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6 things dads should know about the first year of fatherhood—from a guy who's been there

A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.


This is not an attempt at what so many parents seem to revel in: scaring the heck out of parents-to-be with an eye-rolling mix of martyrdom and schadenfreude. This fatherhood thing isn't going to rob you of all freedoms, friendships and fun.

But there are certainly a few things that, in retrospect, I wish I had a heads up about beforehand. Like these six things.

1. Above all else: TAKE PATERNITY LEAVE.

First and foremost: if at all possible, take more than just a few days off when your baby arrives. I've written previously about my regrets over going back to work too soon after my son's birth. I implore you not to make the same mistake I did. Take as much time as feasible.

If your employer has a paternity leave policy, take the time. If your employer doesn't have a paternity leave policy, make the time. Push the envelope—it's worth it.


You're only a new dad once. Your family needs you more than your boss does right now. Just as importantly, you need them. Invest time in bonding with the baby and establishing a co-parenting dynamic that lays the groundwork for child-rearing equality.

Emails can wait. Embracing your new role as a dad cannot. Take the time, even if it means burning vacation and/or sick days.

2. Put your visions of parenting grandeur on the shelf.

Specifically, right next to the diapers, powders, ointments and breast pump.

When my wife was six months pregnant, I couldn't wait to play catch with my son in the yard. Six months later, I couldn't wait for him to stop crying so I could get some sleep.

My point: this is a marathon, not a sprint. The whimsical Hollywood moments of fatherhood—ball games, bike rides, BBQs—are years away, and real life doesn't have montages. But don't let your yearning for more seemingly fulfilling- parenting—the teaching moments that guide them through adolescence and into adulthood—divert you from the mission at hand. Newborn nurturing may be less glorious but it is equally necessary, and rewarding in its own right.

Stay in the now while happily anticipating more interactive parenting periods. It turns out my son needed to crawl before he could walk, and walk before he could play catch.

3. Listen, learn and leave ego out of it.

All joys of new fatherhood aside, this is the greatest opportunity you've ever had to develop a valuable new skill: childcare. And you get to do it in the service of people you love. Welcome to Baby U. Your instructors include your beloved wife, parents and in-laws.

The vast majority of early parenting is logistics. Mastering how to arrange a diaper for maximum dryness (fold the front top an inch in before fastening) is far more important than developing bigger-picture parenting perspectives.

Little humans need little things—learn them with humility.

Your reward—other than the satisfaction of dad duties well done—will be comforting, coagulating insight into how this whole baby thing works. You won't be intimidated when someone's watching you swaddle your baby. You won't be befuddled by how a car seat straps in or a stroller unfolds. It's not magic—it just takes willingness and practice.

4. Your wife is more important than you right now.

This isn't some hackneyed "happy wife, happy life" nonsense. Your marriage of equal halves has one partner who, for biological reasons, needs her spouse to be particularly helpful and supportive right now. And by "right now," I mean the first six months of parenthood, at least.

Your wife is sore, probably feeling less-than-attractive, and potentially experiencing some level of postpartum doldrums. And since you can't breastfeed, she's taking the lion's share of the overnight shift. So add exhausted to the list, too.

Your job, then, is basically "everything else."

Coddle. Clean. Cook (or in my case order takeout). Run errands, walk the dog and stand guard against unwanted visitors. All woke-ness aside, early parenting roles revert to tradition out of necessity; she has to care for the baby right now, and you have to care for her. Do your duty—and the dishes—with honor and gratitude.

5. That said, don’t bend so far that you end up with resentments.

Let's have a frank discussion about self-respect and marital equilibrium, because both may be tested in early parenthood—for both partners. Though new moms deserve loads of leeway, there are limits to how much you should be marginalized. Her needs—and especially the baby's—are paramount right now. But not to the point where you forfeit all respect and relevance.

Flip on the TV and you'll see how disrespected dads are these days. From Modern Family to Family Guy, the "doofus dad" stereotype permeates society. Don't let it infect your household.

You may be third fiddle right now but remember: you're still in the band. And so long as you're really trying, you deserve respect; not because you're a man, mind you, but because you're a well-intending soul navigating new parenthood, too.

6. This is only temporary.

And by "this" I mean "all of this."

Newborns go through phases and stages with head-spinning speed. As soon as you recognize one pattern, it often gets replaced or redirected by another. Sleeping habits, feeding tendencies, what does and doesn't soothe the baby when they cry all evolve remarkably rapidly.

So if you find yourself in a particularly rough phase, relax. It will pass. And if you find yourself recognizing stages only in their twilight—before their inevitable dissipation—don't kick yourself. That happens to everyone—moms and dads alike, and especially with firstborns.

And even if, like me, you're not prone to sentimentality, do stop to soak this in. You'll only be a new dad once: the pride, the pain, the simple joys and sleeplessness are all part of it, and all beautiful in their nascent reality.

This is all normal, and an unprecedented opportunity for growth. You are fortunate, durable and altogether fine.

Now go change that poopie diaper, Daddio, and make mom some breakfast while you're at it.👌

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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