“I can’t wait for when the baby arrives – it’ll be awesome not having to worry about the pregnancy stuff and we’ll finally get to meet her.”
That was what I was often telling my wife, family, friends and pretty much anyone around that would listen (apologies stranger in the lift).
Whilst I wasn’t restricted from any of the soft cheese, bean sprout or watching caffeine levels like my pregnant wife, there certainly was a bit of apprehension throughout the pregnancy.
Having previously experienced strange and crushing feelings of a miscarriage we just wanted a healthy baby.
Then, after 40 weeks we were so lucky to meet our first daughter. Yep, finally, after all the worry and wonderings of what might happen, she was finally here.
We were now past all of the hard parts, right?
In the words of a professional tennis player/man-child who loved throwing tennis racquets around: you cannot be serious.
There are not too many things that can crack the sky and make it feel like the whole world is collapsing in on you. The first night as a dad did that to me.
After a fairly traumatic birth that involved further surgery for my wife and nearly losing our daughter, I was now facing that prospect every other parent is presented with: no sleep. Jiggling, rocking, swaying and dancing methodically with this new bundle of sleeplessness from dusk till dawn – I don’t think there’s a better arms workout.
Suddenly, dealing with the unknown of pregnancy wasn’t that bad, but I don’t think many people would take up reversal operations.
Less than 10 hours into dadhood I had the very real understanding that what I had expected was going to be different to the reality. The proverbial got real. Very quickly.
It is this difference between what I imagined and the reality I wish I had somehow managed a little better.
There are so many memories that stay with you from that first time as a parent (as well as quite a few that are just a haze of sleep deprivation and too much coffee). Unfortunately, some of the strongest memories involved me mentally beating myself up for not seemingly doing a good enough job.
Why? Because I had these ridiculous expectations that just were not happening in real life. (Surely, every time you walk in the house, or hold your baby, they look up at you, give you a thumbs up, say “You’re the bloody best, Dad”. Then turn and sleep all night).
I was always holding myself accountable to things that might never happen or might not happen yet.
From my ten years as a teacher, I can’t help but look out for learning opportunities. What I discovered from that first time around as a dad is to manage these expectations and to be easier on myself. As we move through our second round of newborn territory, I am so much more relaxed.
This time around things are so much better because of one simple thing I’ve focused on making a routine and habit: celebrating and acknowledging quick and small wins.
A Small and Powerful Thing You Can Do – Starting Right Now
Make time for you and your partner (or close, trusted friend if you’re a single parent) to share what you have seen each other do that is good or making a difference. It doesn’t matter how much of a difference it is making, they all add up to big things when you are in the battle that is newborn life and parenthood.
My wife and I don’t have a set time for doing this. We both do it when we can see the other seems flat, exhausted or frustrated. Telling someone that you’ve noticed them doing something good and letting them see that you’ve taken the time to share that always makes a difference, and the more specific you can be the better.
Here was mine from the other night in case you’re not sure how to start. Having my teacher hat, without meaning to be patronizing in any way, I’ve literally underlined bits you can use as sentence starters to get you going, you just fill in the blanks!
“I just want to say, you were awesome the other night. The way you are able to always find little ways to distract First Born, even when she is losing her shit (literally) is bloody amazing. It helps me discover ways to distract her too and reduces the stress…especially during bath time. Thanks for being a bloody great mum.”
(You can see I’ve tweaked this to fit the way I speak to my wife…take the starters and make them suit you!)
Will this solve every problem? No. Will it help you realize that you actually do know what you are doing and that you are a pretty great parent? You betcha.
After all, big wins are really just a bunch of small wins all added together.
We’ve bloody got this. #forsure
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