If you’re expecting a baby girl—or have a brand-new one—you might find it hard to imagine her going off to school and playing sports, let alone dating, getting her first job or even choosing a husband. But those days will be here before you know it, and there are ways to give her a leg up right now.
A group of men — some of them expecting fathers, some dads already — got together recently over pizza and beer to talk about what it’s really like to be a parent. Once we edited out all the Monty Python jokes and references to that cute chick on Survivor: The Australian Outback, what was left were honest admissions, valuable advice and true tenderness. That, and a couple of veggie slices, which one dad-to-be took home for his pizza-craving wife.
The baby cries and cries during my first extended experience holding an infant. Offering to give two friends a break, I had convinced them that I was the man for the job of baby-sitting their 3-month-old boy. My generosity sprang from self-interest. I wanted to have children with my wife, but she complained that my actions when babies were around made me a liar. As the youngest of four, I had no experience baby-sitting. When my wife and I visited friends with children, I wouldn’t pick up the babies.
I humbly ask your forgiveness for what I’m about to do. I’m about to break the No. 1 rule of being a man: Thou shalt not ask for directions.
What time will you be home tonight?” I ask the man in my life, Brett, as he walks out the door every Saturday evening. “Will you be home tonight?” invariably follows. Brett is on his way to a bar or to dinner with a “friend.” Sometimes he comes home; sometimes he doesn’t. When he does, it’s usually very late — after the clubs close. He wakes me up with a whispered “hi” and slides in next to me under the covers. He holds me and tells me how his night went. I tell him what Robby, my 5-year-old son, and I did. Then we fall asleep — usually with me clinging Siamese-twin close to him.
So you’re feeling pretty smug, huh? You sowed your seed (please, spare us the details, big guy). You’ve sat through childbirth classes, surfed a couple of parenting Web sites, maybe even started taking mental notes when Marge Simpson changes Maggie’s diaper.
But you, sir, are no father. Not yet, anyway. Not until you master the real-world skills presented here — hard-earned tricks of the trade that will wow your wife, blow your friends’ minds, astonish your pediatrician and make it all look easy.
I’m a happy guy. Two healthy kids, a third on the way — it’s as good as life gets. But it’s a different life from the one I had before. Gone are the days when my wife and I could look at the newspaper, see a review of a new movie that looked promising and just go out and see it. Now it’s a six-month process: Read review, forget about movie until it’s on video, check out running time, figure out equivalent in videos kids will watch on other TV, take movie home, watch in 10-minute increments. People tell us Eyes Wide Shut was a cold and detached movie.
Moms have a clearly defined role when their babies are born: Breastfeed, cuddle and take naps with the baby. But fathers often aren't quite sure where they fit in. Your husband probably is wondering if he should be proactive and offer to feed the baby with a bottle of pumped milk, change diapers, rub your neck or just stay out of the way and keep quiet.
A recent Israeli study of more than 300,000 young adults showed that autism rates in the offspring of men who were 40 or older when their babies were conceived were almost six times that of the children of fathers 29 or younger. (The study found no link between autism and maternal age.) The researchers are now looking for reasons; there is speculation that sperm-producing cells spontaneously mutate as men age.
Much more study of paternal age is needed if we are to better understand its impact.
Pregnancy and parenthood can be hard. Admit it. That's what moms are doing at the True Mom Confessions website. We're featuring their gripes and confessions (and our experts' advice) in our April/May 2009 issue, and we want to hear from dads, too (no names required). We'll be featuring dads' advice, tips, and maybe even a confession or two in our June/July 2009 issue.
The demands of modern fatherhood have today's new and expecting dads experiencing things previous generations of men were excused from doing, for the most part. Or ran screaming from. Or just flat out laughed at. Here's a preview of just a few of the awkward situations and how you can handle them.
Hello, it's us. You know, men? Bigger than you. Hairier. More interested in large shiny objects. Don't worry, we're not offended if you don't remember us. You've been busy growing our children inside you, or enduring labor to bring them into the world, or surviving on three hours of sleep. Anyway, we're just checking in, y'know, saying hi. And by the way, here are some things you might want to know about new dads, plus a request or two. No big whoop.