What new Dads should know about being a Father

When I became a Dad, I wondered if it would be a similar but more intense experience of my summer babysitting a six month old girl in my late teens, but in many ways I didn’t know it would be so different.

Being a young man babysitting a little girl, I was constantly approached by people asking questions, obviously very concerned that I was out on my own with a baby. I suppose I was also very awkward with babies and young children, even though I began to feel comfortable around them as time went on. I was a teenage boy after all.

But when I had my own child, the feeling was so different. This time the beautiful baby was mine and there was no handing him over after a few hours.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A DAD AND BEING A MUM IN PREGNANCY

I think that apart from the obvious differences, having a new baby is a very different experience for a Dad and a Mum.

As with all Mums, my Helen carried our Sam in her womb for nine months. She went through the hormonal and physical changes and then gave birth. In many ways, I was the bystander. I could only see what was happening from the outside and try to be as understanding and supportive as I could be.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING A DAD AND BEING A MUM AFTER BIRTH

Since Sam was born, Helen hasn’t gone back out to work but has stayed at home as a full-time Mum. This has given us very different roles in our life and in our child’s development.

I like to be a hands-on Dad as much as possible. So that means changing nappies, helping with feeding and bathing and I can do this a lot more now than when Sam was a baby. In the first weeks of his life, my job was to wait until Helen had fed Sam and then get him back to sleep while Helen settled back down until the next time. She had that bond of breast-feeding him, not me and it also meant she was a lot more physically drained than me.

In Sam’s first few months, he had very bad colic and has never slept well. This meant that Helen had to bear the brunt of this during the day and I could come home from work to a stressed wife and an evening of a screaming baby.

As time went by, Helen became the one Sam would go to if he was upset as he was used to her comforting her during the day and I would be the one he would play with, because I would try to play with him more when I came home from work. To some extent, he still sees me in this role.

Then there are the sleepless nights. Everyone says that nothing prepares you for it, but neither does anything prepare you for being half asleep the next day. Helen and I agreed between us that she would get up with Sam during the week because I’d have to be up for work in the morning, but I’d try to get up with him more at the weekend.

I also find that I give Sam much more love because I don’t see him during the day. Sometimes I still find it difficult to go to work in the morning and really miss him when I go back to work after a holiday. But at the same time, Helen says I’m lucky I get a break from him: hers is pretty much a 24-hour job.

But it’s also me having to fit work in around Sam when I bring it home. It’s difficult because I don’t get to spend as much time with him as I would like to. Okay, I don’t get the crying and screams like Helen does, but sometimes I miss having that too. That means I need to concentrate more on him and give him my time more, because the relatively limited time we spend together can go so quickly, much more than Helen’s time with him. I also have to find the balance between being the parent who just comes home to play with toys and being the parent who comes home and disciplines Sam when he gets tired and grumpy in the evenings.

I’ve also learnt how to see things through the eyes of a child and it’s so much more exciting that through an adult’s eyes. Sam and I spend a lot of the weekend together and the colours, shapes and things we can see and do which I take for granted are so much better and appreciated by him. But be prepared for repetition the same book or the same DVD over and over and over again. This is where a mammoth amount of patience comes into being a Dad. So I need to have patience, but of a different sort to dealing with older children and adults at work at least they know what they’re doing.

Overall it’s a magical and really proud experience to be a Dad. Sometimes people exclude you because they think only a Mum can make a decision about their child. But it’s really what you make of it. It’s always going to be different from a Mum’s experience but it doesn’t mean it’s any less special.