Quick disclaimer, if the title didn’t tip you off, I’m not Sarah. Our little girl reminds me of this quite frequently, and it’s neither a bad thing nor a good thing. Being Dad simply looks very different than being Mom. Some things I literally can not do and other things S can’t do.
One of the hardest parts of adjusting to being a dad is the “what do I do?” question that pops up about every time the kid squeaks. When the kid melts down because they are hungry…not much I can do. It seems silly, but it plays itself out in hard ways. Early on when the baby has to eat every 2-3 hours and S is getting out of bed 4 times a night to feed the kid, it isn’t easy to know what to do or how to help. As previously stated, Dad is no help when it comes to feeding. Often times this leads to feeling inadequate and guilty. I get to stay in bed while S doesn’t sleep and feeds the baby. But what’s a guy to do?
There is a feeling that every guy has felt. He is holding a small child and the thing erupts. Sad. Pathetic. Loud. The little ball of cuteness has morphed into a monster, like Jack-Jack at the end of The Incredibles. The first time this happens for a mom, she may inwardly freak out, but outwardly she calmly soothes the kid back to tiny human form. The first time this happens to a guy he holds the kid at arms length and prays for the mother to take it back. The point here is that Mom is just better at comfort. Dad can try and even be successful from time to time, but he is never what the kid actually wants. He will always be number two in the pecking order. But what’s a guy to do?
Grouped together with the first two insufficiencies is the knowledge that God gave moms an intuition that he omitted from dads. We’ve all seen this even without having our own kids. You’re at a restaurant with a new mom and her kid, no one else sees it, no one else could possibly see it, but the mom sees, senses, or hears that the baby needs something. She tells you whats wrong and quick draws a bottle out of a holster like an Old Western sheriff or puts the kid to sleep in 0.25 seconds. These are the things that intimidate a dad. Most of us don’t get to spend as much time with the kid, so we don’t know them as well. We want to help, but genuinely have no clue what we are doing 95% of the time (this is actually true in pretty much every aspect of life, we never actually know what we are doing). So what’s a guy to do?
1. Do something. Anything remotely helpful. Go get the diapers and the wipes ready for changing. Make a bottle. Or, when all baby tasks are taken, do stuff around the house like fold laundry, pickup all the kids toys, or do dishes.
2. DO SOMETHING. For real. Get up and doing anything.
3. Know that coming home is no longer a peaceful environment. Work may be done, but now your job starts. Dad time. Take the kid from mom and let her do something else. This is the best part of the day. You get to swoop in and be the hero AND spend time with your awesome little kid.
4. Talk to your spouse. This can mean a few different things. a) Be a grown up human that they can talk to because they have been starving for adult interaction for a while now. b) Figure out what they need. What is most helpful in your situation? Everyone has a different setup going, so find what they think is the most helpful.