The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Naturally you’re worried. All you know is the baby’s due soon and you have no idea what to expect. You’re worried about money, your marriage, time and sex. In short, you’re doing the new-father shuffle. Everyone’s telling you to relax, but nobody’s saying much that’s helpful. Until now. Read this and relax—at least until you’re done reading it. Then you can make a new list of stuff to sweat.
The Fear You won’t have enough money
“It keeps me up every night,” says my friend Jeff. “My wife is the big earner, and she’s taking time off. We’re buying our first house for what seems like a fortune. I have no idea if two can survive on my salary, let alone three.”
Like Jeff, most expectant fathers overestimate the financial hit they’re about to take. Sure, there are some big-ticket items—the crib, the stroller, the industrial-strength diaper whiz. Half these things will magically materialize courtesy of friends and family, and none of the other half will come close to costing as much as last year’s outlay on bachelor parties.
Most of my friends and I were concerned with three things: buying a house, buying a car and paying for child care. The guys who had the easiest time of it were the ones who did none of the above. One friend got laid off right right after his kid was born. “To not have a job just killed me,” Mark says. “But five years later, our finances are in great shape and I look back at the eight months I stayed home with the baby as one of the happiest times of my life.” Another friend, Bill, not only got laid off—he had twins! How’d his family survive? “We kept our cheap apartment, trading space for money,” he says.
Here’s some advice from Peter Finch and Delia Marshall’s book, How to Raise Kids Without Going Broke, that I tell myself repeatedly: If you focus on the big purchases and do your homework there, you’ll probably have enough left over for things like trips to Disney World.
>Important advice: If she quits working for a while, try to avoid the feeling that she’s spending your money.
The Fear You’ll Feel Left Out
Within days of your baby’s birth, you’ll be well aware of the mother-child bond. You may even think your relationship with your wife is taking a back seat to the baby.
It won’t always be that way. Your marriage will actually become stronger. You and your wife are co-captains on a team with common goals, and talking about them will make for some excellent, cherished late-night chats. Plus, after weeks of attending to a newborn, your wife will look to you for adult company. Next to a kid with a zero-word vocabulary and a predilection to soil his pants without so much as an “Oops,” you are a comparison gainer.
But do make yourself useful. Be the relief pitcher. At 11 p.m., when nothing we tried got our daughter to sleep, I’d strap her into the baby carrier and take her on long walks outside. I always returned with a sleeping baby.