So you finally upgraded to Daddy Dad status and have a little one (maybe more) ruling over the household. The days of sleeping in are over. Weekend getaways and nights out with friends are a distant memory. Brunch? What's that? You're stuck in an endless cycle of diaper changes, loads of laundry and bottle cleaning. Life, as you know it, is over!
We call bullshit.
We recently met up with some friends who we hadn't seen in a while, introduced them to our son, Jett, and caught up on the "what's new" in everyone's lives. They obviously LOVED Jett (I mean, who wouldn't) and were curious to know how our life has changed since becoming dads. Like any new parent, we have gotten this question, or some form of it, since we brought the little guy home. It's one of those formality questions – Is life different? Is it harder? Is it what you expected? Are you sleeping? Is he sleeping? It's like getting a tattoo. People are required to ask, "Did it hurt?" Uh, yeah it did. Side note – if someone answers the tattoo question with a "no" they are either lying to you or you now know they are into some kinky stuff.
Ok, we digress…
Our life has definitely changed and our priorities have shifted slightly, but we are also acutely aware of the fact that we can't allow ourselves to get lost in our new roles as dads. Don't get us wrong, being a dad is amazing! But so is being a husband. A son. A co-worker. A friend. We absolutely love our life now, but we also loved our life before our son. And it's okay to feel that way! Just because a little one enters the picture doesn't mean you erase everything that you once were. When people say, "My kids are my whole life," I want to pull a Cher, à la "Moonstruck," and slap them back to reality. It's not healthy to do that!
Remembering to care for yourself is just as important as caring for your kids. Too many people lose themselves when society decides being a parent is the most important or only role a person can effectively manage. That puts a HUGE amount of unnecessary pressure on you and your partner and it will slowly lead to resentment. There's a way to allow our identities to evolve without having them go extinct. You have to let your kid(s) join you on the amazing journey already started instead of completely starting the journey over.
Keep doing the things you like to do. Just because you have a kid, doesn't mean you have to lose your pre-baby self in the process. Why do we have to give up 'Rupaul' for 'Paw Patrol'? You want to go to brunch? Bring baby along! Yes, things may take a little more planning upfront, but keep doing the things that make you happy! Your hobbies are essential to keeping you sane. You need some time alone whether that is going to the gym (goodbye dad-bod) or going to dinner with your partner. This is especially true for you stay-at-home dads. Honestly, I have no idea how you do it. I bow down to you. I was off for eight weeks and literally almost lost my damn mind – and this is coming from someone who always thought they would LOVE being a stay-at-home dad.
Remember your teammate. You're on this journey together. You got to this point together. Make time for each other. Spontaneity is a little more difficult, but date nights are a must! Lean on each other when things get hectic (because they will). Ask for help. You will be tired. You will be cranky. Just remember how much you loved each other pre-baby because the "it's your turn to change the diaper" game is brutal!
Remember your friends. Yes, it's not going to be late-nights-out-at-the-bar every weekend anymore, but you still need their support and presence in your life. Enjoying adult beverage beverages is still acceptable but we caution you: being hungover with a child is a nightmare. You have been warned.
Your house doesn't have to turn into Toys"R"Us. You will inevitably be surrounded by so much kid stuff, but there needs to be a place for everything to be put away. If there's not, get rid of it. If we have learned anything from years of watching HGTV it's this: Adult Space.
Have fun and don't take things so seriously! Every aspect of raising a child is a phase and it will pass. Enjoy the moments (yes, even being thrown up on) because it goes by waaay too fast. It's cliché but it's true. Jett is already over three months old and we have no idea where the time went!
Hopefully, dads and dads-to-be find our tips helpful and they can use them to hold onto their personal identities in fatherhood. As mama Ru always says: "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?"