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Because family life matters

Five things I wish I’d known before I became a dad

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Becoming a dad for the first time is a bit like starting a new job. No matter how well prepared you are, you never quite know what to expect.

As you gear up for fatherhood, here are five things that I wish I’d known before my daughter arrived:

1. I’m not busy and I’m not tired

Adult life is generally characterised by feelings of busyness. You have a job to work hard at, a home to help keep clean and tidy, a long list of DIY tasks that keeps getting longer, a wife to love and care for, maybe even a dog to walk and other hobbies. Not surprisingly, all these things make people feel both tired and busy.

The truth is, however, that until you have the previous list plus a crying baby to hold, bottles to sterilise, nappies to change and a sleepless night to look forward to, then you are neither truly tired nor busy. But, and this is the good bit, you won’t care a jot how tired, busy or sleep-deprived you are, because one small smile from your child will make it all worthwhile!

2. Most things can be done one-handed

Part of being a parent is learning a new way of life. When you have an extra person in your family, an extra mouth to feed, someone else that you want to spend time with – then life invariably changes. One interesting aspect of that change is learning to do everything one-handed, because you are holding a baby in the other hand. You could put some practice in for this by trying to hang out a line of washing whilst holding a large, heavy back of shopping in one arm! And that’s only part of it. There will be lots of other things in life you’ll learn can be done in ways you never imagined. For example, did you know that you can change a baby’s nappy whilst you are half asleep? Or that you can clean the whole house in 15 minutes during their nap time?

I’ve learnt that some of the things I thought I really loved and couldn’t live without just aren’t as important to me anymore.”

3. Some things just aren’t important

Now that you have a child, you’ll want to spend time with them, and this will mean that you have less time to do the things you used to do. Some of your activities will stay the same, and many new ones will be introduced. Some of the things you do now, you will willingly give up so that you can spend more time with your family – a hobby, having a night out, watching a TV programme. I’ve learnt that some of the things I thought I really loved and couldn’t live without just aren’t as important to me anymore.

4. My brain can remember quite a lot of stuff

Time does indeed fly when you’re having fun. Your child will grow up quicker than you ever imagined. No doubt family and friends will tell you this – and they are telling the truth. Part of being a dad means developing the ability, every now and then, to take a mental snapshot of your family and store it in a secure archive somewhere in your brain to make sure that you don’t forget it. Maybe it’s your child’s first tooth or words; or maybe it’s just a fun family day out in the park. Dads need to be able to take mental snapshots and ‘make memories’, so that they don’t miss or forget the fun they’ve had watching their children grow up.

5. I’ll know what to do with my own children

Before I became a dad, I had zero experience with children, and the thought of being responsible for my own was hugely scary. But it turns out that you can’t judge how you’ll feel about your own children by how you feel about other people’s children. I had no idea what to do with other children and still don’t! But with my own daughter I know just what to do. I know what she likes, I know how to hold her, how to change her nappy. I know she’s not as fragile as she looks. And I know that most things can be fixed with a kiss and a cuddle!

So if impending fatherhood seems a bit overwhelming, be assured that most dads will have felt the same. And while it will mean a lot of change, you may just find that the change is for the better.