So, you're a new Dad. No doubt you are well prepared and have read a lot of parenting books... hmm I didn't think so! Read five key tips here to help you, and your partner, with your new arrival.
This fact sheet is a snapshot of five key things that a new Dad needs to know to make a smooth transition to parenthood.
1. Do your share at home
One of the most common problems for new parents occurs when they make assumptions about who does what when in the home. In most cases prior to the birth both partners worked outside the home. The relationship was modern and egalitarian with both sharing the load in terms of earning the bread and maintaining the home. Then the baby is born and Mum is at home with the new baby (at least temporarily) whilst Dad goes back to work. Then something amazing happens. I call it the Fabulous Fifty's Flashback. Our new Dad suddenly assumes that the home is the wife's domain whist his role is to be the breadwinner. This metamorphosis is almost instantaneous and can be damaging to the relationship. The new Dad assumes that his wife will have the house clean, baby cared for, and dinner on the table when he gets home just like a 50's TV show. Making this assumption is a sure fire way to get yourself in hot water. Looking after a new baby is a difficult task and much more time consuming that you would imagine (until you have done it yourself). New Dads can do themselves a big favour by maintaining their share of the housework and baby care. It's not easy to come home from a long day at work and do housework or look after the bub but you will find that it will help your relationship no end.
2. Positive Reinforcement
Having a baby is a very challenging time for new Mums and Dads. One area in which a new Dad can be a huge help to his partner is by using consistent positive reinforcement. The majority of new Mums will experience baby blues, which are characterised by tears, feeling down and uncertainty. These feelings are usually temporary but they highlight the emotional changes and vulnerability that many new Mums experience. Consistent words of encouragement, reinforcing the great job that she is doing and how much you appreciate her is a great way to support a new Mum. This is especially important as she is learning new skills such as breastfeeding and settling the baby. This can be a really difficult experience for some new Mums as there are huge expectations that it should work perfectly first time. It may seem harmless to make the odd smart comment but you need to understand the impact that this can have on someone who is feeling vulnerable. By focusing on positive reinforcement it reassures your partner that you understand what she is going through and care enough to support her.
3. 'Me' time
As a new parent you soon learn the value of time. You now have so much more to do with no extra time to do it. An important tip for new Dads is to help their partner to get some 'Me' time. Remember, a new Mum is tied to the bub at regular intervals for feeding. There is no day off, so helping her to have some time alone is vital for her to recharge the batteries. Another tip is not to make judgements on how she spends that time. She may just need to sit quietly for an hour and read. Let her decide what she needs. It is also important for new Dads to have Me time. The key is to make sure that you plan and agree the time that you will be out and make sure that it is fair and balanced.
4. Stress and Sleep Deprivation
Having a baby is great experience but it can also be very stressful. It is important for new parents to understand their stress triggers. Common triggers include work, finances and relationships. These things don't magically disappear with the new baby. In fact, they are often more complicated once the baby arrives. One aspect that can complicate matters further is sleep deprivation. This is simply a lack of sufficient sleep. The effects of sleep deprivation can include irritability, poor concentration, and nausea to name a few. In short, sleep deprivation hampers your ability to cope with situations that you would normally take in your stride. Some strategies to combat stress and sleep deprivation include, training yourself to sleep when the baby sleeps, exercising and reducing outside commitments.
5. Relationship Skills
When you become a parent there is a natural tendency to focus on the baby. However, it is important for couple to invest in their relationship at this time. Key relationship skills for managing the first six months of parenthood include:
- Negotiation - negotiate for win/win outcomes. This is important to bear in mind if you do a lot of negotiation at work. Often the temptation is negotiate to win. However, in a relationship it is important that both partners have their needs met, otherwise everyone loses.
- Self Awareness - this is the ability to understand what you want and need from the relationship.
- Insight - this is the ability to understand the needs of you partner. Self awareness and insight go hand in hand and are essentials for good communication.
- Communication - this is the ability to talk AND listen. Both partners need to be able to clearly discuss their needs so together you can work on meeting those needs.
This article is written by Peter Denman the Founder of Learner Dad Workshops - Training for the most important job you'll ever have!
Why not join the dads and dads-to-be buddy group on the Essential Baby Forums.