“I can’t wait to be a dad when the baby arrives – it’ll be awesome not having to worry about the pregnancy stuff and we’ll finally get to meet her.”
That was what I was often telling my wife, family, friends and pretty much anyone around that would listen (apologies stranger in the lift).
Whilst I wasn’t restricted from any of the soft cheeses, bean sprouts or reduced caffeine levels, there certainly was a bit of apprehension throughout the pregnancy.
Having previously experienced the strange and crushing feelings of a miscarriage we just wanted a healthy baby.
Then, after 40 weeks we were so lucky to meet our first daughter. Yep, finally after all the worry and wondering of what might happen, she was finally here.
Dad time officially commenced! (Welcome terrible jokes and extra thumbs ups).
We were now past all of the hard parts, right?
In the words of a professional tennis player/man-child who loved throwing tennis racquets around: you cannot be serious.
There’s not too many things that can make it feel like your whole world is imploding as priorities completely shift. That first night as a dad did that to me.
After a fairly traumatic birth where we nearly lost our daughter, I was now facing those other challenges every parent is presented with: no sleep. Jiggling, rocking, swaying and dancing methodically with this new bundle of sleeplessness from dusk till dawn. I don’t think there’s a better whole body workout.
Suddenly, dealing with the unknown of pregnancy wasn’t that bad. Although, I don’t think many mums would take up reversal operations.
Less than 10 hours as a dad I had the very real understanding my expectations were going to be different to the reality. The proverbial got real. Very quickly.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to manage expectations. To realise there will always be a difference between what is imagined and what is the reality.
There are so many memories that stay with you from that first time as a parent (as well as quite a few that are just a haze of sleep deprivation and too much coffee). Unfortunately, some of the strongest memories involved me mentally beating myself up for not seemingly doing a good enough job.
Why? Because I had these ridiculous expectations that just were not happening in real life. (Surely, every time you walk in the house, or hold your baby, they look up at you, give you a thumbs up, say “You’re the bloody best, Dad”. Then turn and sleep all night).
I was always holding myself accountable to things that might never happen, or not for some time.
Cue teacher mode. From my ten years as a teacher I can’t help but look out for learning opportunities. As we prepared for our second daughter I used that time to think about those expectations and how I could be easier on myself.
It has been one of the greatest things I have done as a parent. Since we have moved through our second round of newborn territory, I am so much more relaxed and present.
Dads, a Small and Powerful Thing You Can Do, Right Now
This time around things are so much better because I’ve focused on making a routine out of celebrating and acknowledging the quick and small wins.
To make it more of a routine doesn’t mean making it boring or uninspiring – it means using a similar approach so it becomes a habit.
Make time for you and your partner to share what you have seen each other do that is good or making a difference. It doesn’t have to be a massive difference it is making, all those small differences add up to make a HUGE difference.
Especially when you are in the battle that is newborn life and early parenthood.
My wife and I don’t have a set time for doing this. Instead, we do it when we can see the other seems flat, exhausted or frustrated (or all of the above!). The more specific you can be the better.
Like all new things, it can be a little daunting or tricky when you first begin. Here was mine from the other night in case you’re not sure how to start. I’ve literally underlined bits you can use as sentence starters to get you going. Just fill in the blanks and change the tone to suit you and your partner!
“You were awesome the other night. The way you are able to always find little ways to distract First Born, even when she is losing her shit (literally) is bloody amazing. It helps me discover ways to distract her too and reduces the stress…especially during bath time! Thanks for being a bloody great mum.”
(You can see I’ve tweaked this to fit the way I speak to my wife…take the starters and make them suit you!)
Now, whilst this may not solve all of our problems that face us as parents, what it will do is help you realise that you actually do know what you are doing – AND that you’re a pretty great parent.
After all, big wins are really just a bunch of small wins all added together.
We’ve got this. #forsure
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