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's 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.’
Worries and doubts
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. 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.’
How your life will change
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.’
Things that can help
- This is the time to ask for extra support from family and friends willing to give it! This could be babysitting or just being on the other end of the phone when you need to let off steam.
- If you live with your baby’s mum, make sure you take it in turns to see to the baby at night, so you both get some sleep and all the responsibility isn’t on one of you.
- Be as hands-on as you can be – change nappies, read stories, play games – so you get to have that bonding time with your baby.
- When the baby’s been settled for the night or taking a nap, is usually the time parents are rushing about trying to do all the cleaning up and getting things ready for the next day. Try to use some of this time to just be together doing the things you did when it was just the two of you – from watching TV to having a chat (or a moan…)
- Even if you’re back at work, try to take on a share of the housework to give your partner a break.
- The sooner you have a go at the everyday things – changing nappies, bathing, cuddling at ‘crying time’ – the less intimidating they will be. Know that your partner is new to this too – don’t assume she has all the answers.
- Let your partner know that you want to share the responsibilities with her, to reassure her that you care.
- Prioritise activities – if your baby is keeping you up all night, make sure you rest when you get a chance.
- Take one step at a time – you can’t know everything and you won’t get everything right the first time. Being a new parent is one of the biggest challenges anyone can go though, take your time and keep trying.
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