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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.👌

You will always be their safe space, mama

You are their haven. Their harbor. Their sanctuary, their peace. You are comfort. Deep breaths. Hugs and back rubs. You're a resting place, a nightmare chaser, a healer. You are the calm within their storm. You are their mother.

To your child, you are safety. You are security. You are where (out of anyone or any place), they can come undone. Where they can let it all out, let it all go. Where they meltdown, break down, scream, cry, push.

Where they can say—"I AM NOT OKAY!"

Where they can totally lose it. Without judgment or fear or shame.

Because they know you'll listen. They know you'll hear them. That you will help piece the mess back together.

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Life

Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Kate Hudson’s kids prove that siblings with a big age gap can still have a close bond

These pics of a big brother and baby sister are too sweet.

Ryder Robinson

To be born close in age to your siblings is a special experience. You have a built-in playmate and BFF for life, but being born after an age gap certainly has its benefits, too.

Parents who are expecting again when their older children are already into double digits may wonder what the sibling bond will look like when the kids have more than a decade between them. Well, look no further, because Kate Hudson's oldest son, 14-year-old Ryder Robinson took to Instagram to show the world that while he and baby Rani Rose may not be playmates they have an equally powerful sibling bond.

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