I had 40 weeks to transition into being a mom. At the first sound of that steady woosh woosh, the thump of a flat tire that was our son’s heartbeat, my heart got in sync with his.
My husband, on the other hand, didn’t experience the reassuring taps of a baby who was running out of room or feel the jabs in the ribs that kept me up at night — a prelude to life with a newborn.
He walked his hobbling wife into a hospital and wheeled her and a baby out a few days later.
Life changes abruptly for a dad. But the transition to parenthood may not come easily for either of you, even if your wife did have a head start. From my experience becoming a mother three times over, and watching my husband do the same, these 10 rules will help you both get through the transition with as few bumps as possible.
Dear Soon-to-Be Dad:
- You can never leave your dirty socks out again. It’s deceiving, but babies are tornadoes. Blankets and SwaddleMe's take over the house, not to mention pacifiers in the couch cushions and diapers everywhere you look. Your wife’s workload just morphed and ballooned, and your dirty socks will suddenly seem much less innocuous to her.
- Don’t be alarmed if she becomes extremely territorial about her sleep. It’s a natural reaction to getting up 16 times a night, and it’ll subside (eventually).
- She’ll need to process this life change, which means she’ll need you to listen. Really listen.
- She still wants to feel beautiful. Tell her she’s beautiful even when you haven’t seen her in anything but pajamas in days. Light a candle just because or pick up her favorite dessert on your way home from work. Treating her like the woman you’ve always loved will help her think of herself that way, too.
- Six to 8 p.m. might not be her finest hours. Some nights, when you walk in the door, give her a big hug and that smile she fell for. Offer to help, and whatever you do, don’t bring up any touchy subjects. It’s the bedtime rush, and it will probably stay this way for years.
- Provide opportunities for her to take time for herself, to pursue her own interests, and take some time for yourself, too. She knows you still need adventure or a good laugh with the guys — an outlet.
- You can never say, “I don’t know how you do it” too often. Some things just never get old.
- Be patient as she learns to balance you and the baby. I know you'll catch on quickly to the coup the baby has staged, but it might take your wife a bit longer. It is breathtaking (on more than one level) to be so completely needed by another human being. It may take her a while to come up for air and realize that the rest of her world is still there, but it'll happen. Be there when it does.
- Know that she is falling for you in a new way, watching you cradle that tiny life in your palms — watching you prowl the house for objects that suddenly seem like a safety hazard. Seeing you become a father is the best part of parenting that she never saw coming.
- Believe that for everything you lose when you become parents (spontaneity, alone time, sleep), the shared experience you gain will bond you in ways you could never achieve without that bright-eyed bundle staring at you unblinkingly at 2 a.m.
Erica Layne writes Let Why Lead, a place for the purposeful wife and mom. She's on a mission to help women believe that their best IS good enough. Visit her on Facebook, Pinterest or at letwhylead.com.