Worried that you’re dropping the ball when it comes parenting? That at any moment you’re going to make a mistake? That the phrase #parentingfail was invented just for you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in thinking that. And, more importantly, you’re most likely wrong.
If you’re anything like me, you spent the first months of your child’s life worrying that you were about to do something wrong. For me, it was anything from dropping him down the stairs, pushing him off (rather than on) the swings, dunking him in the bath, or accidentally treading on him when he was on the floor. I’d like to point out that I managed to do none of those!
And, who am I kidding? It’s been 15 months and I’m still wracked by nerves that something will happen on my watch. However, as time has gone on, the feeling has receded somewhat, and I’m much more relaxed.
Don’t Forget the Dads
The first year after my son was born was simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding year of my life. Finding the right balance between being a husband, a father, a wage-earner and my own person was difficult. I worried that I was spending too much time at work. I worried that I was spending too much time doting on my son at the expense of my wife (who, quite frankly, is a superhero to have done what she did). I worried that I was being selfish when I played football, or met with friends.
Plus, there was the feeling every so often that people would forget the dad thing. Visit friends, family and relatives, and the conversation would follow a similar pattern:
“Isn’t he the most gorgeous baby?! (Mum) you look amazing! (Me) You look tired.” Yup, having 3 hours of sleep per night will do that to you… Attention for baby and mum, and dad just hovering nervously in the background. (Please don’t think this is a complaint; again, wife = superhero).
Nothing major, but it chipped away at my confidence, and left me worrying that I should have been doing more.
The Dad Network
But, as time wore on, I found the right balance for me, and started to worry less. This was partly down to me relaxing a lot more into being a dad, and also to getting the opportunity to spend more time on my own with my son. But, one of the key things for me to help build my confidence was the great support network of other dads that I had around. From the guys in my NCT group, to my brother, who had his own son a few months before I did.
It was great to be able to call on these guys day and night (and there were more than a few messages in the middle of the night). There was sharing of stories, tips, and general putting the mind at ease. Plus, on the rare occasion we were let out, there was beer (and boy did that help!). Having other guys who were going through the same experience at the same time was an immense help.
And then I was lucky that a few of my friends became dads not long after me, so I was able to pass on my experience to them, and provide any support to them that they wanted.
It’s taken me 15 months to get to the stage where I have enough energy and brain capacity to put some of my thoughts on paper. I want to help other dads, so I thought I would create some form of survival guide, with a few points in each article I wrote. So, to kick off, here are my first few tips:
- You are not alone – no, I’m not channeling my inner Jacko, just reminding you that there are other dads out there you can speak to, and get hints, tips and help from.
- Someone has been there before – been there, seen it, done it, had the t-shirt vomited on. Don’t suffer in silence (really don’t). Find a group, friend, person, random stranger (ok, maybe not) to talk to and see what they did.
- Grab a beer – you need down time, so grab a couple of other dads and go out for a beer. Just don’t do this at the expense of your other half – in fact suggest that they do the same with their friends.
- Finally, don’t worry so much – there is no parenting manual, no guidelines, nothing to measure yourself against. Don’t let worry rule your life, and stop second guessing every move. Just relax and enjoy the precious time you have with your child!