self-absorbed in myself and thinking that I knew it all and no one needed to offer me any advice on what it meant to be a parent to my boy.
The reality is with each passing day, the more mature I also became, I realized that there was so much more learning that I had at the time and still have. I look back on some of the poor decisions that I made putting my interest before my kids and wife, and I realize now that things change when you have kids. The needs of your kids become first and foremost in your life. There will be a time and place for your interests and if you are lucky enough to have a wife like mine who is understanding of all these faults and will see you grow as a husband and a new dad.
Dad Jokes Are Serious Business
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It started with a simple, “I’m hungry” that my pregnant wife said right before we started to think about dinner. “Hi Hungry, I’m Dad!” and it was all over. I knew right then and there that the business of dad jokes would someday become my forte. There have been many road trips spent with me saying, “Hey look that cow is outstanding in his field.” with groans followed by “Dad that’s not funny anymore.” from the back seat.
A good dad joke should solicit a groan or two from whoever is listening, more than likely your partner… that’s when you know it was good.
The Never-Ending Cycle Of Dishes And Laundry
I remember the moment that I walked into our home the first time with our newborn baby and seeing the dishes piled up in the sink as if we had just made dinner the night before for eight people. Mixed in were a few bottles for a baby that had not even made it home yet. This example is, of course, a slight exaggeration but with more truth than one might think. As a new dad, no longer could our dishes wait a day or two to wash. The bottles that needed to be cleaned almost daily so that the baby wouldn’t go hungry the next.
The dishes were just the beginning because now that we had added another person to our home, the laundry now needed to be done more often. While there are times that it is perfectly acceptable for the newborn just to wear a diaper, when we thought that we could brave going out in public for the first time, we knew that he needed to wear some clothes even if that means that mom and dad looked like nothing more than new parents.
There Is No Perfect Dad (or parent for that matter)
When I imagined the father that I was going to be, I told myself that I was going to be that perfect parent. Our son was going to be raised by the book and be the epitome of all kids. Parents from near and would walk up to me and ask me, “what are your secrets?”
I digested every single parenting book that I could when we could not figure out what was the reason our infant would not sleep that we discovered breastfeeding wasn’t working out. I realized at that moment that every kid is different and not every situation that comes up in parenting can be found in a book. You have to do what is best for your child… not someone else’s. As a new dad, I didn’t know all the answers. The reality of it now is that my kids are not expecting me to be perfect, they are expecting me just to be a dad, flaws and all.
You Are Now Your Parents
I remember telling myself when I was a new dad that I was not going to be my parents. I was not going to do the little things that they did to either annoy me growing up or have the individual idiosyncrasies that were part of our everyday life. I kept telling myself that for the longest time but as I have come out of that new dad stage of my life but as my kids are getting older it is almost inevitable that I become my parents. At times I want to embarrass them, tell the worst dad joke I can think of, tell them they have are having too much screen time, and aren’t allowed to get certain haircuts.
However, what I realize now that I am a new dad is that our parents only want the best for us. That is what my parents wanted for me, and that is precisely what I want for my two boys.
Time Speeds Up
While my wife and I were dating, before becoming parents, it seemed like we could do anything and our schedule was free and clear. We were able to take things slow and enjoy the moments that we shared. Now, being a new dad, our schedules are packed with play dates, doctors visits, baseball games, and school events. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for us to slow down and take in the moments that we are sharing with our family.
While there have been times that I have been able to enjoy the moments that I share with my family, reality seems to quickly set in at the moment I saw the dishes, see the piles of laundry, and open up my Google Calendar seeing just where we need to be next.
You, Will, Meet Your Health Insurance Deductible
One of the things that is rarely touched on in your parenting classes is the sheer cost of raising a kid. That first year, with your wife in the hospital for 3 days, while nurses tend to your kid, is expensive. Our first child the bill was $12,000 before insurance which was about $10,000 more than our deductible. Unfortunately, our oldest was born in November, and we didn’t have much time to use our coverage after meeting the deductible.
However, here is the thing. Kids will get sick. Whether it is ear infections, RSV, croup (which go to the doctor once and you’ll find out there isn’t much they can do about it), or all of the bumps and bruises that will accompany just being a kid, you are bound to push the limits of your health coverage.
You will also learn that once you notice something off about your child, you will want to visit the doctor. You figure these things out pretty quickly, sometimes you might see a rash or that barking cough of croup, but the reality is that there is a likelihood that it is something serious.
Our oldest had a terrible goopy eye. We thought maybe it was just something that babies had, until the morning that he woke up unable to open his eye because the goop was so thick. After taking him into the doctor, we found out that it was a clogged tear duct and would require surgery at 1-year-old if it doesn’t go away naturally.
Then there are all of the countless sleepless nights because our kids would wake up and not want to go back to sleep. You will think that there is no need to go to the doctor but if your child is a good sleeper and wakes up constantly it can be a sign that there is something wrong. It could be something as simple as teething or an ear infection, even if it is small you will have a game plan to help your child (and you) get some sleep if you go to the doctor.
These 8 tips when you become a new dad, will help make things easier that moment you hold your newborn baby in your arms for the first time. And when it comes down to it, you will always want to do whatever is best for your baby… and mom.