Being a first time Dad to a daughter, admittedly I was a little unprepared. With no prior parenting experience and little to no idea of what to expect, it’s most definitely felt like the road less travelled, for me anyway.
I have learned so much about myself, the world and parenting in general in the last 18 months with our daughter. Of course these little moments of education range from good times and bad times, but on the whole, it’s been a life changing learning curve, mostly good!
I’m a self taught father, now that doesn’t mean I’ve done it alone with no help or not googled “is it possible to survive on no sleep for 6 weeks” but what that actually means is, by definition – ‘having acquired knowledge or skill on one’s own initiative rather than through formal instruction or training.’
Definitely didn’t do any training, last time I checked, I also never got a degree in Dad Studies. So self taught Fatherhood it is! I’ve learned a crazy amount in this time, mostly from my wife Jodie as well a few questionably credible sources of google archives, usually between the hours of midnight-5am. But I’ve done it all on my own initiative, because I want to be a good dad, not just for a little while, but for life. The more I can cram into my sightly above average sized head now, the better the future starts to look.
Okay so I promised a list, I know people like lists, so here we go. 10 things I’ve learned as a (first time) Dad to a Daughter.
I’m a Dad! Okay, okay, sticking an obvious one in there. But seriously, I didn’t know what this would be like at all. I thought a lot about what type of father I wanted to be while we were pregnant. A role model, funny, enthusiastic, proud and generally one of the good guys. It’s always going to be a work in progress but I really enjoy waking up each day to see my own little family and my life has a whole new sense of purpose now, I guess all the rest will fall into place! The pride I feel as a father now has really boosted my confidence in our future being happy, healthy and successful.
- Winging it is totally acceptable. We’re totally winging it, but we’re going to be just fine! Even though we’re first timers at this whole parenting thing, I think we’ve done a pretty decent job. Sometimes you forget stuff or make mistakes and that’s okay. It’s important to be on the same page as each other to get the best outcome with everything. It’s not always possible but it’s a big confidence boost when two parents agree and win together. There’s plenty of challenges and long nights, but it’s all a part of the game and it’s so worth it to see our little girl grow and develop every day.
- It’s possible to survive with literally no sleep (But not recommended). Contrary to popular belief, “Sleeping like a baby” is the very opposite of what I once thought. Especially in those early days, always having at least one parent who’s better rested (don’t forget to take it in turns) is always better than two exhausted ones. Situations seem much worse when no one has slept for 6 days, or weeks. Caffeine will become part of the family. But it’s in those times that you become bolder parents and people. It’s worth being tired, and sometimes putting your t-shirt on inside out through mental exhaustion, when your daughter smiles and people tell you how amazing she is, you can pat yourself on the back for earning that.
- My Anxiety is much worse than I thought. I had anxiety long before becoming a parent, but what I wasn’t expecting was to have it hit me like a Category 5 hurricane from the moment I become a Dad. I guess somewhere in the sleep deprived worry-some and out of depth parenting world I became a part of, it was actually quite overwhelming at times. I struggled like hell. Imagine thinking the whole world is going to collapse from the minute you wake up the the minute you fall asleep, all while being super irritated at everything and unbelievably restless. Not my cup of tea, but you’ll be pleased to know I’m working through it way better than I was all those moons ago, and it feels amazing. It feels empowering to know that having a daughter really motivated me to sort myself out!
- Baby clothes are essential, but not easy. There are thousands of super adorable outfits for babies. During pregnancy you buy them in bulk and get gifted them in huge quantities, enough to start your own boutique behind the local kebab shop. But what we never paid any attention to was how difficult some of these outfits actually are to put on a baby! You know the outfits I’m talking about, the ones that requires bows, button poppers, and back buttons that don’t seem to fit in the holes. And doing all these while your baby is doing her best to become the worlds youngest contortionist in protest. Our rule was, if it has more than 8 poppers, not in a straight line, it doesn’t belong in the house. And no matter whether you start at the bottom or top, or sometimes the side if it’s a fancy one, the poppers never line up right the first attempt, so get used to that.
- Coffee is vital. Right this one is another obvious one. But listen anyway. Before kids, I was known to be a little coffee obsessed, can’t see much wrong with that, I just like the stuff and it makes me feel good. But besides the obvious staying awake and alert part of parenting, coffee dates were our thing. Must be something about a cosy and welcoming environment we could chat about life, just like everyone else does in the warmth of a cafe. Willow seemed to enjoy tagging along and coffee became a bit of a family thing for us, it was our way of turning out of the house to show the world we were still alive, but in a place where we didn’t have to tell everyone the whole birth story or have to justify ourselves when all we wanted was a hot drink that someone else made for us.
- I actually do care about the future. It’s quite common as a young adolescent to ‘live in the present’ and enjoy how things are right now. Nothing wrong with that but since seeing the other side of that fence, that idea is incredibly naive. The future holds our children’s entire lives. Ours alongside that. So when it comes to saving money for her, life insurance for us and upping our recycling game have all become priorities for me. I want my daughter to have an amazing world to grow up into, not one that’s still fighting for equality and pretending that climate change is ‘fake news.’ I’m also becoming a Feminist it seems, as I actively keep up with anything that might effect my little girl in the future or even the present, but of course, equality works both ways so I’m also actively making sure us Dad’s have a fair deal with parenthood as well.
- How to actually eat healthy. Alright, I’ll admit prior to having our daughter, healthy eating was like having a Caesar salad every now and again, and maybe a protein shake after a little run. But when you want your child to have a bright future and a healthy one, it’s time to get clued up on those good foods. We’ve managed to completely overhaul our home menu from pizzas and pasta bakes to now eating all fresh produce from home made soups and risottos down to all the fantastic recipes Annabel Karmel has to offer in her books. Our daughter actually prefers a handful of broccoli to a piece of chocolate, now that’s a success we’re quite proud of!
- Time Keeping. Right, I’m one of those people who likes to arrive at a destination with plenty of time left on the clock, mostly because that leaves me with enough time to grab a coffee and drink it before I need to do anything or speak English to people, at least I used to be. Now armed with a child, it’s much more of a challenge to not only get ourselves ready to leave the house, but also a child who sometimes, really doesn’t want to cooperate! So of course we are often late to stuff, but we’ve gotten remarkably better now at getting out the door on time, I don’t have a golden rule, you just learn on the job with this one, and you also learn eventually that not every one of the baby’s possessions need to be packed when you’re off to do the weekly shop.
- How to direct a documentary. I didn’t go to film school and I’m not one of David Attenborough’s lost children, I’m just a Dad who knows what it’s like to forget a childhood. I want to make sure my daughter always has memories to look back on at the same time, we all can look back on. Childhood and life in general happens so quickly and so many things happen, sometimes it’s precious to be able to capture moments in pictures, blogs and experiences. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first tooth or the first day at school, each moment fills you with an amazing feeling like you are doing something right, so document that. Take the candid pictures that no one else will ever see, it’s our family in this house, and I’ll make sure we can always have an amazing journey to look back on.
There we have it, counting to 10 never quite seemed so daunting until I had to think of ten things to talk about in detail. It’s not that I dint think I’d learned that much, it was just hard trying to prioritise the most important things I’ve learned instead of writing AVOID BUYING CLOTHES WITH POPPERS ON THEM NEXT TIME 10 times in a row.
Joking aside, I feel like modern parents are learning a lot more nowadays, not because we are smarter, but we have a wealth of information (not all useful) available at the tap of a finger or a click of a button. We communicate better nowadays and social media can be a great tool in finding support which was never available ‘back in the day’ like it is now. Not in this form anyway.
It may seem as though we spend more time than necessary on social media, and it can be toxic at high doses, but in parenting, I’ve found it quite useful having a collection of people who probably can relate to me in what’s going on instead of dealing with these problems alone.
Sometimes knowing you aren’t the only one struggling or worrying can be life changing.
I’m learning something new every single day, just like my daughter is. We’re both out of our depths I guess, she’s learning everything to do with herself and the world around her as she grows up, and I’m learning how to prepare her for that all while learning how to consistently be a good role model and support for her. All while we build our own little Kingdom, we’ll never be royal, but we’re our own style of family.
What have you learned today?