I’m a first-time new dad… Uh, hi.
My wife told me she wanted to start trying for a baby a little less than a year after we got married. My inside-my-head reaction was panic, fear, and overwhelming anxiety at the prospect of being a new dad. What came out of my mouth was, “Okay.”
I was only 26. I had just quit my job as a bookstore cashier to start a career in freelance writing. And I basically still thought of myself as a big kid who managed to get married.
The reason I agreed wasn’t that I was afraid of my wife or because I was caught off guard. I agreed because I’ve always wanted to be a dad.
My own dad wasn’t around much until I was 10, and even after that I only saw him every other weekend, but he made me want to be a dad. I discovered that sense of innate admiration for your father that most boys grow up with. They want to be cool like dad. They want to be funny like dad. And I may not have realized it then, but I wanted to be to my son what my dad was to me.
The next several months gave me some time to mentally prepare for the oncoming responsibility of being a father. I never stopped being anxious and panicked, but that didn’t stop me from wanting a kid. He’s four months old now and I’m still anxious and panicked and overwhelmed all the time, but I still love him like crazy and wouldn’t trade fatherhood for the world.
The First 12 Weeks of Being a New Dad
My wife managed to get a full 12 weeks off from work, which helped us both out immensely. And I work from home, so both of us were around for those 12 weeks. Most people aren’t that lucky. Typically, mom is left at home alone with the baby after the first few days, and she often has to go back to work a lot sooner than 12 weeks.
Don’t let anyone shame you for not taking 12 weeks. My wife has a great job with good maternity benefits. We had a little bit of money saved up (although it amounted to nothing with the hospital bills.) Some people will try to make you feel like bad for not taking 12-16 weeks off, but most of us understand. The American economy and healthcare system just doesn’t make it possible for some people. If all you can afford is 4 weeks or 1 week, or nothing at all, you do what you gotta do.
We got lucky. For 12 glorious/horrifying weeks, my wife and I learned the ins and outs of caring for a tiny human. The late nights. The crying fits (mostly me, but sometimes the baby too). The poop… So. Much. Poop.
So, I didn’t totally feel like a fish out of water when my wife went back to work, and I officially became a happy Stay-At-Home Dad. I was (and am) still a new dad, but it’s an ongoing learning process.
The Balancing Act of a New Dad
I think I do a pretty decent job of being a Stay-At-Home-Dad. My biggest problem is getting everything else I need to do done.
Our little boy is four-months-old now and doing great. Some days he naps like a champ. Other days he takes on his daddy’s insomnia and refuses to sleep.
This creates a problem: As a work-from-home househusband who’s also the new dad and primary caregiver of a four-month-old baby, how do I get everything done?
I’d love to tell you that I’m an expert at time management and I have a fool-proof system down, but that’s just not the case. And even with the best time management skills in the world, I would still have days where one of my responsibilities had to be neglected.
I’m a part-time online freelance writer, and while I do pretty well at writing little bits at a time, the bigger issue is planning things to write about for the people who pay me.
My wife and I are pretty good about sharing the housework. Sometimes more responsibility falls on one or the other, but we’re good at covering for the other.
And I take care of the typical manly tasks (mowing the lawn, fixing broken appliances, moving heavy stuff, etc.) Of course, out of everything, the baby is priority #1.
Some days, our house is a disaster. Dishes pile up. Our lawn becomes a jungle. And some weeks, I just can’t take an assignment. It sucks, but I’m getting better at it.
If you’re a new dad like me, then you’re probably used to feeling overwhelmed, but you’re not alone, and like I said, it can be a lot easier if you’re smart about it.
I’m certainly not starting this blog because I want to fill some free time. I’m writing this because I think I can help. If I can’t give you the advice to help make your responsibilities a little easier, I can at least entertain you with my perspective on this insane undertaking.
Good luck, new moms and new dads. It’s not an easy job, but it can at least be a lot of fun! It can also be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.