When it came to becoming a father, Jeremy wasn’t the least bit worried. In fact, when he and his wife found out they were having a son, he was thrilled. He fantasised about kicking a ball with him, taking him to his first footy match and counting how many times he’d mention about his daddy during his university graduation speech.
But when the big day came and the doctor handed his newborn son to him, a wrinkled bundle of screaming newborn, Jeremy was consumed by fear and uncertainty. How would I know when he was hungry? Would this mean the end of my social life (not to mention sex life)? And given our modest income, where would we get the money to pay for the baby gear we’d need? He thought.
Blokes are supposed to have all the answers. But the reality is, many of them are woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead. Here, we outline some common new-dad concerns and how to overcome them!
I can’t be a good dad and focus on my career.
Striking a semblance of balance between the office and family life is a juggling act for every working parent. Dads, though, may find it especially difficult. As, typically, bub’s primary carer, mums can take days off conveniently, but for many men, it’s a different story. Even those who have paternity leave may be afraid to take the time because they worry about damaging their career.
HELP DAD DEAL: Encourage your husband to broach paternity leave with his boss as early as possible and to take all the time he’s entitled to. Remind your guy that most employers are less concerned with when you do the work, as long as it gets done.
Goodbye, happy hour. Hello, nappy duty.
If your fella is used to going out with his mates twice a week, spending quality ‘me’ time in front of the telly or hitting the gym whenever he pleases, you need to break it to him (gently) that those days are over, for now at least.
HELP DAD DEAL: Soften the blow by letting your partner know he can have a night out every now and then, as long as you get your fair share of outings, too.
I don’t know how to care for my baby!
For first-time mums and dads, everything baby can be pretty daunting. But I reckon new mums have a clear advantage over dads: you live with the little creature inside you for nine months and, thanks to breastfeeding, often spend more time getting to know him in the early days. Feeding, bathing, bottom-tending and soothing are usually uncharted territory for the men.
HELP DAD DEAL: Give your man a pep talk. Let him know that you’re learning on the job, too, and that he’ll do fine as long as he makes the effort. “Tell him to jump right in and not worry about screwing up,” suggests Armin Brott, author of The New Father. Offer a tutorial on, say, bath time, if he needs one (or take one together from a friend or family member in the know). Then have him take over while you catch a nap or meet a friend. Even if he grumbles, this trial by fire will boost your bloke’s confidence.
How can we afford all these baby-related expenses?
Between getting the hang of breastfeeding and easing bub into a routine, new mums have plenty on their minds. Know that while you’re taking care of those life-sustaining matters, the dads are obsessing about having another mouth to feed. Raising a kid is not cheap.
When you bring out the calculator and start doing the math, what greets your eyes could be a hugely daunting figure, and you could be anguished over how you could possibly make it on one salary if your wife does not plan to return to her job. As a bloke, you may keep the anxiety to yourself, but wrestling with this worry will eclipse your joy of becoming a dad.
HELP DAD DEAL: Tame your man’s money worries by setting aside time to retool your family budget well in advance of your due date. More money will be going out the door and less may be coming in. Look for easy ways to trim expenses, such as cooking dinner at home and buying groceries in bulk. And see if you can reduce your childcare costs by enlisting the help of Grandma, joining a babysitting co-op or arranging a ‘mum swap’ programme, or getting creative with your work schedules.
I wonder if I’ll ever get my wife’s attention back?!
The first few months of parenthood take a toll on everyone, but they’re a lot worse for mums. We get that you’re overwhelmed and not exactly feeling super-sexy. Still, the lack of affection (which includes sex, since men can scarcely separate the two) is tough on us. Mums still enjoy a degree of intimacy through their interaction with bub, but dads can feel like the third wheel.
HELP DAD DEAL: If you know your partner is hinting for lovin’ and you’re not in the mood, remind him that cuddling and kissing can be an end in itself, instead of a part of foreplay. Try using his obvious desire to get him to take on some additional household responsibilities, too (“Meet you upstairs after you load the dishwasher, honey”), which will reduce your burden. Feeling relaxed can leave you more receptive to romancing.
Simon learnt that the fastest route back to the bedroom was by doing housework – without being asked. Smothering his wife with kisses and telling her how beautiful she was got nowhere. But when she came home to a sparkling kitchen one evening, she knew Simon had stopped thinking about his own needs and had become a full-fledged member of Team Parents. It’s no surprise that it wasn’t long before they got cooking in the bedroom again.?