A Letter to the “Almost” Dads
Today’s post was written by Josh Manheim, a Bright Horizons employee, dad of one (who has baby #2 on the way):
Congratulations! You’re a dad! … almost. Having researched and read dozens of new parent articles, it is often said that a woman becomes a mother at conception, whereas the father’s job doesn’t start until birth. From first-hand experience (for the second time now, our second son is due in February), I can attest to this sentiment. Over the course of nine months you will witness an incredible transformation not only physically, but mentally, as you watch your partner evolve her entire being as she nurtures the life (or lives) growing inside of her, all the while, from physical perspective, nothing really changes for you.
However, this does not mean that you can keep everything on cruise control until your bundle of joy arrives. On the contrary, although you might not be directly nurturing and growing a human being on your insides, there are several things you can be doing to help and support the amazing person who is:
5 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR EXPECTANT DADS (FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN IN YOUR SHOES):
Stay Positive and Be the Cheerleader: There are a million things to worry and stress over throughout the pregnancy. “Is the baby healthy?”…“Do we have everything we need?”…“Will we be good parents?”…“What’s a peepee teepee? Do we need it?” One of the most important things to remember during the pregnancy is to keep stress at a minimum for your partner. Yes, some of it is unavoidable, but if you can limit what stresses your partner is exposed to and help keep their mental health in tip-top shape, then everyone wins. In addition, staying positive and upbeat throughout the pregnancy with your partner can go a long way. Remember, you are so very close to experiencing the most joyful, proud, and profound feelings of your life when you become parents, try to remind your partner that the sacrifices will be worth it in the end and how much you appreciate all they have to endure to bring this amazing life into the world.
Listen (That’s It.): I don’t know if it’s just me but when I hear a problem I want to figure out how to solve it. However, I have learned that not every problem can be solved by myself, and many times just listening and allowing my wife to get what is bothering or worrying her off her chest and out in the open often leads to her concluding the solution on her own. What I think is lesser known is that you also need to be listening to what other people are saying to you and your partner. I don’t mean taking it to heart per se, but rather, just knowing what is said. This is important because many times you will have to reassure your partner that what someone said to them came from a good place, despite how it sounded.
Know What Needs to Be Ready Day 1 Vs. What Can Wait: Do not be fooled into thinking that if
you have bought and set up everything a website or expert says you need for a newborn, it will make you any more ready once your child arrives. It is true there are some essentials to have, a car seat to bring them home, blankets, somewhere for them to sleep, bottles if they are formula fed, formula, etc. Just ask yourself, can I provide my child with what they need to sleep, eat, and go to the bathroom? That is all you really need to have ready, everything else will fall in line. You will have plenty of time to set up toys when your child is ready to use them. You and your partner will also catch a severe case of cabin fever after the first week or so and will thrive for errands to leave the house. Use that opportunity to pick up more diapers, maybe more clothes (I know you are thinking more clothes?!?!? Didn’t I get enough from my shower to last them through college?). The reality is there is a good chance out of all the clothes you received, you still don’t have enough seasonally appropriate garments that fit. And you will be out buying the newborn or 0-3 month clothing you didn’t have enough of pretty soon after you bring your baby home. Parenting itself is such a unique experience, and everyone experiences and learns differently. You have to be flexible and go just with the flow. There will be plenty of time to put everything together as needed when your baby is ready for it.
Go to as Many OB Appointments as Possible: Every week my wife and I look up our baby’s latest developments to see what changes have occurred from the week prior as well as what to expect in the upcoming weeks, both with the baby and with her. This not only gives us a better understanding of the complex developments and wonders at hand, but is also an opportunity for me to feel more connected to our child. Which leads me to: I would highly recommend you go to as many of the OB appointments as possible. These appointments afford you the opportunity to be closer and more connected with your child than anything else throughout the pregnancy. Other than feeling kicks and movements later in the pregnancy, visits give you the chance to hear his or her heartbeat as well as seeing him or her through an ultrasound once or twice. It is also extremely helpful to hear what advice the doctors have to give first hand. Although only one of you is pregnant, the experience is shared, and if you can help in any way from picking up vitamins, or purchasing a body pillow, or even limit what they have to lift or carry, it is extremely beneficial.
Take Over As Many Household Responsibilities As You Can: Whether it is laundry, making dinner, cleaning dishes, or cleaning your home, taking the lead on as many of these day-to-day tasks as possible is an enormous help. Remember, as tired you might feel after a day of work, your partner has done the same all while growing a human, so the reality is you will always be apples to oranges. If you are like me, taking on more when you can will also help prepare you for the larger role you will play in the house after the baby arrives.
There is no way for you to possibly put yourself in the shoes of your partner and feel all of the physical and emotional pressures they endure, and it is sometimes easy to take of granted or forget. Try and be the best teammate for your significant other as you can. Pregnancy takes part in one person, but that does not mean it is a solo job. Remember you are in this together, and although at times your partner will want to rip your head clean off your shoulders, they will ultimately appreciate all the support.
Best of luck and remember, your membership into the greatest club in the world is right around the corner!
• E-family news: Pregnancy for Dads – A Father’s Role Before the Baby Arrives
• E-family news: The Art of Fatherhood – Tips for Modern Dads
• Bright Horizons Online Community: Helping Dad Adjust When Mom Goes Back to Work
I’m Josh, a dad of one, soon-to-be two. I am excited to share my adventures in fatherhood from ABC’s to bruised knees and everything in between. Parenting to me has always been about teamwork, communication, patience, and most importantly, the ability to always be flexible.