Preparing for the unpreparable: what dads say about the early days of fatherhood – By Dave Robson

As I said in my previous article – I’m fairly confident most parents would agree that you can never really be ‘ready’ for parenthood.

Sure, there’s plenty of advice and information available out there (the internet is a big old place!) – and there’s lots you can do to get yourself as ready as possible, but it’s always going to be such a huge unknown until you actually get to that point – and experience those moments – of parenthood for yourself.

Thankfully my wonderful wife, Harriet, and I are very lucky to know lots of great, inspirational, parents who have already been really helpful to us in terms of practical support, advice and insight.

Having such a wide variety of experience and wisdom to call on is so helpful and reassuring, I would definitely recommend every soon-to-be-parent seeks out similar input themselves. Either through local parenting groups, online communities or anywhere else you can find helpful and honest advice, support and information from people who are willing to offer it.

Every parent is different, and so is every child, so because of this I’ve found it incredibly interesting to hear such a variety of different people’s experiences, insight and memories – including the occasional regret or ‘wish I’d known this beforehand’ moment of hindsight.

This has really helped me to try and get as broad and universal an understanding of exactly what my wife and I have let ourselves in for as possible.

I think this is particularly important for guys as, let’s be honest, it can often be hard to open up to those around us about the sort of emotional highs and lows associated with becoming a father, and the ongoing life-changing impact of parenthood. I feel it’s something that should definitely be talked about more often, more easily, and more openly.

With that in mind, I decided it might be interesting to ask some dads from my circle of friends and family what advice they would give to expectant/new fathers, that they wish someone had given to them when they became a father!

Their answers are below, and I hope you find them as helpful and inspiring as I have…

    • Tom, dad to a 7 year old and a 4 year old: “There may be moments when you feel like you can’t do it (for me that was within the first 24 hours). But actually you can, you’ll be tired, but it does get easier.”
    • Sandy, dad to a 33 year old and a 30 year old: “Fatherhood seems to start like a scary rollercoaster ride, balanced between beautiful moments of wonder and gut-wrenching nappies, book-at-bedtime cuddles and sleepless nights, amazing development of a new life and worrying illnesses; all of it over much too soon and oddly, only the good bits remain as memories to keep when you have to let them go and become who they will be”
    • Terry, dad to a 33 year old and a 27 year old: “Learn to say the words “I love you” to your children and to affirm things in their lives”
    • Chris, dad to an 8 month old: “The first two weeks are so precious – enjoy every moment, day or night cuddles with your newborn on the sofa, staying in your pyjamas & being fine with not rushing to meet with relatives & friends – there’s plenty of time for that! Also, returning to work after paternity leave is hard! It’s easy to underestimate the emotional impact of leaving your partner & newborn at home for the first time, plus you’ll probably be exhausted. On reflection I could’ve been far more intentional at preparing myself for the transition.”
    • Ben, dad to a 7 year old and a 4 year old: “Enjoy the time you have before the little one turns up. Enjoy just having lazy days and spending time together. No one can really explain how tough, amazing, hard, joyful, inspiring and tiring parenthood can be.”
    • Mark, dad to an 8 year old, 11 year old and 15 year old: “Don’t panic. It could be the fear of being a father, the worry of not loving or bonding, the money aspect, the life supporting etc – but in my experience all the doubt, worry and panicking all disappeared the second my son arrived, the relief of hearing him cry, cutting the cord, wrapping them up and holding them for the first time, I just stared at him for ages! It is a gift. Everyday is a learning day, and that is as much for parents as for kids. Evolve and grow together, be patient, it can be testing, but is full of amazing joy and so much fun!”
    • Phil, dad to a 1 month old: “It is natural to imagine the birth of your child and perhaps have a set of expectations of how you think you will/should feel when you meet your baby. Try not to put too much pressure on yourselves and instead take it as it comes. People might tell you that you will just be overwhelmed with perfect love at the sight of your newborn. Yes, this might be what you feel, but on the other hand it might not, and this is fine. Everyone will experience challenges either during the birth, or in the hours/days that follow but no matter how straightforward or complicated the birth is, you will not be “deprived” of the overwhelming love and awe we all hear about. For me it came a couple of days later when we were discharged from hospital and I was able to sit down and cuddle him in the privacy of our own home.”

written by Dave Robson

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