New Dad's Survival Guide
Having a baby is an incredible experience, but preparing for your first child can be a very daunting experience for new parents.
We had a bit of a look around online and found that most preparation material and online guides are written for mums. The posts we did find about dads and their biggest worries were usually still written for women, angled at giving them insight into their partner or husband’s thoughts and feelings.
We think dads are really special, and we wanted to hear their stories, and share these with other dads out there.
That’s why we undertook research into what 1000 expecting UK dads thought, felt and did before their baby was born, and asked some new dads for their personal experiences along the way.
So have a read, and find out what other dads around the country are thinking and feeling. It might not completely prepare you for what’s to come, but we hope it helps to know you’re not the first to walk in the new-dad shoes, and you’re definitely not alone
- Clifton and Victoria
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What are the strongest emotions expecting dads feel before their baby is born?
Dads might not have the same level of hormone disruption during the pregnancy, but there’s always going to be a bit of a roller-coaster ride of emotions in the lead-up to the birth.
We asked our pool of expecting and new dads which emotion was strongest prior to their baby’s arrival.
We won’t lie, we were expecting responses to weigh towards anxiety or nervousness. We were extremely delighted to find that the positive emotions of happiness and excitement dramatically outweighed other responses, and were the strongest emotions throughout the country as you can see from this breakdown:
Now this doesn’t mean that first-time dads don’t or shouldn’t feel nervous, scared or anxious; but what it does show is that, for majority of dads, the positive emotions outweigh the negative ones.
Having a baby is such a life-changing event, and a lot of men (and women) feel a little out of control.
We asked our thousand dads to tell us what their biggest worry was in the run up to their baby’s birth.
What we found was that a third of dads around the UK said their biggest worry was whether the delivery would go smoothly.
Regionally, this was the most reported worry everywhere around the United Kingdom, with the exception of Scotland, whose dads reported that concerns over how the baby’s arrival would affect their relationship and social life were strongest.
When we broke the data up further, we saw that over half of expecting dads between the ages of 25 and 34 in London reported being most concerned over work obligations, and being home enough to support their family.
We also reached out to Dr Rodrigo Perez-Vega, father of one-year-old son Arturo, to tell us about his story and give some advice for expecting London dads about to walk in fatherhood shoes.
Daddy Insight: Dr Rodrigo Perez-Vega’s story:
“I work as a Lecturer at Henley Business School, and even though there are a lot of expectations, this is a job that also has a lot of flexibility regarding how I use my time. It was nice to be able to attend meetings with the GP and midwives and, on top of supporting my partner, it also helped me realise that this was actually going to happen. To me, it was quite a shock to be a first time dad as no one prepares you for it.
I noticed a few other dads being there too, and I think men want to be part of it and will make as many arrangements as they can to be there.
“To me, it was quite a shock to be first time dad as no one prepares you for it.”
My flexible work situation’s also meant I have been able to be very involved in everything that has happened since Arturo was born. But having a flexible use of my time for work comes with some stressful moments too.
It is hard to work when Arturo is around, which means that now I usually get most of my work done before he wakes up and after he goes to sleep. So I'm an exhausted daddy indeed. However, I find that being there for him is crucial, and I cherish the moments that I spend with him. I was there for his first crawl, his first steps, the initial babbling and I hope to keep being actively there for him during the years to come.
I think that if the man is the person who goes to work during the early months, then there is an internal battle between performing well at work to be able to provide financially, and also being there with your child as much as possible.
Not being there when the first steps are happening and receiving instead a text or a video about it is exciting but certainly not the same as experiencing it life in front of you. Living in a large city as London also makes it harder for dads, since commute time extends the time spent away from home.
“Make sure to provide a loving and caring environment whenever you are around, and I'm sure that this will positively mark a child’s life in the future.”
There is no 'right' way to parent, and families and dads need to work out their best way to be, according to their eyes, a 'good' parent. Sure, being there during the first step or the first word is usually something that mothers get to experience more often, but there will be many more opportunities of first things to do once daddy is back home. So I would not worry about that too much. Instead, just make sure to provide a loving and caring environment whenever you are around, and I'm sure that this will positively mark a child’s life in the future.
We hear very little about this internal struggle of men (or the parents that leave home to work) trying to juggle professional and parental life. And more actions could be done at an organisational and policy-making level to allow a more equilibrated work-life balance for parents in the UK.
- Dr Rodrigo Perez-Vega can be reached on Twitter here.
Stephen Jury, father of two, knows the London commuter battle all too well. His advice is to make sure that when you are home after work and on weekends, you get as involved as you can and spend quality time together with your partner and kids.
“It’s one thing being home with your child, but if they’re on an iPad, you may as well not be.”
He’s invited us to share a window into his world with this video:
It was no surprise when we asked this question that the most popular response from expecting dads was “getting regular amounts of sleep”. But the spread of responses was broader than we expected with getting enough “me time”, date nights with your partner, and having enough time to socialise with friends, all strong contenders.
To see what new dads had to say about lack of sleep, and the sudden changes having a baby has on both yours and your partner’s lifestyle, we reached out to Entrepreneur and professional blogger, Eric Brantner, who was happy to share his story.
Daddy Insight: Eric Brantner’s Story:
My daughter was born at 32 weeks, and because she still needed to grow, we spent 6 weeks in the hospital (she was never sick, thankfully, just small).
So, for 6 weeks, I was at the hospital every day with my wife and daughter. I didn't have any vacation pay or paid time off since I'm an entrepreneur, and we were struggling to keep our heads above water.
Our baby finally came home with us, and I had to try to adjust back to a full-time work schedule; it's been challenging and I've learned a lot.
In terms of getting regular amounts of sleep, here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way:
- Being tired from working all day doesn't excuse you from pitching in at home. You might have put in an 8, 10, or 12-hour day at work, but once you're home, you need to help with the baby. If your partner has been home all day with the baby, they're exhausted too and need a break. Change some diapers, feed the baby, just do your part.
- On a related note, once you're done with work for the day, leave it behind. Turn off your email notifications from work and give your family your full attention.
- It gets better. Let's be honest, the first 6 months suck for new parents. The baby probably is probably waking you up at all hours of the night, and they require constant attention. But it gets better. They start sleeping through the night, become more capable, and develop little personalities that further strengthen the father-child bond.
Undoubtedly, the frequency of going out drops big time after having a child. There's no way around that, unless you just want to be a lousy parent and partner. That said, having a baby doesn't have to be the end of your social or romantic life at all.
As far as date nights with the wife, here's what I've found works:
- My brother and his wife also have little ones, so we swap babysitting nights with each other at least once a month. They'll watch our baby one night so we can have a date night, and we'll watch theirs another night so they can do the same. In fact, my wife and I actually have a date night tonight as we're going to catch a game and dinner. This can also work if you have friends with kids.
- For nights out with my guy friends or just time away to ourselves, my wife and I trade off nights as well where one of us will stay home while the other goes out.
The main thing with all of this though is to get organised. Before you have kids, you're basically able to do what you want when you want. Now, we have to schedule out date nights and guy or girl nights in advance. We use Google Calendar and send each other invites to make sure we're all on the same page and all have our social needs met.
How do expecting dads prepare for their baby’s arrival?
Whilst nothing can completely prepare you for having a new teeny human in your life, we wanted to know what expecting dads around the UK were doing in those last few months. We told our thousand respondents to check off everything that they had done to prepare for their baby’s arrival.
Of all the four questions that we asked, this was the one that had the most diverse responses, as you can see in the regional overview below: What did surprise us is that, of all the ways expecting dads can prepare, reading baby books is still the most common, even among the 18-24 age group, with 23% of these fathers turning to books for advice.
We reached out to Rob Lawrence, a Norwich based father of two young boys, for his thoughts on the results, and how he prepared for his first born.
Daddy Insight: Rob Lawrence’s story:
My fatherhood journey began just a few short years ago when our first son was born. That experience was delightfully augmented some two years later with the arrival of his new younger brother much to our surprise: we thought they were both going to be girls!
In reality I feel my fatherhood journey really began when I was a child, unconsciously absorbing my parent's behaviour, much of which surfaces in new parenting situations, often expressed as "Woah. I'm just like my Dad..." which can be revealing at times!
Outside of the daddy shoes, I choose to work with creative people who tend to be writers, entrepreneurs, musicians, photographers, small business owners, developers and producers of a kind. My role is to help my community of people have their voices heard, recognised and amplified through the power of podcasting and broadcast.
When it comes to being a Dad: I have lived and I am living my dreams, with an awesome and supportive wife who is a photographer, and an incredible mother. My aim in life is to inspire my two sons to believe that they can achieve any of their dreams too. I'm learning quickly that they won't always listen to what I tell them: If I can't tell them to follow their hearts, I must show them how to live a life they love.
“If I can't tell them to follow their hearts, I must show them how to live a life they love.”
When preparing for fatherhood, I gravitated towards books, but looking at the research, I was surprised that on-line resources were not sought more than they are (certainly when compared to books).
I highly recommend Armin Brott's book, The New Father : A Dad's Guide To The First Year which covers a lot of the subject of becoming and being a new father during the first few months. It put my mind at rest on many occasions. I particularly enjoyed the sections in the book that offered additional information and resources, often covering all sorts of matters I hadn't considered like balancing family life with work and the baby's relationship with the mother and how that can affect you emotionally. The month-by-month description of what to expect and what to look for to better understand how your baby is emotionally, physically and mentally growing was fascinating. I would have missed out on so many beautiful moments had I not had this book as a prompt.
Where asking family for advice is concerned, I'm surprised that parents are consulted less than friends, although upon reflection this is true for my own experience too; I certainly trust my parents experience as parents. However, it's often my Mum's experience that I'm more interested in. Consulting friends more than family may be to do with the fact that our parents were bringing up children under different circumstances: as a different generation. I believe that we naturally gravitate towards our peers who we trust to be more 'in touch' with what's hot, what's new, and what's available when it comes to knowledge, know-how, products and research.
Additionally, my wife and I often consulted my sisters, before our sons were born, both of whom were parents before us, and are not too dissimilar to us in age. Siblings seem to bridge the gap between friends and parents as we can discuss how we were parented as children in context of what information and resources are available today.
“Nobody was a perfect parent and I don't believe such a thing exists.”
My general advice to expectant dads is don't be afraid to ask. Life, and time, is too short. Nobody was a perfect parent and I don't believe such a thing exists.
Don't overwhelm yourself with the vast volume of information that is available to you out there. You will find a lot of conflicting information in books and on-line, and particularly amongst other parents who seem to know best. Adapt and choose what makes sense to you and run it by those that you trust. Enjoy the experience (and time!) of being an expectant father. Everything is going to change and in my experience life just gets even better even though the challenges are greater: it's the most rewarding experience you can imagine.
- You can follow Rob’s work and podcasts at Inspirational Creatives.