So you’re going to be a dad. You just found out your spouse (or girlfriend) is pregnant. Maybe it’s the first time. Maybe it’s the fifth time. If you have been there before then you may already know what to expect. But if this is your first time there are some things you need to do to prepare for fatherhood.
Being a father can be a challenge. Yes, you can just be present and get by with that. But you will miss out on so much in your kid’s life. Being prepared as a father makes you a better father. Being prepared to be a father will help lessen the stress in your house and help keep your family relationships intact.
If you want your kids to start out life in the best possible way then being prepared to be a father is the best thing you can do for your kids and also for your spouse.
Here are some tips on how to prepare to be a father
Talk to your spouse
I would hope that most of you are talking to your spouse. But it’s all about what you need to discuss with your spouse BEFORE the baby arrives.
Why do you need to talk to your spouse before becoming a father?
After you have a baby your relationship changes. Maternal instincts kick in and the focus will move from being a couple to being a family. And sometimes dads come #2 after a child is born.
Talk to your spouse about sex
If you both enjoy having sex I have some bad news for you. After having a baby everything can and most likely will change.
Immediately after having a baby, sex is a no-no. Make sure you understand this. It’s not negotiable. Talk to your spouse about alternatives so it doesn’t turn into a fight.
Once you can have sex your kids will always be there. You can’t just lock them in a room and have a night to yourself.
Kids wake up, they interrupt, they need a drink in the middle of the night. Talk to your spouse about ways you can still be intimate while the kids are asleep and don’t get frustrated if you get interrupted.
Talk to your spouse about dating
My wife and I have almost always had multiple kids in the house. Hiring a babysitter was never really a thing for us because we just had issues trusting people. And we rarely lived close to family that could watch the kids.
These are all things you need to figure out so you can go out on a date. You should always continue to date your spouse. Make sure you have plans for someone trustworthy to watch the kids so you can have a weekend or even a night away.
Find out who in your family can help out or determine a safe way o find someone to help watch the kids for a date night.
Talk to your spouse about duties around the house
Even if you split the household duties 50/50 make sure you have a plan after the baby arrives. Your time will be reserved for your baby. And if your wife is with the baby then you may need to do something for her.
Avoid fights by determining who is going to take care of what in these situations. You will find that you will have a lot less time and more chores to do around the house. The laundry will literally never end.
Also, you will need to discuss who is going to stay at home with the baby or if the baby will go to daycare. If you both work the assumption might be that the baby will go to daycare. But your spouse may have plans to stay at home and be a full-time stay-at-home mom. Or maybe you want to be a full-time stay-at-home dad.
Set back a savings account
The USDA reported that it costs over $200,000 for a child born in 2015. As prices have risen and will continue to rise I’m sure they will cost a lot more than that for kids being born in 2022 and beyond.
Some of the major costs that you will experience will be healthcare, insurance, sports, vehicles, and college. Now, most of these don’t start to hit you immediately so why not start saving now? If you know you are going to become a father open a savings account and start investing now.
There are two ways to save and help with taxes. Most states offer what is called a 529 Plan or you can invest in an IRA (Roth or Coverdell). Consult your accountant or financial advisor on what would be the best plan to invest and save you on tax dollars while still getting a good return.
Examine your behavior
Your kid will want to be just like you. If that is a bad thing start changing now. The good news is you have time before they will really start to pick up and model your behavior.
If you cuss and you don’t want your kids to cuss then change that. If you smoke and don’t want your kids to be around smoke then stop smoking. Make small changes and give yourself some grace if you slip up.
Prayer can be powerful. And praying over your kids takes it to a whole other level.
I used to think about all the times my mom or someone said they were praying for me. And I really never gave it much thought. Once I became a dad I really got it. You worry and you think about all the bad things that might happen to your kids.
There isn’t much you can do about those things. But you can pray. You can ask God to watch over your kids and that they stay healthy. Even though you will be charged with these kids for the next 18+ years God will have them for eternity.
I know there have been times in my life that if it wasn’t for prayer and the grace of God I wouldn’t still be alive. But God does answer prayers. So just pray and pray some more.
Work on your patience (practice the pause)
Kids will test your patience. You will ask them to put their shoes on and they will move slower than a turtle trying to cross the road. You will tell them to stop touching something and then pick it up and look right at you while holding it.
You will get angry, you will get upset, you will want to yell. I have been there. I have yelled, I have been angry and it took everything in my power to keep me from walking out the door.
But just pause, think about it from their perspective. Shoes are a new thing so it will take time for them to get it right. Young kids learn by touch and exploration so don’t think of it as them messing with stuff, but them learning what something is.
Learn about the stages of growth
One of the things I found myself asking with each of my kids was how are they progressing? Are they crawling when they should be walking? Are they saying 4 or 5 words when they should be saying 100 words?
My wife always did a better job of keeping up with those things but I would always question if my kids were growing at the right rate. Yes, we had doctor checkups but those get sparse and you don’t always get a lot of feedback unless they are getting really behind.
The CDC has a really good guideline for where your kids should be as far as stages of growth. But your doctor can provide some good guides for you. Also, consider investing in some books before the baby arrives. This will be the prime time to get that knowledge ahead of the baby arriving.
Consider therapy if needed
Did you suffer from child abuse as a kid? Do you have anger issues? Is alcohol a problem for you? Before the baby arrives this is the time to get help.
As men, we struggle to reach out and get help. But honestly, we need the help more than moms do. We miss out on that connection that a woman develops carrying the baby for 9 months. And if your life was stressful and caused issues before and you were not doing anything to resolve those issues.
Get in shape
At first, your baby will not move much. But it doesn’t take long before they go from turning from belly to back to running away from you buck naked at full speed because they don’t want to put on their diaper.
Then they get even bigger and even faster. This is not the time to be out of shape. Young kids don’t understand the full concept of looking both ways before crossing a street. They will wander off and before you know it they will be halfway into a road. This is why you need to be in shape, to chase them down.
You also need to be in shape so you will be there for your kid’s entire life. Too many times I have seen friends that passed away before their kids were grown. Some of those were not completely due to a lack of being out of shape. But if you stay in shape you are far more likely to live longer.
Also, you want to stay in shape so you can be more active with them. I’m getting older and my son loves doing things outdoors and hiking. I am not in the greatest shape but there is no way I am telling my son that I am not going to go hiking with him. I take a few ibuprofen, make sure I stretch good and lace up my hiking boots. I may be sore the next morning. But I’m not missing out on those memories.
Evaluate your inner circle
If you were to invite your friends over would you want them to be around your kids? Would their influence be positive or negative? I think the answer to those questions should tell you as to whether you need to reevaluate your inner circle or not.
I’m not saying you have to break all friendships and sever ties with them. You just have to make sure they are clear on what life is going to be like. There will no longer be late nights with the boys with no repercussions. If your friends like to drink, smoke, and cuss all the time you have to decide if you want that around your kids.
I ended up moving shortly after I had my first son. A lot of my inner circle pretty much fell apart on its own. But after becoming a dad I evaluated all my friendships based on the influence they may have in my kid’s life.
Read on parenting techniques books and/or blogs
If you are here then you are one step closer to knocking this one out. And I thank you for being here. But don’t just stop with my blog. Read other blogs, read mom blogs, read about the good and the bad. Make sure you are fully prepared for what this journey might entail.
Do bloggers always get it right? Nope. In fact, we mess up a lot. But we know a thing or two because we have seen a thing or two. Learn from our mistakes. And pay attention to our successes. But don’t take it as the only way to do things.
There are a lot of good books out there too. What to expect books are a great starting place. They have been around for a while and they offer great advice. The Expectant Father is another good one. Find some that have some good reviews and either check them out at your local library or buy them off of Amazon.
Join dad groups (in person or online)
When Facebook first introduced the concept of groups I thought it was a pretty dumb idea. But then I saw the genius behind it. A group of like-minded individuals who could connect and share information even though they didn’t really know each other.
I joined a few dad groups and let me tell you there is a wealth of collective knowledge there. Have a question on the best way to get a 2-year-old to sleep through the night. You can find the answer. Don’t know which baby bed is the best. You can find an answer to that too.
It’s amazing the community that can be created on Facebook and how easy it is to get answers. Yes, you could search Google for those answers but wouldn’t you rather get it from someone that doesn’t have an agenda to put ads in your face first?
There are also local dad groups you can join for support. In bigger cities, there are city dad groups that offer support offline. And you can check with local churches to find other dad groups if the town you reside in is smaller.
Understand that sleep will be a commodity
Before kids, I never had an issue with getting sleep. As soon as my first son was born sleeping through the night was a thing of the past. And it isn’t just the baby stage that keeps you up. Even when they are toddlers they will wake up and fuss or have night terrors and won’t want to go back to sleep.
But I also have good news. When they are younger they nap during the day. If you need to get things done or need to get a nap in that is the time to do that.
But I would really recommend getting used to a lesser amount of sleep before your kid arrives. Especially if you are older and starting out. If you are younger you might be ok for the first few years as it isn’t such a chore to get by on less sleep. But once you hit your 40s that lack of sleep will catch up to you quickly.
Brush up on cooking skills (or learn)
One of the things that a lot of dads will take pride in is their grilling abilities. Something about cooking raw meat over a fire just gets the primal juices flowing I guess. But cooking can go so much farther than just throwing meat on the grill.
Learn how to cook as much as you can. And if you were fortunate to have parents that taught you how to cook then brush up on your cooking skills. When a baby is nursing mom isn’t going to feel like taking care of a kid all day and then cooking you supper. She might have the energy to do it but honestly, she shouldn’t have to.
And if you are a good candidate for the show World’s Worst Cooks then find an alternative to provide meals for your family. You may have to get food ordered in more or watch the baby so your wife can cook.
It isn’t hard to be prepared for fatherhood. You could take the easy route and just wing it, but being ready for this new challenge is the better way to go. Nothing good comes without hard work and parenting is no exception to that rule.
Our kids need parents to be present and ready for them. They rely on us for love, provision, and safety. Make sure you are ready for anything life throws at you. You will get some curveballs thrown your way, you will have struggles, and you will want to throw your hands up in the air and walk away, but if you are prepared for what is to come those days will be few and far between.