This page is both a personal reminder of some of the things I've learned along the way of being Adrian's dad, as well as a roundup of tips for new dads. Keep in mind that every child is special and these might just apply to Adrian's and mine experience. That said, I've tried to be as practical as possible.
All The Time With Adrian From The Start
Since I'm fortunate enough not just to own my own business, but also have business partners (Mia and Tena) that are parents and know me, I was fortunate enough to be on parental leave for the first 3-4 months of Adrian's life. Even later on, I could spend a lot more time with Adrian than most parents.
If I was a freelancer, I might not be able to not work on projects. freelancers might be able to give themselves a buffer if planning well.
If I worked for somebody, most companies offer a few weeks off for new dads. Some companies offer more, like Zendesk where my buddy works that offers 4 months of parental leave for both moms and dads. That's huge and he appreciated it so much! He was a freelancer before working there so he could really compare and contrast.
Mom Supports Baby, Dad Supports Mom
As a dad, you can only do so much. You can't breastfeed (I think?!), you obviously can't give birth to your baby and there truly is a special connection between a mother and child.
Scratch that - you can do a lot:
- Change diapers;
- Bathing the baby;
- Get the formula ready;
- Help the baby fall asleep;
- Take care of the baby so the mom can rest or meet a friend for coffee;
- ...and so much more.
Personally, I've taken over the diaper and bathing duty as well as a fair share of getting the baby to fall asleep and I truly love each and every moment of it however hard (or stinky) it sometimes gets. Why? Seeing Adrian's laugh after I put him in a towel as well as him playing with his legs while I change him - that's why.
The most important thing I've learned is that while a baby needs their mommy, a dad can help and support the mom. She needs that support both emotionally and practically because giving birth and the period after is very hard on a woman's body.
So yeah, make her a cup of coffee, help the baby fall asleep yourself, and step up.
'The Sound of Life'
Like any baby, Adrian cried - a lot. The first days were hard just because we didn't know if he was okay, but the following months weren't that easier when it came to understanding why he was crying.
As my friends said it could have been one of four reasons: He wanted to sleep, poop, or eat - or something was wrong. Truly reassuring.
All jokes aside, that did help a bit, but what helped was when we went to the office of Dr. Antonije Antonovski, a Macedonian orthopaedist working in Split where Adrian was born. I'll never forget what he told me when he saw me worried after Adrian started crying:
Don't worry. It's the only way he can communicate with you. That's the sound of life ["zvuk života" in Croatian] and it's great.
Just that phrase stuck with me and now even when Adrian cries for a longer time - and believe me he does just that - I love hearing his sound of life.
Podcasts, YouTube Premium, and Earphones
Good earphones for when you're putting your baby to sleep or just looking after them. I used either in-ear ones or my favorite over-ear headphones from the Arctic Steelseries.
Keep in mind that a few-month-old baby will get interested in what those things over your ears are, so in-ear might be a better option. However, since prolonged use of in-ear headphones really hurts my ears, I still prefer over-ear and Adrian's continued interest in them.
Another thing Adrian loves screens like any kid, he would look at any phone, tablet, or TV - so we just didn't watch anything and I ended up listening to podcasts or YouTube videos in the background to myself entertained.
Especially at night while having to stay awake for an hour or two while feeding Adrian or putting him to sleep. I'm writing this at 6:30 am, having slept just 30ish minutes after Adrian woke up first at 3:30 am. He ate, was awake and then fell asleep a bit, then shortly woke up after pooping himself. He's very happy now while we wait for the room to get warm and I listen to Hank Green talk about writing.
If you watch a lot of YouTube, invest in YouTube Premium which lets you play YouTube videos in the background. I would listen to video essays such as Patrick Willems videos on film, for example.
Diapers Before Work
It might be just me, but I do prefer changing Adrian's diapers and spending time with him even over my work. Having in mind I've been fortunate enough to do what I truly love (write, etc.), that says a lot.
After working non-stop for years and being really bad at taking time off, I just wanted to be with Adrian for the first few months. In time, I once again wanted (and needed) to work - but it's very, very normal to want to spend all your time with your kid. You'll find balance in time. Hopefully - so will I.
Get a Parental Support Group
Join Parent Twitter
This might be specific for dads that tweet, but I got back into Twitter during Adrian's first months - mostly because I wanted to b*tch about being awake at 2 am changing his diaper, and discovered that others parents on the feed - got it.
A lot of my followers and the people I follow are parents so reading and sharing parental moments can just make you laugh.
They don't even need to be parents. I exchanged how lesbian dog moms and baby dads had a lot in common, as well as how it was easier to clean a baby's poopy bottom than dogs (it's all because of the fur).