Now that I’ve been a parent for six months, I thought I’d look back at what I’ve learned so far. Here are six highlights:
1. There are lots of things that I did to try to prepare myself for becoming a parent and supporting my wife during pregnancy and labour, but there was nothing that quite prepared me for exactly how it felt to become a parent . I don’t mean this in a negative way. As I said in my first blog post, I found it really beneficial to read books about pregnancy and childbirth, in particular ones that focused on the dad’s perspective as well as the mum’s and where I read about what sorts of feelings other dads and dads-to-be experienced.
Even though it’s now just over six months since our son was born, there are so many things from the day of his birth that I remember as if they had only happened yesterday. These include seeing and hearing him for the first time and phoning my parents to let them know that he’d been born. It had been a long labour and I was very tired as well as quite emotional. I remember just being able to blurt out the words ‘it’s a boy’ before starting to cry and hearing my mum do the same at the other end of the phone.
2. It’s such a blessing to be able to take two weeks of paternity leave. Shortly after doing a blog post about the paternity leave system here in the UK, I got a lot of really fascinating input from fellow dads who had been in a range of different situations as to if they could take paternity leave and how long they could take. As I mentioned in a follow-up post about my own experience of paternity leave, the two weeks created a great opportunity to be there and try to be as supportive and helpful a husband and father as I could be.
Getting used to new sleep patterns and a new routine in many other ways did bring its own challenges, but the fortnight was above all full of good quality family time that helped all three of us – my son, my wife and me – to bond as a new family unit.
3. Not being afraid to ask questions, especially in the first few weeks is really important. When we left the maternity ward, where the nurses and doctors had all been great, they told us not to be afraid to get in touch if we had any questions about anything and gave us the phone numbers to ring in order to do so. We did ring once or twice about things to do with issues such as what the contents of his nappies looked like and the midwifes were really helpful and didn’t sound at all put out to be asked.
Ultimately, the things that we asked about turned out to be nothing major but it was good to be certain and put our minds at rest. I’ve also found it really helpful to talk to others who have been through the process of becoming parents over the last year, in other words from even before our son was born to where we’re at now. We probably experienced some things a bit differently to certain people, but getting an idea of what can happen, might happen and ways that people deal with it (and the ways it is medically advisable to deal with situations) was really useful.
4.It sometimes feels that the arrival (or impending arrival) of a child is an excuse for companies to market a wide variety of items that are far from essential. As I said in a recent post about this issue, different people are going to find different things more or less useful. One thing that I really don’t get why so many people buy almost all baby clothes new when a lot of them are only going to last a matter of weeks. It’s great to have a few special outfits, but there’s so much stuff available from charity shops that helps to save money, raise money for a good cause and cut down on waste.
We’ve been so lucky to have also been lent so many clothes by friends and family and I’m sure that we’ll try to reciprocate in the future. I can appreciate that there are safety reasons that mean that it really is important to buy certain items new rather than second hand (e.g. car seat, cot mattress), and it’s easier to spend more on these items if you’re not spending lots on things that you don’t really need or can buy second hand.
5. It’s great to be there to see so many little firsts as our son develops. I loved being there when our son had his first bath and helping to bathe him. I wasn’t joking when I tweeted about being excited about going out to get him his first toothbrush and brushing his teeth for the first time being a highlight of that particularly weekend. I didn’t mean that in a negative way at all, I guess it’s just a sign of being a bit sentimental (…or perhaps slightly odd in some people’s book!).
I also love looking back at how things like our first trip outside the house, our first walk by the seaside and our first family holiday have all been adventures in their own way. I look forward to other firsts that are yet to come, such as taking him to his first football match and his first day at school.
6. I’m still learning! This whole blogging thing is still fairly new to me and I’m learning new things about it all the time from people who know a lot more about it than I do, and I’d say pretty much the same thing about parenting. I feel that I’m constantly learning about our son as well as what we needs and wants. As he’s only six months old, he’s still learning about how to form requests, demands and ultimatums himself! 🙂 I’m currently trying to help him with this as well as teaching him other practical skills like doing a high five.
If you are a parent, what are the most important things that you learned in the first six months of being a parent? I’d love to hear your views on this question and this article in general, so please feel free to let me know your views via the comments section below. If you want to keep up with this blog, there are ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin.