We’re here to make up for the sleepless nights, share in the joy and reassure you that you will be fine. Trust us, you’ll love it. Pipe and slippers are not included.
RULE 1: Embrace Your Neuroses
Distraught? About what? Oh, just everything. In the months before your child is born it may well be money. In the first few weeks, it will probably be about breathing. For the next few months, it could be whether or not you can survive a trip to your nearest restaurant for a meal.
Strangely, being a new dad is like being a presidential bodyguard. From the moment the wrinkled tot enters this world you will never look at anything – scissors, nuts, stairs, the very air – in the same way again.
It is somehow reassuring to know that this neurosis, like so many other problems, is down to the fact you are a reckless, ill-prepared man. “Most men who become fathers haven’t really given it any practical thought, and it just knocks you sideways – not only the responsibility but also the overwhelming emotion,” says Marcus Berkmann, author of Fatherhood: The Truth. “But you have to be philosophical and, in a way, follow their lead. Children live in the present – they don’t worry about the future all the time, so why should you?”
The fact is that everything about life – your concerns, your pleasures, your sleeping habits, your blow-job frequency – will change. Accept the change and be happy. It’s easier than you think.
Bad Dad…Builds a bunker for his little Prince or Princess, complete with barbed wire to protect it from the world.
Good Dad…Learns to deal with his feelings and carry on. (And avoids scaremongering in the sensationalist media.)
RULE 2: Accept That Your Other Half Will Go Slightly Mad
Many things will change about the mother of your child during and after pregnancy. Some are good: she will quite possibly develop pumped-up, Pammy/Jenna breasts for your delectation (though, if we’re honest, they’re not really for your delectation). Others are less good, and more trying.
She will become forgetful, vacant and occasionally enter trancelike behaviour – she will put this down to “nappy brain” (and there’s medical evidence to back this up) but you will just find it irritating.
Swallow it, for it can be worse. With luck, you will never indirectly experience post-natal depression – it affects only 10 percent of mothers – but you’re unlikely to escape the “baby blues”. Either way, your partner is on a hormonal rollercoaster ride, and all you can do is watch from the side, waving encouragingly, until it’s over. (Could be weeks, could be months – sorry.) “The worst thing that anyone can do is to try to force her out of her mood,” says Betty Parsons, author of The Expectant Father. “It’s a normal reaction to birth – the release of several months of apprehension – and the new mother must be allowed to cry.”
The other essential mantra to repeat to yourself and her is this: your child is just an accessory. You and your partner came first. The baby is a beautiful addition to your relationship, not a governor. It’sessential you remember this.
Bad Dad… Patronises mother for her irrationality. (“What did you expect it to do? Tricks?”)
Good Dad… Realises that it’s hormonal, but never says so.
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Rule 3: Learn To Deal With Fatigue
Isn’t it true that the only thing worse than people who tell you how they really are when you blithely inquire, are people who want to share their fatigue? Welcome to their world: a never-ending camping holiday in the Vale of Despair, where your only relief is competing with your partner to see who is most tired (a game that is impossible to win).
Remember the way you used to fantasise about sex when you were a teenager? Well, prepare to start feeling the same way about sleep. “I was obsessed with sleep for about five years,” says Berkmann.
“Something I wish someone had told me is that if you can manage to go to bed twice a week, at quarter to 10, you can deal with
RULE 4: You Have Never Known Love Like It…
You’ve doubtless heard this one a million times, more than likely courtesy of a doe-eyed friend or relative who seems incredulous that you aren’t seeing and feeling exactly the same as he is. Even if you have kids yourself and have experienced the same feeling of euphoria and wonderment, it doesn’t make you want to punch this person any less, such is the galling display of pathetic sentiment.
Unfortunately, this kind of reaction – the unadulterated bliss, that is, not the violent tendency – is unavoidable and it floors even the most level-headed, reserved of men. Many will tell you that it’s love at first sight, a condition of shared blood and intertwined sensibilities.