When my wife and I learned we were having a baby, we were elated. We were also unprepared. I remember watching one video online about how to bathe a newborn. Other than that, we were flying blind.
Looking back on it, I wish I had been more proactive on getting us up to speed. I could have read a book, taken a class or even brainstormed with my friends on how to best prepare. But at the end of the day, nothing prepares you for parenthood like living it does.
Being a father has changed me in a million ways. I'm more patient, more protective and can function on far less sleep. There's such a sense of everyday frustration, outshined by an immense lifelong love.
If I could do it all again, I'd do everything the same — but I'd remind myself of these 7 things:
1. Don't expect a return to "normal life." Build a new normal.I always knew that bringing our daughter home would be an adjustment, but I didn't realize how permanent some of these adjustments would be. I'll admit that I miss a lot of the spontaneity that my pre-kid life offered, but it doesn't trump the adventure that my post-kid life has brought.
2. Never procrastinate on the diaper change."I'll wait until the commercial" — I said this to myself SO many times. But leaving it for too long has never ended well. Aside from the chance of it leaking or you forgetting, diaper rash is no joke. And once you see your kid dealing with it, you'll move heaven and hell to prevent it from happening.
3. Comparing your kid to others will get you nowhere.For a long time, we lived by milestones. First teeth, first steps, first everything. We loved surrounding ourselves with other budding families, but it never failed to concern us when other kids did things first. But now we know that every kid is different, and comparisons add stress that no one needs.
4. Don't underestimate how fast they move.When you bring them home, they're tiny, motionless blobs. It's awesome! You can leave them anywhere and they'll be right where you left them when you get back. But when they start to move, they move fast. First, it's rolling (off the couch). Then it's cruising (along the furniture). Then walking turns to running in the blink of an eye.
5. People want to help you, so ask.When we brought my daughter home, everyone wanted to help us. Looking back, I should have accepted more of that help. Laundry, meals, anything that would let us put the focus where it belonged — on our baby. Even if that meant grabbing some much needed sleep to care for her better.
6. Keep your relationship at the forefront.Between feedings, sleep schedules and keeping up with life, my wife and I found it easy to forget about each other. Even on rare date nights, we found ourselves talking solely about the baby, and not about us. Now, we do our best to put each other first. No matter how busy life gets, we try and carve out some time to check in.
7. Always check your clothes before leaving the house.My friends love to point out the vomit on my shirt — but in my defense, it's not always vomit. Sometimes it's baby food, milk or some version of poop. And, to be honest, even after seeing the baby cream smeared across my sweater, sometimes I leave the house anyway. It's called "being a dad," and I wear it proudly.
Matt Smith is a manager of graphic design with Sharp HealthCare.