Becoming a Father While Remaining a Good Partner
As a new father, balancing your roles as parent, partner, and (possibly) breadwinner is tough. You suddenly have a lot more to do and a lot less time to do it in. Here are some tips on how to handle it.
Pitch in with baby care. New babies seem so tiny and fragile that you may feel more comfortable hanging back and letting your partner handle things. But you need to dive in. The only way to become confident at giving baths, changing diapers, or rocking your baby to sleep is to do it. If you don't get involved right at the start, you'll lose an important chance to connect with your baby. Your partner is bound to start grumbling, too.
Help your partner. If your partner has just given birth, she's been through the wringer. She's physically and mentally exhausted, in pain, and struggling with her new responsibilities, such as breastfeeding. Ask her what she needs. You may not have the time, energy, or money to give her a weekend at a spa. But little kindnesses -- like giving her the afternoon to see a movie with a friend -- can make a big difference to her right now.
Expect mixed emotions. If you're a new father, some days you'll feel that having a child was the best decision you ever made. Other days, you will think, "Why on earth did we decide to change our lives?" That's normal. Don't feel guilty about it. Your partner has probably thought the same thing. It will take time for you both to adjust to your new life together.
Connect with your partner. Do you and your partner feel more like childcare workers and less like the couple you used to be? Take every chance you get to reconnect. When grandma can watch your baby for an hour, take your partner out for a walk or a drive. Even spending just a few minutes alone to share morning coffee will help.
Remember that your work is important. If you're the chief breadwinner, you may feel guilty about going off to work while your partner is at home with the baby. Remember that you're fulfilling a key role by providing for your family.
Limit hours at work, if possible. While work may be a necessity, now is not the time to add extra hours or go after a promotion. Delegate tasks and focus on efficiency to keep your work steady and predictable for the next few months. You and your partner need time to adjust.
Recruit help. Are you and your partner both feeling overwhelmed? Look for ways to shift some household responsibilities for awhile. If you can afford it, arrange for a temporary housecleaner. Ask friends or family to babysit for an hour or two or even grab take-out on your way home so you don't have to cook.
Take some time for yourself. Your partner isn't the only one who needs breaks. Don't get completely burned out juggling your responsibilities. Every once in a while, see friends to catch the game or get a drink. A few hours away can recharge you. That's good for you -- and it's good for your partner and baby, too.