New Dad's Guide

first time dad
first time dad 

When your partner is expecting a baby, a soon-to-be-Dad's acquaintances fall into two camps. Childless friends will tease you about impending loss of freedom. Friends with kids will roll their eyes and mention sleep deprivation, hint darkly at a greatly diminished future sex life and point out the big highs that come with watching a child grow.

They're both right, in many ways. Your childless friends, for example, are right to point out that when a Dad's first child arrives, many of the freedoms that come with childlessness disappear.

Working late to prove your worthiness for a promotion, going out to a movie on a whim or fishing weekends with the boys all become far harder to arrange or justify when a baby comes into your life.

What childless friends cannot tell you, however, is the extraordinary surge of pride that comes with the advent of fatherhood and how, for many men, it quickly makes pre-baby activities seem irrelevant given the extraordinary responsibility and motivation that comes with guiding a new life.

Part of that responsibility includes adjusting your attitude to your partner's needs. Babies wake up a lot and, for the first few weeks, don't give a lot back. Until your baby reaches six or eight weeks and starts to smile there's very little feedback the extraordinary efforts you and your partner are making have any impact at all.

For many men... pre-baby activities seem irrelevant given the extraordinary responsibility and motivation that comes with guiding a new life.

Your friends with kids will tell you that supporting your partner at this time goes beyond just doing the dishes or the laundry for the first few weeks of a baby's life. Instead, they'll tell tales of how they tried to strike a balance between giving their partner some relief from the non-stop demands of being a new mother without leaving them isolated and alone.

A big effort to make some time at home special, instead of just brain-dead TV time, is also important because it helps ease your relationship into the more housebound routines new parents face.

Think portable
When your baby arrives, it's impossible not to be tired and feel your former life is slipping away faster than you want during a baby's few months. But it's important to remember that not all activities have to disappear from your life once your baby arrives. If you are missing the gym, for example, consider pram-pushing as a new exercise option.

If eating out is your thing, keep an eye on your baby's sleeping habits because at three or four months many babies have predictable sleep times and sleep through all but the loudest noises. Once you note those patterns, plan a trip to a local restaurant just as they open for an evening's trade, before noisy crowds arrive.

You should also recognise that once your child reaches an age at which they can eat solid foods, the possibilities expand greatly and other activities become possible. If contact with your friends has become harder, consider semi-professional neighbourhood football competitions as a meeting place. You'll be able to bring your child in their pram and if you need to escape at half time, tickets only cost a few dollars so you won't be disappointing your friends.

New friends
Another thing new dads should take care to appreciate is the new social circles that come with parenthood. Most women join a mother's group and quickly form new friendships. Coming along to mother's group meetings and the social functions they organise is a great way to meet other new dads.

It's also useful to get a feel for how other families and their babies are doing, as this gives you perspective on your own efforts. Above all, it's also a great introduction to the adventure of fatherhood, which will take you to places and people you could not have imagined!