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Bringing a baby into your life is going to mean major changes to your routine and your energy levels. From now on, you will have to put your baby’s wants and needs first. Going out and about will need a lot more organising than just grabbing your wallet and keys. You will have to plan everything around your baby'ss needs, and if you want a night off, you’ll have to arrange childcare. In Dr Sarah Brewer’s book ‘I Want to Have a Baby?’ she says: ‘Being a father will certainly affect your social life – a new baby is very trying and also tiring. You may find that lack of sleep means you don’t feel like going out even when you have the opportunity.’
You may be worried about how your new baby is going to affect your time, sleep and your social life. You may also feel inadequately prepared for such a huge responsibility. This baby will depend entirely on you, and you may be unsure about his or her everyday needs, such as feeding, burping, bathing, changing nappies, or even the correct way to carry your child. When Colin Joseph became a father, he took paternity leave and decided to work more regular hours. He says: ‘Looking after your baby is all new to begin with.
The first things you need to do can be quite daunting, such as bathing, changing nappies and feeding, but you do get used to it. It becomes routine and natural.’ The more time you spend caring for your child, the easier these things become. It may seem as if your child’s mother has all the answers – after all, she has spent nine months carrying the baby with her – but she is new to this as well, and she needs your help.
According to Rob Williams, Chief Executive of The Fatherhood Institute, dads should get as involved as possible when the baby arrives. ‘Do as much as you can – housework, cooking, nappy changing, holding the baby. Fathers are great at everything except breastfeeding. If a father sees this responsibility as part of his role as well as his partner’s they are more likely to end up with a shared approach to parenting.’
Even if you have gone back to work while your partner has stayed at home, you will need to take on a share of the household chores. Rob Williams says: ‘The biggest cause of relationship tension is where responsibilities for parenting and housework are unequally divided. Evidence shows that sharing these responsibilities more equally strengthens relationships and helps to get through this difficult transition. Fathers need to think carefully about whether they can spend less time at work. And if they can't they can still do a great deal of work at home to let the mother know that she is not expected to do it all on their own.’ Dr. Carol Cooper agrees: ‘Even if you can't be (at home) a lot, try to reassure your partner that you accept it's a shared responsibility and try to do what you can when you're around. Right now the baby is a priority and you both need the chance to bond with her.’
Life will never be the same again. It may be a whole lot better and more rewarding, but it’s also going to be tiring, stressful and challenging. Preparing yourself for this is the first part of becoming a new parent. Your routine will ultimately have to change, particularly your sleeping patterns. From now on, you will have to use the time when your baby is asleep to sleep yourself. Your baby will not know the difference between day and night, and will sleep irregularly. Dr. Cooper says: ‘Prioritise activities. There's no point doing the housework in the only two hours out of 24 in which your baby chooses to sleep!’
Another major change will be your relationship with your partner. According to Rob Williams, most new parents don’t expect their relationships to change very much, although this is inevitable. ‘Most couples see a drop in their satisfaction with their relationship after they become parents. They have less time to spend with each other, it's more difficult to go out, and there is another person in the family who grabs most of their attention.’ According to Dr. Cooper it will take time to adjust but there are things you can do to appreciate each other. ‘Reassure your partner that you still love each other even if there's not much romance at the moment. Try to make time to spend together, perhaps just watching a video, when your baby allows.’
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