Advice on Becoming a Dad

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In May 2004, Parenting magazine listed a question from Dimitrios who wanted to help get ready for the new baby. In November my one line was published. They took the second sentence from item 2. Here is the slightly revised letter in its entirety.

Welcome to Daddyhood. I love being a daddy and it sounds like you are well on your way to being a great one. Here is my advice:

  1. Forget everything you have seen in TV shows and movies. Diapering is easy. It’s a daddy job. Learn it. Just ask my daughters, “Daddy does the best diapers.” Check out the “Daddy on Duty” diaper bags (sadly the "Daddy on Duty" line has been discontinued- AMP 10/2007) Just make sure the diaper bag is one both you and your wife can live with.

    Also, I got a travel changing pad (it was about $7) and it is stocked and in the trunk of the car 24/7 next to the jumper cables. It holds about 4 diapers, wipes and diaper cream. It has come in very handy.
  2. Help set up the nursery. You and your buddies should set up and move the furniture. It does not matter if your nursery is a second hand crib in your bedroom or an entire page from Pottery Barn Kids. Have everything ready at least one month prior to the due date.
  3. Attend childbirth/parenting classes. They are cheap and informative. It will help you and your wife make decisions about the birth and the days that follow. The most important thing I learned: "The baby has not read the newborn book."
  4. Know your wife’s feelings and decisions on these two important matters. The amount of drugs she would like during delivery and breast feeding. For months my wife’s favorite line about childbirth was that I had one line, “More drugs now doctor.” As it turned out my daughter was born via C-section so it was a moot point. But know how ‘natural’ a child birth your wife wants to have and follow her decision. She can always change her mind.

    The same with breast feeding. Breast feeding is the best thing for your new baby. But thousands of babies turn out just fine on formula every year. Yes your new pride and joy is going to make a ‘recreation area into a snack bar,’ but you can learn to live with it. You can also think of it this way. Some where between four and six months, breast feeding becomes less costly than formula. A lot less costly. Healthier baby, happy baby, not spending $30 to $50 dollars a week on formula. Pretty good deal. Put the money you save in the child’s college fund.

    Breastfeeding is not for everybody. It is your wife’s decision. And it is your job to honor that decision and keep the radicals from both sides from bothering your wife.
  5. Arrange now for time off from work around the due date. At the same time get information and the paper work for the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). I was able to stay overnight at the hospital with my wife and new daughters and it was a great experience. I only took one week off after they were born. It was worth it. You may not need to use the FMLA, but if you do or want to you can have the paper work already done. You can always tell the boss you will be back to work sooner. Contact your HR department at least a month prior to the due date. They should have the forms on hand. You will need your wife’s doctor to sign them. It is likely they can fax them to your company for you.
  6. Learn to operate the household equipment. Can you do laundry? Load and run the dish washer? Vacuum? Now is the time to learn. The same goes for grocery shopping and cooking. Babies can go through clothes. Newborns can also spit up on their parents, sheets, towels and furniture. Your new wonder will create messes and smells you never dreamed of. You will clean them up. It is a part of the price you pay for the most wonderful smile you will ever see.