Dear friend, are you on the way to becoming a dad for the first time? If you are, Congratulations!
I hope this post will offer you some food for thought.
I think society at large has for far too long made the birth of a child an event that is focused too much on the mother. I am not downplaying the role of motherhood. I am simply stating that the importance of getting men ready to be fathers for the first time has been a little inadequate to say the least.
Men on the other hand, I believe, have only just begun to take a greater interest and role in parenthood.
I am a firm believer that many of the issues confronting society today can be traced back to the breakdown of the family unit. Strong dads beget strong families which in turn begets a strong generation of kids growing up and making our world a better place. You can play a part in this.
So what can you expect in this life altering, momentous and significant event of your life entitled Becoming a Dad for the First Time?
When Boys become Men
My grandma used to tell me “You are still a boy when you get married. You only become a man only when you become a father”. My grandma passed away not too long ago, but these words are still etched in my mind.
In a very real sense, many men indeed grow up only when they take on the responsibility of fatherhood.
Being a first time dad is exciting and challenging at the same time. Each dad’s experience and pathway will be different but the journey once started never really ends.
The good news is that this ‘growing up’ will do you a whole lot of good, if you put your heart and mind to it and allow it to shape you into a better man. Be the protector, provider and man as you are meant to be.
Understanding your Emotions
If you are feeling overwhelmed, shocked, panicky, fearful, not ready, and helpless, please understand that it is normal and you are definitely not alone. Some men feel it but either pretend or hide it from others.
Learn to share these emotions with your better half or with those who have gone before you – your parents for example. No one is born with all the right answers with respect to being a father. You really need to learn on the job and want to do a better job each day! Simple?
A huge life changing event like this can cause even confident men to be gripped with self doubt and fear. No amount of education can change or correct this.
There one emotion, though, that I recommend you have in huge measures, and yes, I am talking about love.
Make Sure You Enjoy the Journey
I have been drumming this message to many of my friends and ‘younger’ men who are about to enter fatherhood – do not let any other thoughts, fears, concerns, uncertainties cloud your enjoyment of becoming a dad.
I think the imagery of fatherhood as a journey is a powerful one. We never really know what’s round the corner or a few kilometres from where our current steps are. But you need to keep going. Perhaps smell the flowers along the way or be amazed by the scenes that pass by.
In order words, build beautiful memories that last a lifetime and stop being sidetracked by obstacles along the way.
Surround yourself with the right role models
“People inspire you or they drain you. Pick them wisely.“ Hans F Hansen.
Try to surround yourself only with those who have a positive outlook on parenthood.
Stay far away from those that complain to no end about all the confusion they experience, the emotional turmoil and perhaps the sudden feel of uncertainty and loss of freedom. Don’t allow yourself to be negatively influenced.
I don’t mean that one should not help a friend who is struggling with parenthood. I am referring to those who regard parenthood as a burden and their focus and thoughts are solely on themselves.
Seek out the support of friends and family, and remember – enjoy the journey
Accept Lifestyle Changes Coming Your Way
Anyone who tells you that becoming a father would leave your life the same as before is not being honest. It cannot be and it most certainly will not be.
You are now in a position of responsibility for another human being who is completely dependent on you to do the right thing in the days to come and for many years down the road.
Preparing yourself mentally for the change in lifestyle; especially when you no longer do anything that you please, and whenever you feel like it, can be a difficult adjustment for some to get used to.
If you want to play your role well and support your better half, you will need to put in the hard yards for the early feeds in the morning, the late night cries that do not seem to stop, the illnesses that make you feel so inadequate and helpless …
Fatherhood is a package deal and the challenging times will be a passing phase. These days I look back to my time being a first time dad and I can hardly recall that it was anywhere near as bad as people make it out to be!
So be aware, but not be too bogged down by it.
Planning your Finances
It is not trivial to raise a child from a financial perspective.
I would highly recommend you start the habit of saving early and building a solid foundation one step at a time. Equip yourself with the knowledge of the expected costs as your child grows up. Perhaps consult your financial planner.
The idea is start planning early. I really wished I had been as disciplined in planning my finances early.
It is not the end of intimacy
Remember that becoming a dad does not spell the end of a continued intimate relationship with your significant half. If anything you will need to maintain it even more and doing so will actually make both of you better parents.
Raising a child is a joint-venture, not a solo gig.
Make your partnership strong with the glue of intimacy. Sounds corny but hey it works. Talk about it openly with each other before the child is born and make a pact to not allow anything to come in the way of your marriage bond.
And guys, intimacy does not have to always equate with or end with love-making. It is about being there, demonstrating love, sacrifice and a deep sense of appreciation for each other. Whichever way you choose to express this is really your choice.
Just make sure that being intimate is not relegated to the ‘intended for later’ bucket.
What kind of dad do I want to be?
So have you thought of what sort of first-time dad you want to be? On a personal note, did I wished that I had started off my journey better? You bet!
I hope this post provides you food for thought to start your journey well, and more importantly, continue and persevere on well. Best of luck!
Learning to Be a Better Dad,
P.S : For a light-hearted view and inspiration on becoming a new dad, check out the following DVD: