I’m not a new dad. I guess I’m what you’d call a “new again” dad. It’s been five years since I had a newborn at the house, and in that time I forgot a thing or two.
There are a few things that I learned the first time around that I naturally, intuitively, do this time. Things that I think would’ve made life a lot easier the first time. Things that I had to learn the hard way on round one.
Now that round two’s here, things are a little more smooth-sailing.
Because here’s the honest truth: in the first few months of a baby’s life, dads aren’t essential. We don’t produce milk, which is essential for life. And that could cause us to disengage, and leave everything up to mom.
But there’s a better way. A way to be fully engaged, fully present and fully helpful during this first season.
Eleven Habits Every New Dad Needs to Learn
1. Learn how to change a diaper.
Come on, fellas. Plug your nose. Resist your gag reflex. And dive in. It’s not that difficult, and in the process, there’s a good bit of bonding that takes place. Talk to your baby, and look at this as another moment you can steal with them.
2. Learn to be full of grace.
Moms are operating on a lack of sleep. They’re emotionally frazzled. They’re giving of themselves in a more physical, spiritual and emotional way than they ever have. As a dad, be full of grace. Overflowing with it. She’ll love you for it.
3. Learn to do your honey-do list. Now.
You’re living in a fog of little-to-no sleep. Of life being out of the normal flow. And you feel like life couldn’t get any more chaotic. But hear me when I say this: life doesn’t get less busy or less complicated. Plow through your check-list of chores now. Don’t put it off.
4. Learn how to make a great cup of coffee.
Use a Chemex. Or a French Press. Or a Hario V60. Just learn to make a good cup of coffee. It’s essential.
5. Learn how to curb your tongue.
You can start a fire more quickly with your tongue than you can with a match. When emotions are high, sleep is low, and our physical bodies are out of their normal rhythm, our words are even more powerful.
Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. —James 3:4-6
6. Learn how to capture tiny moments.
Like going on a lunch date when your mother-in-law is in town. Or going to a movie in-between feedings. Or letting your spouse leave the house for a while as you watch the baby.
7. Learn how to do the dishes.
Performing menial-seeming tasks like washing the dishes, washing the clothes and vacuuming the floor are huge helps to a mom that’s giving of herself to feed, nurture and grow another human being.
8. Learn how to function on very little sleep.
… because you’re not going to get much. My secret? See #4, above.
9. Learn how to be on full-alert in a moment’s notice.
Even when you’re relaxed, even when you’d rather sit on the couch, even when you’d rather finish reading that page, even when you’d rather keep your eyes closed because you’re (not half-, but fully) asleep … hop up. Put your self-serving needs aside. And change that diaper. Put that pacifier in. Rock your baby. Talk to him / her. Clean the spit-up. Burp them. Do whatever it takes. In a split-second.
10. Learn how to talk with a baby that won’t talk back to you.
This one’s tough. And to be honest, it feels kinda weird. But I’ve found that a baby will listen no matter what you say. So talk about your day at work. Talk about what’s frustrating you. Talk about what you love. Talk about football. Baseball. Or your favorite band. Sing a song to them. They just want to hear your voice.
11. Learn to be at your wife’s beckon call.
She is growing a human being. With her body! Your problems are minor right now. Your convenience doesn’t matter. Your frustrations are miniscule. Your headaches are bush league. Suck it up and love your wife with all you’ve got. Pour your heart and soul into serving her. And even after your child grows up … don’t stop this one.
To sum it up, at the end of the day, learn how to apply this verse in the context of your family:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Paul, Philippians 2:4