Fatherhood can be a wonderful but challenging thing. Think of it as having a second full-time job that doesn’t pay overtime (or any salary for that matter).
Unfortunately, most first-time dads don’t realize that job starts well before the expectant mother is in the delivery room. In fact, it starts the day she actually gets pregnant.
The role of expectant dad is undefined and, even though I’m now expecting my second child with my wife, I’ll admit there are times I still feel lost. Because of that, I would like to offer some simple advice for first-time dad’s looking to survive the challenges of her pregnancy.
First, think of her as the superhero and you as her sidekick. Robin was every bit as important as Batman when it came to fighting villains. But, Batman was the guy who got all the attention. This is the same with a pregnancy. She’s carrying the child so she’s naturally going to have people dropping everything to make sure she’s comfortable and baby showers are going to be geared more for her. And trust me; nobody is going to ask you how you are feeling. But, just because you aren’t grabbing all the attention doesn’t mean you can take a vacation. She may not always say it, but she needs you there to watch her back and to make sure she’s doing everything she’s supposed to for your unborn child.
Get used to doing housework. I actually do a good portion of the housework anyway so this wasn’t a huge transition for me. Pregnancy does take a toll on some women to the point they are frequently tired (my wife, for example, has been going to bed an average of 2 hours earlier than normal). If you are one of those guys who won’t help around the house, it’s time you started. It’s either that, or you might find yourself spending a lot of money on fast food because you don’t have any clean dishes to eat off of. If you don’t know how to cook, you probably should invest in a cookbook.
Don’t take the mood swings personally. Her body is going through changes and she might be a teddy bear one moment and a praying mantis looking to take your head off the next. There’s nothing you can do about this. Your best bet during these times is to just give her some space and do something in the other part of the house. However, don’t be afraid to draw a line on this either. You should be supportive of her; not be her punching bag.
Attend her doctor’s appointments. By your second child, you’ll have an understanding of which of these appointments you can skip (about half of them). But, for the first one, it’s best to be at as many as possible. Everyone knows first hand information is better than learning it second hand. And, you can learn quite a few things about pregnancy and her body that you never would learn from a book (including some you probably didn’t want to know).
Along with the appointments, make sure to attend a parenting class with her. You would be surprised at exactly how much you can learn in one of those.
Don’t make complicated dinners. This should be the case for at least the first trimester. For a few weeks during this pregnancy, my wife couldn’t eat anything with tomatoes without being sick. That knocked spaghetti (one of my favorite dishes) off the menu. And, I can’t count the number of times I’ve made dinner only to have to make her something completely different; like a bowl of cereal. Keep dinners simple and always have a back up dinner ready. You may also want to cut back on dining out unless the restaurant has a good buffet.
Help her help herself. Again, this goes back to the whole sidekick thing I mentioned before. Batman would be lousy at fighting crime if Robin didn’t remind him to put on his utility belt before leaving the Bat Cave. Pregnant women need to do a number of things. They need to show up for their check ups, they need to eat healthy, take their prenatal vitamins and drink plenty of water. Be there to make sure she does.
You don’t even need to drive her nuts with reminders. Just hand her a bottle of water when her bottle is empty, make sure the fridge is stocked with fruits and vegetables and hide the junk food. Buy her a pill case for the vitamins and drive her to the appointments.
You will also have to be assertive at times (risking the dreaded mood swings). If she needs a nap, make her take one. If she hasn’t eaten in a while, make her.
Being an expectant father is a thankless job but somebody has to do it. Be a man and step up to plate. After all, it’s your child too.